David Watkins on Men's Cocktail Attire

As a personal stylist, I get to enjoy styling both men and women. Obviously, styling women comes more naturally. Regardless of the gender, however, I like to rely on my resources and retail partners to also weigh in with their personal thoughts and opinions. I know what I like and not so much, but I tend to operate with a collective mindset in everything I do. I love hearing what others say and in doing so I find that I am able to keep learning and growing in my own craft. One of the local male style setters I admire most is David Watkins, founder of the men’s custom suiting line, Abbeydale. David was one of the first people I met when I started to pursue my passion for style as a career. He is one of my go-to guys for assistance, opinion, guidance and direction with men’s styling and custom suit making for my male clients. I included him in the 2018 Charlotte Most Stylist IT List in SouthPark Magazine.

On Sunday’s, over his “Sunday Morning Coffee” blog post, we get to hear a snipet of David’s thoughts on dressing. I was particularly intrigued and excited to learn David’s take on Men’s Cocktail Attire. David and I have always agreed on the importance of male dressing. Go see David at his uptown shop I know you too will be impressed! Enjoy the article by David below, and like he says, don’t be the golf slacks guy!

From The Desk of David Watkins / Founder + Gentleman

Date: 02.17.19

OK, I have to admit, after recently being asked to attend a charity event that called for "cocktail attire" I googled it. 

Yeah, I know, I should probably know this off-hand and I kinda did, but wanted to double-check. 

One of the reasons why I always feel the need to check in on this stuff is as time goes ticking by, so does tradition. 

There are rules traditional menswear was based off of and then there are new rules for modern dressing. 

Because the whole concept of dressing well is also dressing comfortably, you need to feel good in your surroundings. 

Yes, I believe you can feel over dressed even if you may not be, according to the rules.

In leu of all of this I thought I would throw together a quick guide for dressing the part when cocktail attire is called for. 

Also, not that I would recommend breaking tradition in any manner, I’ll let you know where you can bend the rules a bit. 

So, What is Cocktail Attire? 

A term that originated in the 20’s describing a code of dress for quasi-formal events. 

I’ve often thought it was born from convenience so guys could leave the office and head straight to an event without the need to change. 

I mean, in the 20’s cats were dressing sharp everyday anyway, so it makes sense to me. 

Today, you would need to take off the tech polo golf shirt and make a lil effort.

What to wear for Cocktail Attire?

It will not be overtly formal like the evening dress (white tie) or semi-formal (black tie) dress code. 

I would opt for a sharp and sophisticated look paying tribute to the originators. 

Wear a classic, understated suit with a focus on darker tones (navy or gray for me but black works as well). 

I would most likely wear a white shirt and ground the entire look with a round toe oxford or a double monk. 

I would wear a tie, but for some, this may not be needed (bending rules here). 

Either way, definitely wear a pocket square…you have to "finish" the outfit. Always. 

Are Sport Coats OK?

Traditionally speaking - nah. 

But again, know your setting and who’s in the room. 

If you’re hosting, do what you want. 

The CEO invited you…dress up a bit. 

Chances are you'll be drinking and socializing, so I want you to be comfortable. 

Stick with a dark navy and nothing loud and over the top if you go the route of separates. 

So, what did I notice at the recent "cocktail attire" event I attended? 

Most people wore suits…some sport coats and some just had no clue and wore golf pants (with white shoes!) 

Don’t be the golf slacks guy.