A major bespoke commission for a fabulously chichi wedding at Cap Estel on the Côte d’Azur last summer posed a unique challenge for the design duo behind Thom Sweeney. The dress code was black tie; the ceremony, however, was scheduled for mid-afternoon – in June. “No one wants to be tottering about in 13oz barathea wool in that heat,” says Luke Sweeney. “So we took our whole evening look into the day.” For the eight suits they designed for the groom and ushers, the Sweeney signature soft-jacket construction (£3,000) was cut even easier than usual, using midnight-blue 7oz Loro Piana silk for lightness and surface interest. These were paired with narrow, pleated ivory trousers (£1,095) and front-pleated white cotton shirts (£275) for the groom and best man, and chambray versions (£275) for the ushers. Sweeney’s bespoke daytime black tie was such a success that it’s now offering ready-to-wear versions in the same fabrics: a double-breasted evening blazer (£1,590) in blue or ivory teamed with matching dinner trousers (£495) and a white point cotton collar shirt (£235).
These trousers and jackets also happen to work incredibly well on their own, paired with casual pieces in what I like to call “fractured evening style”, but is more commonly known as “daytime tux”. Effectively, it’s breaking down the traditional tuxedo ensemble and mixing the components with jeans, T-shirts, or luxury sportswear. This season it’s officially become “a thing”.
The best brands, like Sweeney, are offering day-accented takes on evening standards. An ivory silk/linen shawl collar dinner jacket at Gieves & Hawkes (£1,495) – rendered daytime-perfect thanks to light cream Piacenza cloth – is matched brilliantly with silk/linen trousers (£395) and a raspberry jersey tee (£95). Add the piratical drape of a scarf and, boom, it’s a look that puts me in mind of certain bygone images of those subversive rock ’n’ roll style merchants Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood.
There’s a pronounced “aristo cavorting abroad” element to daytime-tux style too, which has been explored extensively by past and present clients of Turnbull & Asser. “Our archive is full of the ‘tropical’ dress shirt,” says Dean Gomilsek-Cole, head of design at Turnbull & Asser. “They were for cocktail parties in hot climates, and evolved from white to cream to even pale-blue or soft-yellow silk blends, with pyjama-style collars.” I’ve ordered a bespoke Sea Island cotton evening dress shirt (£525) with a double cuff on behalf of a client; other options include a denim and cashmere shirt (£225) and a classic rich cream poplin one (£255) with a Nehru collar.
The grandad collar also has a prominent role here. Cerruti teamed a grey mélange, stripy linen shawl-collar jacket (£750) with a grey cotton stand collar evening shirt (£130) to excellent effect. Massimo Alba’s cotton jacquard Kos shirt (£160) has a smart grandad collar and squared-off plastron bib, and is garment-dyed using the in-house “watercolour” technique. This signature feature plays out nicely in the brand’s capsule collaboration with Fenwick: the Guzzi double-breasted mohair suit (£1,055) – handpainted a deep bordeaux for a beautiful, daubed-canvas effect – is a perfect example.
The daytime events my actor clients attend – such as red-carpet premieres – are ones at which traditional black tie feels stodgy and incongruous. Thankfully, some key new fabric blends work as light, comfortable vehicles for daytime formalwear. At Hardy Amies, a linen/cotton it calls “velvet linen” is used for a double-breasted peak lapel jacket (£295) with covered buttons, which was shown with a white T-shirt and white jeans – a super-relaxed permutation of the fractured evening look. Connolly’s silk/linen “smoking jacket” (an exclusive to-order piece, price on request), with its turned-back silk peak lapels, has an appealing shimmer to it. Maybe it’s the big 1970s sunglasses that Tom Ford chose to accessorise his new tuxedos, or maybe it’s the open-neck fine plissé shirts (£680). Whichever, Tom Ford’s Shelton satin shawl cocktail jacket (£2,200), with its turned-back cocktail cuffs and low shawl collar is a totally one-of-a-kind day look – particularly with the brand’s viscose waffle-knit scarf (£340) adding texture and flow.
Which brings us to accessories. Dress slippers and pumps have been the major night-to-day crossover items. Among the best are Giuseppe Zanotti’s William loafer (£715) in green satin with leather and crystal detail – fancy but nimble – and the woven leather Archibald (£900). Louis Leeman specialises in dress shoes that stride confidently from nightclub to marina: this season’s versions boast detailing in striped Panama fabric ($715), cotton denim ($790) or suede patchwork ($790). Jimmy Choo’s new Sloane styles, in embroidered light canvas with crystals (£795) or a bandana print fabric (£425), are similarly ideal crossover pieces.
And finally, there’s no overstating the power of draping an exciting scarf inside a jacket. Dover Street Market has some very special Comme des Garçons giant squares (£190) made from an amalgam of other scarves – from traditional livery to 1970s optical prints – all brought together in one-off compositions (with, it must be said, rock-god swagger potential). At Browns there’s a selection of frayed-edge GucciGhost scarves (£245), the result of an Alessandro Michele and Trevor Andrew collaboration. And the especially bold can consider softer, even floral, motifs, such as Saint Laurent’s Japanese-style Love print scarf (£390). It too offers a bit of out-there rock ’n’ roll flounce worthy of Keith and Ronnie in their pomp.