Why You Should Give All Dresscodes A Miss

How to get through the party season minefield in style

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One’s standing in society can be defined entirely by the number of festive party invitations received during the months of November and December (those sent by your Grandma don’t count). Anything fewer than five and you need to up your game; any number over ten and you might as well change your name to Truman and spend the rest of your days sipping martinis.

Aside from the social aspect, any opportunity to go and get pissed on over-priced champagne over seven consecutive nights while receiving dodgy gifts from well-meaning strangers in the knowledge that you’ll be free to convalesce in front of the family tree exactly one week after - is one to be relished.

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The only thing is, Christmas parties inevitably mean dress codes. Those wholly discomfiting dictums over-eager hosts enforce in order to instill a sense of occasion. You can tell an awful lot about your friends by the type of dress codes they stamp on their invitations. Lounge suit? Over fifty, works in finance, has a lovely wife called Pam. Smart casual? Late twenties, has no real interest in anything other than downing Jagerbombs. Black Tie? Works in mid-level media and calls his living room a ‘drawing room’. White tie? Royalty. Smart? Probably a civil servant – thinks wearing a navy suit with brown shoes is “a bit mincey”. Shirt and shoes? Spends his Fridays going out out on Guildford high street. Sports casual? Now that’s a friend to phase out.

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Other than for a wedding, christening, occasion of state or a visit to the dock, dress codes should be followed as sparingly as possible.

Granted, it’s good to have a little guidance when it comes to dressing, but ultimately these are little more than arcane, outdated aphorisms which hark back to a time of endemic class segregation (no one loved a dress code more than those Victorians) when the only ways for men to express themselves through their clothes was to decide between a bowler or a top hat – the former were reserved for the lower classes, the latter for the upper, FYI.

Traditional examples aside, there are few things in this world worse than a ‘fun’ dress code. Christmas Casual? Festive chic? Dress to impress? Shan’t.

Not only do dress codes such as these force people who manage to clothe themselves perfectly well everyday of the week thank you very much, to wear ‘statement’ garments that they’d never consider in any other circumstance (a Family Guy tie? Really?), it also achieves little more than to instill a deep sense of insecurity into the invitee. What if I don’t impress? What is impressing? Am I impressive? What?

Take it from me. A room full of insecure people wearing statement ties does not a party atmosphere make. Just ask John Bercow.

Ultimately, the real problem I have with dress codes is that they’re intensely patronising. If the event you’re attending is a sit down dinner and you’ve been sent an invitation in the post, it should be pretty obvious that you need to wear a jacket and tie – if you’re over dressed you can always nip to the loo and remove it.

These days you can look just as smart wearing a roll neck jumper in a beautiful fabric with a slim-cut double-breasted jacket as you would in a bland old shirt and tie. Smarter in fact. The reality is, so many people get ties wrong (too short, too fat, too skinny, knotted by a dispraxic five year old) that you could potentially look scruffier wearing one than you would not.

My advice? Unless it’s black or white tie (and even in the case of the former, feel free to forfeit a bowtie for a regular necktie) you should just ignore the dress code. Instead, simply make sure that you’re dressed sharply whatever you’re doing and wherever you’re going – you can dress up jeans and a jumper to look as smart as a suit if you try hard enough. Oh, and be sure to buy clothes that actually fit you. Yes! It actually works!


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