How To Look Smart At A Casual Wedding – Mr Oliver Spencer Is Here To Help
Illustrations by Ms Oriana Fenwick
The lightbulb moment for Oliver Spencer’s latest collection came a couple of years ago when the designer attended what he jokingly refers to as a “Hackney wedding” (Hackney is a fashionable London neighbourhood popular with the city’s creative class.) “It was a more casual affair,” says the British designer. “You could tell that they were the kind of people who would never wear a suit to work, but they still looked bloody smart.”
Inspired by the guests’ unconventional take on wedding attire and convinced that he had spotted a gap in the market, Spencer set to work on a range of suits designed for exactly this kind of event. He called the collection “Occasions” because he “didn’t want to exclude bar mitzvahs and 60th birthdays”, but admits that weddings will most likely drive the majority of the interest. “There’s a huge backlog of people waiting to get married,” he says, “assuming they survived lockdown together.”
The collection, which is available now exclusively at MR PORTER, comprises a range of single- and double-breasted jackets cut from lightweight linen or cotton with no padding or lining. “They’re totally relaxed,” says the designer. “When you put them on, it feels like you’re slipping on a shirt.” They’re accompanied by drawstring trousers with a tracksuit-like construction, but with suiting fabric in place of cotton. The suits are designed as a casual alternative to the default option of a business suit, and are intended to be worn with collarless shirts, silk scarves instead of ties, buttonhole flowers and sneakers. There are options for the beach, too, such as a navy safari jacket inspired by a photograph of Mr Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh, which Spencer suggests wearing with shorts and a polka-dot scarf.
It’s a timely collection in more ways than one, arriving not only at the beginning of a potential bumper wedding season but at a time when we’re looking for any excuse to get dressed up again. “At this moment in time, I’d put on a suit to go and buy fish and chips,” says Spencer. “I really feel that putting on a suit is going to elevate your attitude and the way you feel about life. Dressing well makes you feel good. That’s something that people desperately need right now.”
“I’d put on a suit to go and buy fish and chips. I really feel that putting on a suit is going to elevate your attitude and the way you feel about life”
It’s also a time when the established standards of formal attire seem ripe for reinvention. For the past few years, the expectation has been for a man to attend a wedding in the same suit he wears to work, unless otherwise stated on the invitation. But the creeping erosion of the corporate dress code – a trend that has been accelerated by the recent pandemic – has left many men with no reason, other than the odd wedding, to own a business suit at all. This is especially true of men under 30, the age group most likely to attend multiple weddings in the next few years.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see what we decide upon at the end of all this,” says Spencer, musing on the future of wedding attire for men. “I think that people are going to do one of two things. They’ll either want a more comfortable, deconstructed take on tailoring, which is what this new collection offers, or they’ll want to go all out. What I don’t think they’ll want to do is just put on a normal suit. They’ll associate that too much with the world of ‘old work’.” (It should be mentioned that, along with the casual tailoring offered by the Oliver Spencer brand, Spencer also has the “go all out” category sewn up through his other brand, Favourbrook, which specialises in formal event attire.)
Can casual tailoring really provide the sense of occasion that a wedding demands? If it were anyone other than Oliver Spencer making the case, you might be led to wonder. But this is a man who has spent the past 20 years ahead of the curve, whose eponymous brand anticipated the demise of traditional business attire and the rising demand for a more relaxed take on tailoring, and who was an early champion of workwear-inspired clothing, such as the chore jackets and wide-legged trousers that are now a common sight in menswear everywhere. He has a knack for knowing how men want to dress before even they realise it.