How Men Should Dress
Bowtie or no bowtie? Our style panel weighs in on what to wear when the invite says formal
The Question: The wedding invite says formal, so what should you wear?
Nat Cheshire, Cheshire Architects:
"I may be increasingly alone in this, but Jay-Z would do it: I think you have to start with a bowtie and work outward from there. This is a celebration, not a business deal. It’s also the most exquisitely optimistic thing we do. It deserves more than what you reluctantly throttle yourself with at the office. If your suit lapel is peaked or shawled then all the better. But for those struggling to scrape together enough for dinner, let alone a dinner jacket, the transformative power of a bow tie will salvage even your Salvation Army suiting. Just don’t even think about overshadowing the bride - or brides - we’re all here to assert that today the world spins around them."
Bryn Hall, Blues rugby player:
"I go straight to Barkers; it's the perfect one-stop-shop to get a simple but smart looking suit. I like to go for a classic with a dark navy suit with a well-fitted, crisp white shirt accessorised with my favourite cufflinks. I understand that a bow tie is traditional wedding attire, but for me a slim black tie will do the trick. Shoes are bloody important, so I go for a tidy pair of brown brogues paired with dress socks along with a slick watch and a splash of Fahrenheit Absolute Dior my neck and wrists to finish off the look."
Josh Thomson, Comedian:
"This is your time to shine. I'm sick of weddings where the bride gets all the attention. Get down to Frank Casey's and hire one of those timeless Chinese collars so you look like Neo from The Matrix. Or better yet get a long western jacket with silver waistcoat and bolo tie. Whatever you do, Looney Tunes paraphernalia is in. A pair of Tasmanian Devil braces and bow tie say loud and clear that you are formal and funny."
Richard Dale, Art writer and graphic artist:
"In a more undifferentiated stage of life, I hankered after a light grey morning suit, matching top hat and cream tie, a nostalgia for the B&W British cinema of my youth and worn by the groom at a university wedding I once attended. As that would locate me somewhere around the Edwardian era, I am more inclined still to retain the formality, but something more colourful, sharp, individual and sans chapeau. Say something from World, such as the black velvet jacket I wore at my own wedding last year, combined with 'Sartorialist' combinations: a colourful waist coat, slim-leg trousers, and the best shoes that you can afford. Black leather Paul Smith boots. Get a loan for the latter if you can't afford them. If a tie, it should be slim, e.g. Comme des Garcons. Most of all, keep the ensemble tasteful, good quality and don't outshine the bride. No bowties, they belong to pretentious art gallerists and Wellington bureaucrats."
Steve Bielby, principal trustee of Auckland Notable Properties, currently in charge of restoration of St James Theatre:
"My mother once described me as ‘vanilla' and there’s nothing wrong with that when it comes to formal wear. When the invite says formal I'd start with a navy wool suit with a fresh white shirt complemented by a pocket square somewhat artistically shoved into my jacket pocket. Unless I'm in the bridal party, I'll generally go without a tie - let's be honest, it comes off after the first hour anyway. On the chance you do have to wear a tie, there's no tie like a bow tie. If it's going to be a hot day I can't stress how much more enjoyable it will be with an unlined (Naked) jacket. I'm neither here nor there on novelty socks, but if you're that way inclined feel free to push the boat out as long as they are not white."