Our menswear editor Dominic Bliss looks at the ever-growing popularity of casual formality for grooms and asks if it is the end of the tux
British grooms are a fickle lot. Give them a royal wedding and they clamour for morning suits. Show them a footballer’s wedding and they long for lounge suits. Show them the latest Hollywood wedding rom-com and they hanker after black tie. Much of this is thanks to the enormous influence of social media. But overall, men’s wedding wear is becoming less formal. Morning suits aren’t as popular as they used to be, and both lounge suits and black tie are filling the gap.
That’s certainly the message from Britain’s most prominent formalwear hire brand, Moss Bros. Established in London’s Covent Garden all the way back in 1851, this company has hired out more men’s suits than any other UK brand. It currently has more than 130 outlets across the UK and Ireland.
“There has been a downward trend in the formality of morning wear but an increase in the hire of more relaxed products such as lounge suits,” said their chief executive officer Brian Brick this spring.
In recent years Moss Bros has invested in two new sub-brands of modern suit tailoring for the retail rather than the hire market. Moss London, which offers skinny fit suits for younger customers, and Moss 1851, which is a “tailored fit brand designed to accentuate your silhouette” couldn’t be further away from the look of the traditional morning suit.
“Our recent investment in lounge suits continues to prove appropriate as customer demand continues to move away from the traditional morning wear hire market,” Brick adds.
It’s all part of a general trend which has seen British men dressing less formally across the board – whether that’s for weddings, for work or for social occasions. Yes, of course, there will always be the ultra-conservative attire of the British aristocracy (as seen at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding last year, for example), and at many formal weddings the groom will choose to deck himself and his ushers in morning suits. But this trend is waning.
Ten years ago, males of the British upper-middle classes – particularly those in the south of England – were expected to get hitched in tails and waistcoats. But in 2019, it’s all starting to feel a little bit staid.
So why are sartorial standards slipping? You can certainly lay much of the blame on our American cousins. Traditional morning wear has never been very popular across the other side of the Pond. Add to this the images of glamorous Hollywood actors attending weddings in tuxedos, and the recent slew of American rom-com movies with black tie or lounge suit-wearing grooms in the cast (American Wedding, Made of Honor, Wedding Crashers, The Wedding Date), and you realise how the morning suit has gradually been drowned out.
There are home-grown reasons for the demise, too. In the old days, it was traditional for the wedding couple to get hitched in a church late morning or in the middle of the day – when morning wear was appropriate and evening wear would have looked ridiculous – before throwing a reception in the afternoon.
Nowadays, though, any wedding worth attending will focus around a big party that lasts long into the night – and when the groom and ushers are dancing to killer tunes at midnight, they look far more sophisticated in black ties and dinner jackets than they do in morning suits. In any case, as etiquette experts Debrett’s clearly state: “Morning dress should not be specified to be worn at an event starting after 6pm.”
The scorching summer we all enjoyed last year must have had an effect on the British choice of suits. No groom wants to be sweating on the dance floor beneath a heavy tailcoat and waistcoat; in the summer heat, a dinner jacket and a loosened bow tie are far less stifling.
Top names do it their way
So, what styles of dinner suit are Britain’s top designers offering? A quick perusal of some of the Savile Row designers gives a good cross-section.
Gieves & Hawkes has a handmade classic black or midnight blue dinner suit at £1,995, or a dark navy dinner suit at £995, and a beautiful handmade Sea Creature Jacquard evening jacket at £945.
William Hunt offers its Baker classic black or Baker navy geometric weave dinner suits at £695 and £895. But for the more dandyish grooms there are dinner jackets in cobalt blue with floral paisley, in sky blue with red paisley, maroon with crimson red paisley, or chocolate with muted bronze paisley.
At Richard James and Chester Barrie it’s more traditional.
The former has a classic evening suit or a shawl collar evening suit (both in wool and mohair and both at £1,000), or a classic evening suit wool and mohair crystallised at £1,750. The latter, meanwhile, has a dark blue four-ply worsted two-piece dinner suit or a black shawl two-piece dinner suit, both at £1,500. And for more ambitious budgets, Huntsman has a black mohair single-breasted peak lapel evening suit at £2,750.
Granted, these outfits may look a little bit risqué on a Saturday morning in a village church. But on the dance-floor of a marquee they cut a very cool silhouette indeed. And they should keep even the most fickle of bridegrooms happy.