Spring Weddings

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When men don’t know what to wear

Nothing says “spring” like a handful of wedding invitations. As the final snow disappears and the crocuses peek up out of the freshly-thawed ground, those invitations are inevitable. But spring wedding season brings with it a few challenges for men on the receiving end of those invitations – specifically, what to wear.

Wedding invitations don’t always specify a dress code, and to our own peril, we may believe that since it’s a spring wedding and no dress code was mentioned, that it will be a casual affair. Think twice though, before you show up at the blessed event in sneakers and jeans. “Casual,” in the case of a wedding, doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Gath D’Silva, head of design at The Jacket Maker, advises that “A wedding invitation that has no dress-code mentioned, should not be understood as NO dress-code REQUIRED. So men should rule out any consideration of garments such as casual attire whether they be denim, sneakers, t-shirts or worse, gym-inspired looks.”

Elliott Rampley, co-founder of London-based Rampley & Co. (check out their art print silk pocket squares!) says that “casual dress” is easily misinterpreted. “We will all, before we die, witness a wedding attendee in trainers, I am certain of it. Rather than risk drawing out tears from mothers and mothers-in-law and raging uncles and frothing cousins, there can be no Air Max 95’s. Forget the Reebok Classics. And yes, the line between streetwear or ath-leisure and high-end dressing continues to narrow but even those astonishingly expensive, very on-brand trainers Shall Not Pass.”

Living in the industrial Midwest, I have seen first-hand such atrocities at weddings: Male wedding guests dressed like they’re ready to watch football on television. A sea of baseball caps and work shirts and three-day hipster stubble, and the most unforgivable garment of all which no man should ever wear anywhere — jean shorts – all bizarrely juxtaposed against their better-dressed female counterparts.

D’Silva offers some common-sense advice, noting that “It is most crucial to point out that casual in this sense does not mean jeans, sneakers and t-shirt. It simply means it’s okay to wear a suit in lighter tones, such as tan, blue or gray, even a pale green would do. Fabrics can be breezy such as linen and those looking for pops of color can actually go for a tie or tiny detail that is in contrast and that matches the look.”

Rampley paints an outstanding picture of the perfect spring wedding guest, starting with the shoes. “A brown shoe will match well with almost any reasonably smart non-black suit. Not too casual. Not too stiff. Perfect.”

Personally I usually opt for my champagne-colored brogues, an underrated style of shoe with a little extra flourish that offers the perfect balance between casual and formal. They go well with the new herringbone Ralph Lauren jacket I just picked up at Macy’s. Rampley also advises light, fun, spring colors, saying that “light pinks and blues work well below the waist. When paired with darker blues and lighter brown, checked or blocked, such trousers are practically failsafe, even for conservative dressers.”

I am a believer in a little extra flourish, and a casual wedding is the perfect time for such flourishes, and Rampley reinforces the importance of a printed silk pocket square, lapel pin, and good quality hat. Leave the baseball caps home though – stick to a fedora or trilby.

When you get that wedding invitation, dare to be a little bold. You may be surprised how much you love those new brogues, your pocket square and trilby hat, and of course, don’t forget to come up with a wedding toast for the occasion.