Fashion designer, creative director and judge of BBC1’s The Great British Sewing Bee, Patrick Grant shares his guide to men’s event dressing for the summer season.
What are the key things men should keep in mind when dressing for formal summer events like Royal Ascot, Henley Regatta or a wedding?
Be aware of dress codes and understand exactly what it means. I’m a believer in sticking absolutely to the rules, I don’t think that experimenting with black tie or any other code is ever a good idea. It’s there to make everybody feel comfortable, it’s not about you as an individual. Part of being a well-mannered individual is not about breaking other people’s rules, or making other people feel uncomfortable by the way you’re dressing.
What are the key trends in men’s formal wear this summer?
In my Hammond and Co. collection for Debenhams, I’ve included quite a lot of print in our shirting, so we have a nautical-theme and a print inspired by 1950s art, for example. They are still smart shirts, but I think it’s a nice way to liven up an outfit in the summer. You do need to be careful not to overload an outfit when wearing print, however. So if you’re wearing print in a shirt for example, tone down everything else accordingly, so keep the tie, jacket and trousers relatively simple. They key rule when mixing patterns is always to have complimentary colours and never to have two patterns that are the same scale. I would recommend wearing as much blue, grey and beige as you like in the outift, and then add in just one accent colour, so perhaps a burnt orange or a deep green.
Are there common mistakes that men make when dressing formally for summer?
Dressing too formally and too informally is a common mistake. I think most mistakes are because people try to overcomplicate things. Start with a base of something really simple, such as a natural linen trouser and a navy wool blazer, and add something simple to it, like a bit of colour, pattern or print in the shirt, or something in the handkerchief.
What accessories should one go for in summer?
We have a lot of woven belts in my Hammond & Co. collection, which are quite fun and a simple way to add texture and colour to an outfit, without making it appear casual. Pocket squares are also a really simple accessory that you can wear them in all sorts of ways. You can fold it in a neat and formal way, or have a great puff coming out of your pocket, which is a little more exuberant. Having a watch with a woven strap with a bit of colour is another nice touch in the summer.
How do you stay stylish but keep cool in a suit in summer?
Choose a fabric that breathes and a suit that isn’t lined, so you get the benefit of that breathability. There are certain fabrics, like Hopsack or fresco, that are traditionally worn in the summer as they are open woven cloths that breathe well and can be mixed with wool or other fibres. The great thing about a woollen Hopsack is that it doesn’t crease badly, unlike linen, which is also a fantastic cloth for the summer. So you have to wear linen in situations where it’s OK to look a little bit crumpled, which is perfectly fine for some occasions. In my Hammond & Co. collection for Debenhams there are also mixtures of linen and cotton with wool, which is a nice balance between the two. Wool can be incredibly comfortable to wear in summer as you can spin it very fine and weave it very open, so you get lots of hole and not much fibre.
How would you recommend looking after your suit as an investment?
The more you launder a suit, the more quickly it will lose its shape, so I would only recommend dry cleaning a suit if it starts to smell. When suits are pressed in the factory or at your tailors, the specialists that press them put shape into them and it’s hard to put that back in, especially if you go to an inexpensive dry cleaners that uses a great big flat press. All of the life and bounce in your carefully selected jacket will disappear very quickly. So I recommend using a clean cloth and a bit of clean water and dabbing any stains out and giving your suit a brush if it’s dusty or dirty. Then hang it on a decent hanger for a day or so between wears to let it air. You can give your trousers a press, but take care with the creases and, again, hang them properly. It’s amazing how many people hang them with the crease in the middle and not – as it should be – to the side.
What’s the best piece of style advice you would give?
Not to follow other people’s style advice! It would be very boring if we all dressed the same way. We need to wear what makes us feel good and find pieces that work for our body shape, our skin tone, our hair colour and so on, and once you find it, don’t be afraid to stick to it. I think most stylish men have a uniform and a look that they stick with and they don’t worry about trends and what other people are doing.
Who are your personal style influences?
For smart summer, Prince Charles is a pretty good marker. He has a stable formula that he rarely digresses from, he accessorises very well, wears colour very well and he knows when to wear a pale jacket and when not to wear a pale jacket. So if you’re going to Royal Ascot or an occasion like that, just google and check what he’s worn. If it’s good enough for Prince Charles, it’s good enough for everyone else!
Patrick Grant’s Hammond & Co. collection is available exclusively at Debenhams.