Groom’s Guide: Well Groomed
Chances are good your intended is putting a lot of thought and energy into the big-day look. Naturally, you’ll do the same.
Chinese grooms often wear a robe with a big dragon embroidered on the back, Scots traditionally wear kilts, and Indians wear a sherwani (the coolest, most elaborate silk dress a man could ever own). If none of those is in your future, you may need a little guidance figuring out your wedding-day look.
You may also need a little permission to really finesse the situation and go for a high-style ensemble that’ll trademark your post-single-guy personal style. Allow us to grant you that liberty. What follows is a sartorial primer that splits exactly no hairs about suiting, shoes, accessories, and all the prep, prime, and preen extras. Go forth, and get dressed up.
All the Extras
“A hat is a personal statement,” says shopkeeper Andrea Cano of Goorin Bros. Hat Shop. “The most important thing is how you feel when you wear it.” And, perhaps, how your partner in finery feels when you wear it. Here are some other ways to trick out your look:
• Cuff links What kind of chump holds his shirt cuffs together with buttons?
• Pocket square: You’re not fully dressed without one. The pop of color adds visual interest, and you’ve got a mop handy when things get sentimental.
• Tie: You and your intended will have a color palette for the overall day. Here’s an opportunity to maximize it. We said maximize, not match. Bow or straight? The former can be formal, but it can also be kitschy. The latter will only look wrong when its width is out of step with your lapels.
• Socks: Yes, they’re supposed to match your pants. Come on, live a little.
• Watch: Let’s be clear: you can’t be late to this one.
• Suspenders: Keep your pants on—at least until later. There’s something to be said about a man in suspenders, but a man in suspenders and a belt will make people smirk.
SUIT UP & LOOK SHARP
There are three basic options for getting into a traditionalslacks-jacket-tie set-up:
Tuxedo rental: Nothing says formal affair—cue the violins—like a penguin siut. The Tuxedo Club of Kirkland’s Bob Buhrman says they can get you dressed for about $90, but for $160 or so you can slip into the Daniel Hechter Paris Blue Label Collection. And therein lies the rub: the key to pulling off a rented tux is fit and quality. (Spoiler alert: the key to every look is fit and quality.) Work with a shop that deals in well-made, properly maintained offerings, and take the utmost care with each fitting. Be sure your dudes do, too. Nothing says “fashion fail” like a tux that doesn’t fit.
Off-the-rack suits: Properly altered ready-made suits are the most popular option when it comes to becoming an owner-operator. If you put down $600 to $800 you’ll get a decade or more of dedicated service. Blackbird, a men’s shop in Ballard, offers a keen, clean-lined basic in their house line that we endorse; Mario’s has a fully loaded Hugo Boss shop inside its men’s department, and budget-savvy engaged guys know that Nordstrom’s half-yearly sales for men, which start in June and December each year, are gateways to solid deals.
Custom-made suits: A bespoke suit is a rite of passage, and your wedding is the perfect time to tag off on this milestone. It’ll cost a lot more than renting a tux, but a made-to-measure suit can often be on par with an off-the-rack one in terms of final cost. (Then again, you can spend $8,000 if Italian cashmere is calling your name.) “You won’t get a better fit than a custom suit,” says suiting specialist Kent Rogers at Butch Blum. And when you have one built to your specifications, the silhouette and all the details are up to you. Plan on at least three months from start to finish.
No matter what route you take, you’ll need to consider jacket style—which mostly comes down to single-breasted (most common these days) or double-breasted (old-fashioned, but great if your wedding has a plutocrat theme), number of buttons (two or three are the norm; pulling off four requires an advanced degree in style), and lapel width, which typically correlates with your physical size and shape but is also a matter of style and taste.
Can a groom get away with patterns and stripes in his wedding ensemble without looking like Rodney Dangerfield? Sure—with a little guidance. The world of men’s fashion is bolder and more confident than it was a few years ago. Still, approach patterns with caution: if you’re going to wear more than one, vary the sizes and try different shades, especially with accessories. “A patterned tie with a patterned vest doesn’t work,” says personal stylist Bruce Pflaumer. Try a blend of textures, play with color, play with shapes, but don’t play with all three. Tone-on-tone is a good way to go. If you’re brave but somewhat inexperienced, get a second opinion.
Yes, a rash of grooms have sported colored Converses in recent years, but how will that look two generations from now when your grandkids discover your wedding photos? We recommend modern classics. “We’re seeing lots of light browns and fades from front to back, and different treatments of olive and navy,” says Mario’s Chris Poullos. As the shop’s shoe specialist John Lee sees it, “Silhouettes are sleeker, with longer toe boxes.” Bring in texture and color if you want to have a little fun. “Textured loafers, like faux crocodile, and shades of burnt orange look nice against dark suits,” Lee says. “So does a polished pair of boots—the bonus there is that your pants won’t bunch at the ankles.”
Suit, haircut, and shave: Check. But you’re not done yet. These final touches may be entirely new to you, but trust us here and you might just find you like a little pampering.
• Get a manicure: Your hands are going to be in a lot of photographs, and they may come in contact with exquisite fabrics. Despite the name, Dame Salon in South Lake Union offers masculine hand and nail services.
• Trim your nose/ear hair: Insert Wolfman joke here. This might not seem like a big deal, but who wants nasty hairs when the camera zooms in? Valentine’s Salon and Squire Barber Shop offer up-close and personal service.
• Get a facial: Dignified dudes don’t have blackheads. The Spa at the Four Seasons is dark, private, and top-notch.
• Whiten your teeth: Or, if nothing else, it couldn’t hurt to get a good cleaning. Consult your dentist.
Americans love foreign words that make mundane things sound fancy. Boutonnieres are no exception. The term comes from the little hole sewn into the lapel of a jacket to accommodate the small blossom we now associate with nuptials. At one time men wore boutonnieres as often as they wore ties, but somewhere along the way manliness took over. “Organic, loose gatherings of wildflowers are popular now,” says Rachel Bowes of Finch and Thistle Event Design. “But a lot of couples are moving away from flowers, and are instead using decorations like pinwheels. Often someone will want something special incorporated, like a charm or a locket.”
“The trend right now is retro, 1920s-style black suits with some sheen to the cloth,” says Pflaumer. A wide variety of grays and dark blues are also popular, and rich tans and khakis can look sharp as well. In the end it’s all about what complements your skin tone, but take the time of the ceremony, and the season, into account. “Light day and dark night” is the go-to rule for Pflaumer, though he advises avoiding creams and whites no matter what time it is.
The trend right now is retro, 1920s-style black suits.
Unless the reception is set to feature a drum circle, you’ll probaly need a haircut. Men’s education specialist Amanda Lufkin at Gene Juarez Salon suggests visiting your stylist a month before your big day. That’ll give you time to get your look dialed in. When you’ve got it, come back about five days before the ceremony for a touch-up. “Men’s hair lays best after three to five days,” Lufkin says, since by then “the lines around the neck and ears look more natural and make for the best photos.”
An old-fashioned straight-razor shave is one of the coolest things you can do, and the experience makes for a great outing with your groomsmen. Valentine’s Salon offers a variety of packages; schedule the appointments a day before the big one. The extra time gives your skin a chance to recover from irritation, and straight-razor shaves are close enough to last through the next day. The whole process takes about an hour and will run you around $65.
Wool is still the de facto standard for suits, but it doesn’t hurt to look into other materials, especially for a summer wedding—just leave the polyester to your weird Uncle Floyd. “Comfort is king when it comes to fabric choice,” says Pflaumer. “If you’re comfortable in what you’re wearing it’ll show, and you’ll look that much better.” He recommends lightweight wool for the warmer months, but if you’ve got your heart set on something else here are some tips:
• Traditionally speaking, cotton sport coats are an East Coast preppy thing, but modern designers have been adapting the look in recent seasons. For summer-afternoon affairs and budget grooms, cotton poplins make a lot of sense.
• Linen is a good fit for hot days since it’s so lightweight, but it’s not a good choice for wedding suits. It loves to wrinkle and ruin photographs. It’s probably best to save this option for the honeymoon.
• For dressier events or when black tie has been specified, wool or wool-blend suiting is the best choice.
Tie one on
This simple bow tie how-to will ensure you look dapper on your wedding day, and when you meet with that barbershop quartet: