Christmas, to me, should be a Dickensian schmaltz-fest of ruddy faced joy and conviviality.
The clatter of a carriage on cobbled streets. The crunch of snow under stout leather boots. An Inn with a crackling log fire where bearded men swill porter and supp mutton stew.
No Sky Sports. No games of pool. Just raucous laughter bathed in the warm glow of gas-lamps, as wenches with flaming locks, heaving bosoms and velvet dresses behold the swelling scene.
These days it’s Michael Boublé, frilly knickers, half price scotch and flights out to Tenerife. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, but oy vey, you’ve got to work at it.
To me it’s about family, friends and a time for reflection, reaching out spiritually and giving the liver a good kicking. The latter usually involves a charity ball, dinner dance, or, back-slapping industry awards bash, where more often than not, the dress code is Black Tie.
Formal wear is to the dandy what formula one is to a racing driver. It’s the ultimate show. The Big Kahuna. The dinner suit is the dark knight in your wardrobe, a creature of the night, just a DBS and PPK short of 007.
One of my coat-makers is constantly telling me to ‘keep it simple’ and I get untold grief for my love of doing something different.
I want a Michelsberg jacket or lounge suit to turn heads. Contrast coloured button holes, velvet top collars, flower loops, secret pockets and flashes of silk behind the working cuffs are all on the menu. The trick is to balance these with the cloth to create something stylish and elegant. Go overboard and you’ve got a costume, not an outfit.
Mark Ronson was recently lambasted for wearing red socks at an Amy Winehouse Foundation fundraiser.
I love red socks but not with a tuxedo. Whilst I believe clothes should be an expression of who you are, when it comes to formal wear I am a purist. There is a time and place for everything and certain events require a modicum of decorum. As such, you need to find the Methodist within and show restraint.
Nothing beats the understated beauty of a tuxedo. Done right it is minimalism at its finest, a monochrome work of art. The fit must be perfect and it must be made using the finest materials.
To start off with you need pure silk facings for the lapels and pocket jets. Outrageously expensive and a nightmare to press, what they lose in practicality is more than made up for in downright gorgeousness.
Then the cloth. The very DNA of the suit itself. I’ve just delivered a stunning creation using a Super 150’s and cashmere blend from Scabal. It’s incredibly light and feels like the mons of an angel.
Here’s one below I made for Andy in cashmere & summer kid mohair produced by Taylor & Lodge of Huddersfield. It was used to make Daniel Craig’s tux in Quantum of Solace, is stiffer than the Scabal fabric and tailors very sharply.
When it comes to colour you’ve got three choices. Black, noir, or, schwarz. That said, Ralph Fiennes wore a beautiful midnight blue number for the Skyfall premiere and so will my customer Lesley (pictured below) for his Christmas party.
When it comes to styling it’s very simple. The jacket should be single-breasted with a peak, or, shawl lapel (as above), have one button, jetted pockets (no flaps), side vents and a four button working cuff with silk covered buttons.
The notch lapel on a dinner is the work of the devil. An absolute shocker. It’s up there with ‘novelty’ dress-shirts and Bruce Forsythe inspired waistcoats.
Double-breasted coats can look great. Prince William wore a fine specimen on his wedding day but the downside is that you have to keep it buttoned. Traditionalists would say no vents on a dinner suit, but god help if you’ve got a fat arse, or, want to put your hand in your pocket.
Trousers should be worn higher on the waist with braces (from Albert Thurston, or, Trafalgar), flat fronted or forward pleats, silk down the sides and plain bottoms.
I wear a double-breasted marcella waistcoat with a silk lapel but the ‘horse-shoe’ is particularly popular at the moment and certainly something I’d pen my name to.
A crisp white Michelsberg bespoke shirt with fly front (concealed buttons) or studs. I’m not really a fan of wing collars and cummerbunds and think them best left to Transylvanian Counts and matadors.
A white linen, or silk, hanky tucked into the out-breast-welt. Check out Turnbull & Asser on Jermyn Street. Their shop is an Aladdin’s cave for anyone with a serious silk fetish.
Invest in a pair of long black silk socks, preferably to the knee. The flash of a pasty white calf covered in hair is not a good look. I’d recommend Pantherella, or, Bresciani.
Finally black patent shoes (try Church’s, or, Jeffery West) and most importantly a self-tied bow tie.
So there you have it. The perfect tux, Michelsberg style. Here’s one below that is being collected today by my customer Sean.
Christmas is going to be great this year. It’s less than four weeks to go until my Mother’s roast goose with prunes and Armagnac hits the table.
I’ve got all sorts of little treats lined up including a night out at the Bierkeller and dinner with my old school friends Jedoir, HotBongDaddy (don’t ask) and the Bainer.
There’ll be a trip to London, Bournemouth and of course a stroll down Savile Row.
Wishing you all the best for the build up and here’s to the ringing of Rudolph’s bells and the Michelsberg cash register.