DAVID Cameron’s apparent change of heart regarding the wearing of a morning suit to the royal wedding tomorrow may mean he won’t have to stick out like a sore thumb – or a sorely misadvised PM, at any rate – among all the other appropriately-attired guests. But it’s also an endorsement of a uniform that is still an embodiment of British sartorial elegance, one that blokes should jump at opportunities to wear rather than reluctantly sloping off to the hire shop (as Ed Milliband has said he’ll have to do).
Kathryn Sargent, head cutter at Savile Row’s Gieves & Hawkes – where Prince William’s military uniform for the wedding has been cut, along with many of the outfits guests will be wearing – says the morning suit is actually more complimentary to a man’s build than a normal lounge suit. “There’s a lot of shape in the coat and you can really emphasise the waistline, which is basically hidden with a normal suit,” she explains. “A lot of people get a bit put off by the high-cut trousers, but they have to be high to have the waistcoat in the right place, and it all creates a really graceful line.”
In fact, high-cut trousers aren’t just extremely elegant – just look at any picture of Cary Grant from back in the day to work that one out – but, being pleated and relatively loose, they’re also exceedingly comfortable. While a high-waisted cut looks positively eccentric with a business suit now, attending a wedding or a race event in a morning suit gives you a rare opportunity to sport it.
However, such opportunities do need to be handled with care. Avoid, for instance, wearing a cravat, however much wedding hire shops encourage it. Leave aside those high wing collars as well, along with garish waistcoats – smartness is about understatement, and being suave requires looking effortless. It’s the bride’s outfit that should be turning heads, after all.
“You need to avoid anything that remotely resembles something from Spandau Ballet,” says Sargent, pointing out that the look has been adapted for modern times, rather than being stuck in some foppish pastiche of the past. A normal shirt – white, blue or with a light check – and a smart, unfussy tie are fine, though a little bit of detail in the waistcoat goes a long way.
“I think double-breasted looks a little dandier, and you can have it with peaked lapels to match the coat,” says Sargent. “When you have the coat unbuttoned it still looks really dressy.”
Getting a morning suit cut does cost a lot – at Gieves & Hawkes they start at £5,460. But if you consider it’ll last a lifetime of Ascots and weddings, it’s worth it, particularly when you bear in mind how ill-fitting a hired morning suit is almost bound to look (just check Ed Milliband tomorrow).
“It if doesn’t fit you right, with the buttons in the wrong place, coat at the wrong length, it can look terrible – everything should marry up and look harmonious,” says Sargent. “When you have one made it emphasises the good points and disguises the bad, and it’s an investment you make for years.”