Weddings represent almost the only occasions, outside a business environment, at which men need to be formally dressed. And as such they're an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to look good when, within the confines of the dress code on the invitation, you're free to dress for yourself. They also present a man with a room full of women who all have romance at the forefront of their thoughts, which is reason enough for them to look their best.
Although there's a great variety of dress codes, and a great variety of wedding locations, there are some rules that are almost universally helpful. So whether you're going to a black tie wedding in the Bahamas, or a registry office ceremony in Reykjavik, we present the 10 rules of style. Oh, and here's one more piece of advice: if you're in any doubt about the dress code, the kind of venue you'll be attending, or the likely weather you're going to encounter, do some research. It might just make the difference between handsome and hapless. Click through the slides, above, to see 10 men who got it right, and read below for MR PORTER's 10 rules to follow.
01 CONSIDER THE CONTEXT
Style is a function of outfit x situation. What works in a downtown registry office is unlikely to look ideal in the country. As ever, sharper looks (think slim mohair suits) are more appropriate in town, while more classic outfits work better in the country.
02 PRESS AND POLISH
Pay the bride and groom the compliment of making an effort. Plan ahead to ensure that your suit is well pressed and spotlessly clean, your shirt is ironed and your shoes are polished. Don't wait until you unpack your suit to discover that it needs to be dry-cleaned, or that your shoes are scuffed.
03 NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME
If you've bought some new items for a wedding we recommend that you wear them at least once before the big day. This is because shirts come out of their packaging creased, suits often need to be adjusted in the sleeves or trouser hems, and new shoes need to be worn in before they're conducive to dancing. It's too late if you only discover you bought a short-sleeve shirt in error, or got the wrong size, as you're getting dressed.
04 Consult the weatherman
If you aim to look good at a summer wedding then some advance warning about the weather will be invaluable. Flannel might work in the fog, but a suit cut from lightweight open-weave wool will be infinitely more comfortable in the heat. This goes beyond the obvious - while any fool knows that an umbrella is useful in the rain you may also want to consider whether suede shoes will work well in the wet.
05 Let the quality shine through
There are two ways to distinguish yourself when the dress code is proscriptive, as with black tie and morning dress invitations. The first is to put on some kind of eye-catching accessory, such as a bright pocket square or a tie bar. The second, better, way is to wear well-cut clothes made from beautiful fabrics. The effect may be less immediate, but will be far more impressive.
06 Conform with the codes
If the invitation asks that men wear a dinner jacket here's what you're expected to wear: a dinner jacket and matching trousers, a white or cream shirt, a black bow tie, black socks and black Oxford shoes. NB, this list does not contain white bow ties, black neckties, socks bearing "fun" motifs, Derby shoes, loafers or brogues. The reason James Bond is a style icon is that he wears his tux the way he likes his Martinis - straight up and unadulterated.
07 Suit up
We are enthusiastic advocates of wearing separates, rather than suits. However, separates are less formal than suits and unless the invitation contains the word casual they're inappropriate for a wedding. If you do want to dress down, but still stay within the confines of the dress code, we suggest you try a cotton suit. Only go without a tie if you know the groom is doing the same.
08 Keep your cool
The weddings that are most difficult to dress for are those held in very hot weather. No one wants to be, or sit next to, the sweaty guy, so choose wisely when picking an outfit. Fabric makes far more difference than colour, so we suggest you wear a 100% linen suit, with a 100% linen shirt underneath. It may be counterintuitive but you'll be more comfortable wearing fine cotton socks than if you go sockless. A Panama hat works to keep the sun off your head and, in extremis, as a fan.
09 Handle with care
If you're travelling to the wedding, a carefully considered outfit needs to be equally carefully transported to avoid being ruined en route. A good suitcase should be large enough for your suit jacket and trousers to need only be folded once. Place rolled underwear and socks just inside the fold to avoid creasing, and make sure you unpack and hang up your clothes as soon as possible.
10 Don't forget the pocket square
While we're firm believers that when it comes to handkerchiefs a man needs one for blow and one for show, the pocket square needn't be entirely decorative. A casually worn square should look as if it's ready, at a moment's notice, to be gallantly employed to mop a little spilled champagne from a girl's dress, or a tear from her cheek. Who says chivalry is dead?