Small Details, Big Differences | How to Look Great in Black Tie | Men's Style Advice

Watches of Switzerland x Carl Thompson 6.jpg

With Christmas and New Year celebrations comes the black tie invitations. Corporate events or fancy friends, this is the time of year when you dust down your tuxedo. This should be seen as the opportunity to look your best and with an unlimited budget, there are some beautiful products available. If I had a spare £15k, I would invest in a diamond and pearl “dress set” from Deakin & Francis to accessorise my bespoke dress shirt. But there are a few more economical tips that can make you stand out for all the right reasons that will not break the bank.

  1. Wear a black tie. There is a clue in the title. This means a black bow tie and not a long tie. It must be a real bow tie that you tie yourself.

  2. Can’t tie a bow tie? Learn. It is a cool life skill. There are plenty of online tutorials.

3. Still can’t tie a bow tie! Purchase a real one one that can be unclipped at the back and ask the nice person in the shop to tie it for you. If they do not know, you are shopping in the wrong places.

4. Avoid most wing collar shirts. Opt for a turndown “normal” collar.

5. If your evening shirt was supplied with studs, do not wear them. They look cheap and cost pennies. You can buy better studs for not a lot of money that will improve your look.

6. Your studs should match your cufflinks. Perfectly.

7. Your wristwatch should complement your cufflinks. It should be slim with a black leather strap. James Bond can wear a sports watch with black tie. You can’t. If you do not have a suitable watch, do not wear one. You can find out the time from your mobile phone anyway.

8. You do not need to wear dress studs with your shirt. Some pedants even believe that it is incorrect to stud shirts for black tie.

9. Cummerbunds are great on the slim but are ugly on anyone with a belly. Be honest with yourself. Remember that a cummerbund should sit on the waist and is not a belt. You will need to wear your trousers high on the waist to allow the cummerbund to sit properly.

10. Wear braces. They will hold up your trousers at the correct height and keep everything in place.

GQ December Issue By Andrew Barber (OmniStyle)-12 Cropped.jpg

11. If you own a dinner suit, make sure it is well pressed and in good repair. It is worth having your evening shirt professionally laundered between wears so that it is always in pristine condition.

12. Make sure you show plenty of shirt cuff, a little more than you would normally.

13. Be wary of anything novelty and avoid fancy waistcoats. And avoid anyone wearing a fancy waistcoat at a black tie event!

14. You can wear a little colour with your pocket handkerchief. Dark reds and purples always look elegant. But a simple white cotton or linen simply folded is always correct.

15. Wearing a flower in your lapel is supremely elegant and a cost effective and correct way of standing out. It should be a simple white or red bloom and no one will ask if you are getting married.

16. Wear plain long socks and make sure your shoes are immaculately polished.

17. Pay special attention to your grooming. Ask your barber how you could style your hair differently for a formal event. The “slicked back” look is very elegant and conjures up images of the 1930s but is not achieved by over-applying cheap hair gel. Your facial hair and fingernails should be recently trimmed.

18. Do not wear a white silk scarf at the event. If you happen to have an evening scarf, check it in with your coat.

GQ December Issue By Andrew Barber (OmniStyle)-15.jpg

Small Details, Big Differences | Men's Shoes

Shoes After a good shoe shine.

Shoes After a good shoe shine.

No matter how well your suit fits or how many folds there are in your hand-made Neapolitan tie, it will all be in vain if your shoes are dirty. Well-cared for and polished footwear is the simplest way to improve your appearance. Handmade shoes are expensive but their value will be eroded if they are not properly cared for. On the other hand, a well-polished pair of shoes from the High Street will look significantly more expensive. If you value your appearance, you must take care of your shoes.

You need time, patience and the right kit.

Good quality polish is vital and I strongly recommend the products by Saphir. These are significantly more expensive than the usual supermarket brands but you are buying the absolute best and, compared to new shoes, they are a worthy investment. Also, these polishes will last a long time. Even when they appear to dry-out and there is little left, you will still be able to use and get many more shines from it. Never use “hi-shine” sponges….these contain silicon and will ultimately dry your shoes out. You will also need shoe cream, again Saphir produce some good ones but I also like the ones by Meltonian. To apply the polishes, I like an old poly-cotton t-shirt…the older the better. You also need brushes. I do not see the value in expensive brushes and use entry-level versions although some swear by horsehair.

Shoes Before they have been polished.

Shoes Before they have been polished.

To polish your shoes, make sure they are clean and dry. Remove the laces and either put in shoe trees or stuff with old newspaper. Brush vigorously and then apply shoe cream with your rag. Creams come in various colours but you could get by using black and neutral. Once the cream is applied, allow to dry before polishing with your wax polish. It is important that both products are used. You should think of shoe cream as moisturiser and wax polish as make-up.

By applying small amounts of polish with a slightly dampened piece of cloth, you can obtain a mirror shine. Keep applying small amounts of the polish in small anti-clockwise movements and see the shine develop. To “finish” off, you could buff with a selvyt cloth. Selvyt is a specialist polishing textile and is not cheap but will last years. It can also be used to revive the shine between polishing. Do not neglect the heel or welt (where the upper is attached to the sole) and specialist welt brushes are available…but an old toothbrush works just as well. For cleaning heel the and side of the sole, you can buy “edge cream”…or you can use a black marker pen.

If your shoes are scuffed or scratched, they can be repaired by using “mirror gloss” by Saphir (I am not sponsored!). Mirror gloss is a harder wax that when mixed with water creates a hard finish, ideal for filling in small flaws. It can also be used, as the name suggests, to create military-grade shines. Once you get into the habit of polishing shoes, you will start to quite enjoy the process as it can be quite therapeutic and you will also enjoy the admiring glances your shined shoes will attract. But you might want to take it to the next level. You can experiment with brown shoes by using different coloured polishes…I would always suggest using a little black on your brown or burgundy shoes to give them an “antiqued” finish. But to really make an impression with your footwear, you need to seek the services of a “patina artist”. Not to be confused with the bootblacks you sometimes see (although they also offer a valuable service), the patina artist can re-colour your shoes and add all sorts of depth to the leather.

The Jaunty Flaneur on London’s Savile Row is one such service. For a small fee they can give your shoes a military shine or a full re-colour. To try the service, I gave them a pair of old Edward Green brogues I purchased back in 1992. I paid £95 for them back then but to replace them with a similar quality would cost me nearer £950 today! The result was impressive and I have gained a few more years wear out of them. I would highly recommend the service. Tom and PJ are both passionate about shoe-polishing and will happily pass on their knowledge and expertise.  They also stock the right kit to maintain at home. This isn’t a quick service, so be prepared to wait a few days but the results are worth the wait. They will often strip-off old layers of polish, this can be achieved at home but something I would prefer to leave to the professionals.

If you have a special occasion such as a wedding, an artisan-level shine will take your outfit to the next level.

The Small Details that make Big Differences | Men's Style Advice


I often hear that men would like to dress better “if they had more money”. I won’t lie to you; an unlimited budget would give you access to some seriously nice clothes. You could shop with the best tailors on Savile Row or fly to Naples for fittings on bespoke suits, and have your own lust for handmade shoes. For a small investment, you could even employ me to manage your wardrobe and help you pick out the nicest clothes.

I would also share with you the names of the best tie and sock makers but I know that most do not have that kind of disposable income. So I will share something for free: You can dress better without spending a lot of money as long as you have a little time and don’t mind making an effort. Working in luxury menswear has given me access to some nice clothing but I have also learnt that it is how you wear something is as important as what you wear.

I am planning to write a series of tutorials for Carl to help you dress better where the maximum expenditure is £100. I know £100 is a lot of money when you have nothing, so some of my tips will be cost you no more than your time. Some will focus on getting more out of what you already own and certainly on making clothes last longer. Tips on caring for as well as wearing clothes. One of my pet hates is seeing a man wear a rucksack with a tailored jacket. The pressure of the shoulder strap kills the shoulderline of the jacket and will ruin the shape. It also pulls the jacket away from the neck and looks clumsy. If you need it for your laptop or gym kit, at least carry it by your side. Your fellow commuters will appreciate it too.

Of course, my advice will be traditional with a bias towards classic style but it is certainly a more economical way of dressing. I found my personal style in my late teens and still wear items that are twenty years old. I rarely discard clothing because it is “out of fashion” and you should find your own style too. This will, sometimes, mean ignoring trends. But a well cared for tailored jacket that fits and is in a good cloth will always look good. That is not to say I am anti-fashion, I adore fashion but there is a difference between classic style and dressing the same for twenty years.

There has been a significant move to a more casual way of dressing for business and formal occasions and most of my tips will be relevant for casual dressing too.

Stay tuned for more information.

And if you happen to have a lot of cash burning a hole in your pocket and need some personal sartorial advice…please get in touch.

Things I Have Learnt From Working in Fashion | By Christopher Modoo


I never set out to work in this industry but it has given me a good career; meeting some great people and obtaining a wardrobe significantly higher than my pay-grade would accommodate. I am often approached by younger people in the industry or students and asked to pass on career advice and I give an occasional talk at a London fashion college. It seems a more popular career choice than it did when I started and if you are thinking of a career or just curious, here are some things I learnt that you won’t find from your career advisor.

Most people in the industry have no interest in clothes

This is the big one. It is just a job for most people and they would be just as happy selling washing machines if the margin was high enough. I have met some kindred spirits along the way, but most have no passion for the product. They know the cost of everything and the value of nothing (apologies to Oscar Wilde). And despite access to clothing at discount prices, they dress really badly.

You will become obsessed with the weather

To justify less than brilliant sales, you will blame the cool summers and warm winters. A heavy storm or an unseasonably warm weekend will be used as an excuse as to why customers didn’t go shopping. After weather, your pet excuses will be sporting events and the school holidays.


Excel will be your closest friend

Despite what you may see on Instagram, if you are not on the shopfloor selling, you will be staring at a spreadsheet. You will grow to hate the small green triangle.

You will be governed by KPIs

Key Performance Indicators are not unique to fashion retail but we make them our own. Average Transaction Values, Conversion Rates, Turnover per square metre…and when you haven’t reached target, you will find a thousand ways to say “we need to sell more stuff” and will take great comfort from any positive message in a poor season. To sound more scientific, you will always give percentages with two decimal places.

Travelling ain’t glamorous

With cutbacks, flying anything other than economy is as rare as having a proper lunch. But despite the discomfort, you will savour the ten hour respite from emails.

It is not unusual to go straight to a meeting from the airport. You will become an expert at deciphering international breakfast buffets and showerheads. And never be tempted to use the whirlpool bath in your hotel room. Trust me on that one.


You are basically a tax collector

With VAT at 20% and all the duties associated with imports, you will sometimes feel like your most successful role is collecting money for the government.

The word “important” will take on a whole new meaning.

You will talk about colours being important. “I think fuschia will be important next summer” someone will say to a roomful of nods. Not in the way other things are important, like Brexit or global warming.

You will find fancy ways of expressing the bleedin’ obvious.

“Next winter we expect a rise in sales of key layering pieces combined with seasonal accessories” is another of saying “it will be cold so customers will buy jumpers, scarves and gloves”.

Your friends and family will not understand your job

They will think you spend all day drinking champagne and hanging out with celebrities. Don’t disappoint them.


Introducing Author Christopher Modoo the Urbane Outfitter

Chris Modoo.jpg

Please allow me to introduce myself…

I am delighted to be contributing to Carl Thompson’s blog. I have known Carl for many years, since we met at a Chester Barrie press day down in Savile Row. I was the senior creative for the brand and Carl was a keen supporter of my work and would always visit the presentations at London Collections: Men (as London Fashion Week was once known).

I have worked in the fashion industry for over twenty-five years. I have no formal training and started my career as a junior salesman in the shirt & tie department of Selfridges. I have always loved clothing and can’t remember an age where I wasn’t aware of what I was wearing. But I never considered that I could make a career from it. At 18, I very lazily applied for a job in a bank after a brief discussion with the school’s career advisor where my options were summarised as “bank or civil service”. So I started as a junior in a suburban High Street bank. I only lasted eighteen months before the lure of the West End called me to Oxford Street.


My first break was when Thomas Pink opened a concession in Selfridges, I was a fan of their shirts so I wrangled the manager’s job by the age of 22. My love of cloths blossomed as I became aware of all these great classic brands and a large portion of my salary was spent on custom made cloths and good shoes. From Pink’s I moved to Savile Row where I was a salesman/fitter. This is where I became obsessed with textiles. Our shop full of cloth books called “bunches” and I would go through all of them learning about different weights, textures and qualities. There is a lot of knowledge on Savile Row and some very generous characters who are willing to  share it…usually over a pint. I then moved to Ede & Ravenscroft to head up their made-to-measure department. Ede & Ravenscroft are London’s oldest tailors with a heritage and stretches back to 1689. It was fun bringing it into the 20th century and convincing staff that we should fax orders rather than relying on the post! It was here that I really started to understand the rules of classic menswear and when and how to break them. I was very lucky to be promoted to buyer when the position became vacant despite having no buying experience. The retail director mentored me and translated my knowledge of tailoring into a commercial skill. I had the most wonderful decade with Ede & Ravenscroft; I travelled all over Europe, met the Queen and was even introduced to my future wife. But at the age of 39 I was eager to move onto bigger and better things.

Christopher Modoo.jpg

I joined Chester Barrie with the responsibility to oversee every product from morning dress to casual outerwear. We took the brand to trade shows in Florence, New York and Hong Kong, as well as becoming a major fixture on the LCM calendar. This also coincided with the growth in social media. I love the way that it can connect people with a similar interest and how it can champion smaller brands and artisans. I loved sharing new ideas and receiving immediate feedback…usually good. I am no longer with Chester Barrie and have what is known as a “portfolio career” where I split my time between writing online content for magazines and brands, styling, lecturing at a college and starting my own label. I look forward to writing more for Carl and connecting with his followers. I will be writing about classic mens fashion as well as the fashion industry and sharing my experiences from both.

Photo Credit Anna Michell

My Journey into Blogging | A Massive Thanks to my '&FRIENDS' Contributing Authors

It seems a lifetime away from 2013 when I launched my menswear brand Hawkins & Shepherd and starting writing blog posts about shirts, fabrics and what knot to wear with your shirts. In 2014 I launched my eponymous Men's Lifestyle Blog. Back then, to begin with I was looking to drive more traffic to my menswear label, but it soon came apparent that the blog was developing into something separate and deserved its own platform. More and more people were coming to me for advice and I wanted to provide a place for people that wanted to enhance their style. 

It has been a major learning curve moving from my previous career which I was the Global Head of IT Communications & Networking for a major privately owned commodities trading house to starting up my own shirt label and subsequently men's lifestyle blog. Back then when I was building my previous career, I had no clue what a blog was and would have laughed at you if you suggested that I would give up a career that I've spent 15 years perfecting on a gamble for a better lifestyle; but that's exactly what I did. Some friends laughed, some suggested it wouldn't work, some were just worried for me but in most cases they were supportive. All of these reactions are forever indented into my memories which I call upon for inspiration and to make myself even more dedicated to succeed.

One thing I do miss about working for someone else is the holiday pay, the sick pay, actually the consistent pay in general - oh and the odd hangover day when you're on the clock getting paid but not really there mentally! Starting Hawking & Shepherd, not only took a lot of capital but also a hell of a lot of my hours and I think there is a massive misconception about life being greener when self-employed and now I know that to be correct. Since 2013, I've put every single penny that the business makes back into it, to help it grow, improve and to have the best chance of success in the long-term. It's really hard and have so much respect for anyone who has made a successful change in career or launched their own brand.  

Mid-way through 2017 I was thinking of ways to turn my self-titled blog into more of an online magazine, an encyclopedia of everything men's lifestyle. It was then that I decided to seek out other writers and journalists to contribute to and to help them launch themselves to a possibly difference audience to what they would usually come in contact with. The relationship had to be beneficial to all parties and we have achieved that. I wanted to take this opportunity at the start of 2018 to say a massive thanks to these writers who have contributed to the success of 2017 in which we've seen an increase of unique visitors by 85.8% compared to the previous year.

Unfortuently my budget doesn't stretch to have them all employed full-time. So I'm sure they will not mind if I did a shout out to each of them and say to feel free to contact them if you require unique content, copy-writing, event coverage etc.

Peter Brooker is a Professional Freelancer & Copywriter with SEO experience. Founder & Editor of Human Research. Lifestyle Editor & Podcast host for Menswear Style. Fashion Editor for The Essential Journal. He has interviewed leading ambassadors, athletes, celebrities, actors including David Gandy, Daniel Sturridge, Paul Weller, Evander Holyfield, Sir Steve Redgrave, David Haye, George Foreman, Dita Von Teese, Idris Elba, Jamie Redknapp, Sir Roger Moore and Stephen Hendry. Oh in case anyone is still reading he also writes for Viz and is unbeaten at crazy golf. 

Originally from Cornwall, Holly has two main passions in life: history and gin. With a degree in history and over 7 years of knowledge working in the gin industry, she now writes about both. Holly creates food recipes for artisan spirits companies and is always on the search to try and experiment with new flavours. You can follow her on Twitter @HollyHarwood and on Instagram @HollyHWood.

Patrick McAleenan is a freelance journalist, PR and Personal Trainer, based in London. He is a regular contributor to Telegraph Men, Metro, Attitude magazine and other high profile publications. He was a Stonewall Awards 2014 Journalist of the Year nominee and is currently writing his first work of fiction. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ontheptrain

Suzanne Bernie is the founder and Managing Director of Coathanger. Based in one of the fashion capitals of the World, London; Suzanne is a leading fashion stylist who helps clients develop a better relationship with their wardrobe and how they express themselves with fashion. With over 20 years of experience in the fashion industry and having founded Coathanger in 2002, Suzanne and her team of personal stylist’s aim to help people step out of their comfort zones and develop a whole new outlook on the role fashion plays in our everyday lives.

...and to the newest member signed up for 2018, I'm incredibly excited to introduce to you Christopher Modoo...

Christopher Modoo is the "Urbane Outfitter". With over 25 years experience in men's fashion he is an expert on style and etiquette.Having worked in all aspects of menswear from shop floor to senior creative, Christopher is now a freelance stylist and is working on launching his own label. As well as fashion, Christopher is a keen fan of the cinema and enjoys travel. He is married and lives in Hampton Court.