Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Summer is upon us in a week, which gives American men (and Europeans travelling to America or the Caribbean) an excuse to wear their white or other pale colored summer evening jackets on appropriate occasions. Those occasions are of course semi-formal outdoor events or indoor venues where the guests are able to spend time out of doors (a minute or two is all that is necessary really). And that gives us reason to discuss appropriate dress, complementing yesterday's post.
Now assuming that a man already owns a dinner suit in a not terribly heavy weight, then he can wear those trousers and only needs an appropriately colored jacket to participate in summer's rites. Not that a jacket is absolutely necessary, for black or midnight blue evening clothes are always appropriate, but a change of pace is a pleasureable thing. And though summer is warm, the nights are often cool, so mid-weight cloth is in my experience perfectly reasonable unless one lives in a place like Scottsdale where it may be 110 degrees (45 C) at 10 PM and then my advice is to wear the black and remain indoors. Better yet, go somewhere else for the season. But I digress.
According to the late George Frazier in Esquire, A. J. Drexel Biddle, who Frazier considered one of a handful of the best dressed men in America in the middle of the twentieth century despite a prediliction for, in my opinion, disproportionately small necktie knots, wore "single breasted white gabardine" coats on his semi-formal summer evenings. White or cream gabardine is my own choice in a 13 ounce/400 gram weight (the stuff also comes in 9 ounce/270 grams if you must) that drapes well and is comfortable in either air conditioning or sea breezes for the tight weave does not trap air next to the skin and warm it up. Other jacketing options include linen of course, though it rumples, silk, and worsteds but I like knowing that I have both feet planted firmly in an elegant past.
Now the cummerbund, originally a sash, was invented for warmer weather occasions when a waistcoat might be too much to bear, and civilized readers will take care to cover their waists despite the poor example set by Hollywood's badly dressed leading men in recent years. Remember, the missing cummerbund is not a statement of fashion so much as an oversight when the dinner jacket makers loan their clothing for an awards appearance to a celebrity whose own wardrobe contains none of the appropriate accessories. But again I digress. Usually black, the cummerbund may be colored though personally I prefer to limit colored accessories to my socks and pocket square. Burgundy is always a good choice, as are dark blue, dark green or purple. Opera pumps and a black banded boater hat are options.
Now some readers may be asking themselves where they might wear such a costume, which means that a) they are too old to be attending a prom and b) their country club no longer has jacket-required dinner dances. To that I say, buy your wife a new dress and take her to dinner under the stars at least once this season. And dress yourself for a summer's evening.