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Formal Essentials: Formal Tips And Advice

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Last season, MFM bought you a two part series highlighting formal essentials for the spring/summer season. Bought to you by Danny Rhone, it might be a good idea to revisit both articles at some point.

9-5 Formal Essentials For Spring Summer Part 1

9-5 Formal Essentials For Spring Summer Part 2

In today’s formal essentials article, Danny will be sharing advice and giving you tips to look your formal best whether that be at a social occasion or in the office.

Get Yourself Tailored

This is most likely to be one of the best tips I can give you. Find yourself a good tailor who can look after all your altering needs. Unless you are getting a suit made up, its going to be extremely rare that buying a suit off the peg is going to fit you perfectly from top to toe. Especially in the current climate where most men (including myself) crave the “slim/ tailored” fit jacket and trousers. For me the most effective alteration and to give that slim/ tailored effect on any jacket is taking in the side seams. A mistake a lot of guys make is if they don’t get that required tailored fit on the jacket straight away they dismiss the option automatically. The mistake is the jacket more than likely in most cases fits perfectly across the shoulders, chest and back but because of not thinking of what taking in the side seams would to do to create that desired fit. They then 9 times out of 10 they will purchase a jacket/ suit that feels to them more like the fit they require but doesn’t fit right around the rest of the torso. Like I said it’s very, very rare to buy a suit off the peg that fits perfectly.

Suit Tailoring

In the last few years I’ve noticed a lot of 20-30 year olds who weight train having problems finding a suit a looks and fits right. They have that v shape problem when buying suits, for instance like a 42 inch chest and a 32 inch waist doesn’t go into a 42 regular which has a 36 waist trousers. This is where alterations and knowing a good tailor is essential. Depending on measurements there is a limitation on what a tailor can do in terms of taking in the waist and sorting out the seat of the trouser to match up with the gentleman’s body shape. There are more and more brands that sell their suits as separates you can mix and match buy the jacket and trouser like at House of Fraser with brand’s such as Kenneth Cole for the slim fit gent and New & Lingwood for the traditionalist. Another option I would maybe recommend is a made to measure service. Now the normal perception is that getting a made to measure suit would cost an arm and a leg! Maybe a few years ago yes but specific made to measure company’s like A Suit That Fits and Reiss are offering the service at a real affordable price. Seeing as off the peg the cheapest Reiss suit is £395 start and made to measure service starts at £550, the service is definitely worth looking in to and the extra outlay.

The Perfect Length

The most common alteration you will need is getting the trousers shortened to your preference. Now every man is different. I think most men prefer a longer length of trouser, and in a lot of cases too long! This occurs where the trouser gathers so much on the front of the shoe, the back falls right down to the heel of the shoe which means through daily wear it frays and eventually tears the fabric. Not a good look. Now the current trend and my personal preference is to go fairly short on the trouser length with a tiny break on top of shoe as pictured. Another style I think looks great especially when you want to flash your block colour socks or show off those tassel loafers is the classic turn up. This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and quintessentially it’s a real traditional look but it’s coming back more into the main stream (like most styles and trends in fashion!) Also more and more guys including myself are getting their trousers tapered to give off a sharper more contemporary cut. There’s nothing worse than seeing a guy who’s trousers resemble those of a parachutist!

Suit Trouser Length

The Tie And Handkerchief Rule

Don’t go like for like when it comes to picking a tie/ handkerchief combination. That’s a golden rule I’ve taken with me after being schooled by a couple of Savile Row vets. I quite like the inventive challenge of matching up a tie and hanks combo. I would say the nearest you could come to match “like for like” would be for example having a block colour tie and the same colour hanks with a white polka dot through it. The tip is trying to pick out the tie’s colour in a handkerchief’s pattern or going for a contrasting colour that matches up with the tie, shirt and suit (as pictured). Another simple but effective combination is the white pocket square with a white shirt. A trend I like using at the moment is matching or using similar tonal pocket squares i.e. pale blue or grey. In terms of propping your hanks inside your breast pocket, my advice is keep it simple. There are many different ways to decorate but for me I keep to three stances.

1. Is the simple “puff” placement.

2. Is the basic square which I’m favouring to do more with patterned hanks than just the standard block colours.

3. Is when I’m in a fancy mood I will flair out my pochette using the corners. This looks technical and you may need a few practice runs but you’ll get there! Of course there are many other ways and instructing guidelines but for me it’s all about keeping it simple and not over complicating the matter. I’ve just seen recently there is a company making already perfectly folded pocket squares with precise triple folds. Not cool! It’s not about being exact. It’s about simplicity and looking effortlessly good.

Tie And Hankie Combination

Here are some of our favourite product picks:

Topman Block Knit TieTopman Red Ring Pocket SquareTurnbull And Asser Polka Dot TieAlexander McQueen Skull Pocket Square

Avoid The Footballer’s Knot

One thing that pains me is when I see guys on the street and even more so celebrities in the spotlight with a poorly knotted tie! The footballers knot as I call it as you see so many of them being interviewed on match of the day with a poor excuse for a knotted tie. A nice tight knot seals the deal as far as polishing off your formal look.

Horse’s For Courses

Another real common mistake is mismatching your shirt collar with tie width and knot. For example if you have a cutaway collar shirt you would match it up with a double or half Windsor knot and not use a slim tie. And on the flip side with a penny or slim vertical collar you wouldn’t use a Windsor you would go for a slim or skinny tie and knot. The difference is there to see in what doesn’t look good and what does. Personally I have always kept it simple with a school boy knot as I find as long as the tie width is right it will go with any shirt/ collar style.

Here are a few final quick fire tips to help you look your formal best….

  • Button up right: it’s a golden rule that on a two button suit you should never do the 2nd button up. And if there are any three button wearers it should either be the middle or the top two buttons fastened.
  • Brush down: Get yourself a clothes brush. Brush your suit down after wear and this will clear away dirt and dust that collects through the day and keep your suit in prime condition. This is essential as really you only want to dry clean your suit once and at a push twice a year to help preserve your suits life span. Brushing away those dust and dirt particles will aid the need not to.
  • Get buffing: It’s an aged old saying that one of the first things women notice is a guy’s shoes and there condition. It can also be employers or suitors so make the effort to keep the maintenance of your footwear at a good level. Definitely invest in a shoe polish kit.
  • And still on the subject of footwear, if you are going to splash out on a nice new pair of shoes with a leather sole you definitely need to get them soled with a rubber base especially if your intending on wearing them through winter. You should be able to do this at most multi service dry cleaners and specialist cobblers.
  • Having a specialist cobbler on your radar is very handy as he can prolong the existence of your favourite shoes.
  • Stand up tall and fasten: It’s an old school mannerism but getting into the habit of buttoning up your jacket when getting up from your desk or out on your lunch break will give you a sharper appearance. Try it really does make a difference.

Here’s some product picks which tick all of these boxes. As we’ve already noted, they may need slight alterations but sometimes you can get a tailored look through off the shelf suits. Here’s some of our favourites:

Reiss Fielder Black Double Breasted SuitReiss Chelsea Black Single Breasted Check Suit
Shawl Collar Wool TuxedoMatalan Tailored SuitHugo Boss Single Breasted SuitNavy Russo Three Piece Suit

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Daniel Rhone
Daniel Rhone

My name is Daniel Rhone and I am a menswear stylist and personal shopper by trade with writing articles and pieces on Men's fashion thrown in between. I have been involved in the men's fashion retail industry for over 10 years. I also currently write my own men's style blog as well as working on future projects and collaborations.



  • John Butler

    I think for real smartness a tab collar or pin collar shirt makes it. These hold the tie in place properly. As for trouser bottoms I prefer to take up my own as I tend to do them on a slope so that the front is higher than the back. That way the front doesn’t sit on the shoe and the back part covers the heel. (a 60’s thing). It’s nice to have jackets with shape but i hate to see a jacket that is pulling on the buttons. It makes it look too small. As for pocket hanks I’m old fash’ and like matching sets as per the 1960’s..

    Having said all that I’m now more into the 50’s Beat look (Beatnik) though on a less serious note than they were. But suits have their place for more serious occasions where respect is required.

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