How Not To Dress Like A Plum This Christmas

Senior Style Editor Teo van den Broeke on the perils of festive fashion, and what you should wear instead

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Sometime in the early Thirties, Coca-Cola got their hands on Santa Claus and transformed him into the eerily dewy-skinned grandpa we know today. In the decades after, with a little help from Disney, Christmas went technicolour.

It's gotten worse over the past few years. From department store ads produced with bigger budgets than those apportioned to the NHS, to Christmas trees going up in July, in 2014 we Brits went all American about the holidays.

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It was the same back in October. When did Haloween become a national event? Out of the blue, it suddenly wasn't ok not to have plans for the night of the 31st.  And woe betide if you didn't post six pictures of your pumpkin carving efforts on Instagram. The cardinal sin? Not making an effort to dress up.

I went to a nice, grown-up minimal techno gig at the Camden Roundhouse this Halloween. Nowhere on my ticket did it mention that fancy dress was required. In fact, given the austerity of the music we would be listening to, I had assumed that any clothing other than black layers would be treated with contempt. How wrong I was. Behind every mangled clubber lurked a dead jock, a zombie bride, or a plump girl dressed as a skeleton, fooling no one.

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This seasonal attack on our wardrobes is not just confined to Halloween either, it gets worse in the lead up to Christmas.

Festive dressing isn't a new phenomenon. It’s been happening since the Victorian era, when ladies and gentlemen would put on their finery and gather around the Christmas tree (a tradition introduced to Britain by Victoria's German husband Albert).

Thing is, it's gone too far. A flash of festive sock here, no problem. A dodgy snowflake neck tie there, if you must. A Christmas pudding onesie with a mid-lunch poo flap and enough unnatural fibres to start a forest fire? Totally unacceptable.

The office Christmas Party is a petri-dish for these kind of sartorial pathogens. From Rudolph the red nose reindeer 3D jumper with flashing lights to – the horror – sparkle-encrusted cummerbunds, the list of Christmas-themed style crimes is endless.

Ultimately, however, you don't want to look like a Scrooge. As tempting as it is to dress as you normally would for a party – in nice, well-fitting clothes – the sad reality is that people expect you to make a bit of an effort.

The key, as usual with menswear, is to approach things with subtlety. Firstly, anything novelty should be left on the shelves at the Pound Shop. Secondly, sparkles should only be worn by women over the age of 45, and third, any kind of cartoon Christmas jumper should only be worn within the confines of your house – just don't expect anyone else to join you there.

If you want to wear a festive jumper, opt instead for a knitted wool Fair Isle. If the dress code is black tie, swap your black flannel jacket for a velvet one in a jewel shade, or alternatively opt for a plush silk or velvet bow tie. When it comes to socks and ties, a muted shade of holly leaf green, poinsettia red or – at a push – Star of Bethlehem gold, can just about work, but everything else must be kept simple. Footwear-wise, a black patent leather lace up or loafer worn with a traditional black suit will smarten things up a bit.

Here's a selection of five festive pieces which won't make you look like a Christmas pudding:

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1 | The velvet blazer

Peak Lapel velvet jacket by Hackett, £450, hackett.com

2 | The fair isle knit


Lambswool jacquard crew neck by Gant, £115,
gant.co.uk

3 | The festive tie

Burgundy Grains Silk Tie by Richard James, £85, richardjames.co.uk

4 | The proper bow tie


Black silk bowtie by Turnbull & Asser, £55,
mrporter.com

5 | The socks

Cashmere blend socks by Pantherella, £40, matchesfashion.com