Henry Golding in Ralph Lauren Purple Label. Photograph from REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Style Necessary Style

Getting away with a velvet jacket is not that easy. Here's why

Getting to this level of dressing means you have gotten your formal tux game set, and then, with confidence, are ready to experiment. 
Monchet Olives | Mar 05 2019

The velvet jacket is having its moment. Its “revival” at last week's Oscars came with sartorial aplomb, easily making velvet the textured material of the season. On the red carpet, it possessed that rich feel and luxurious sheen. The sharply tailored jackets were worn by Billy Porter (in full-on Christian Siriano), Chris Evans (a light blue Ferragamo), and Michael B. Jordan (a classic deep blue Tom Ford, who happens to be the official Bond costumer). Even Jason Momoa took on a pink Fendi like a badass. But is velvet something any guy can wear outside of the red carpet? Especially in our weather? I think it is a great look—but I have a few caveats.

Lisa Bonet and Jason Momoa in Karl Lagerfeld. Photograph from REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

But not before a bit of history. Velvet was used early on for the smoking jacket, that arcane garment made famous by Yves Saint Laurent and, well, Hugh Hefner. Worn while enjoying a post-prandial pipe or cigar, velvet was meant to absorb the smoke and protect the wearer’s clothing from falling ash. The smoking jacket eventually evolved in to the short dinner jacket, done in silk, wool or brocade, making it the forerunner of the lounge suit—or as we like to say, the tuxedo.

Now, how do we mere mortals adapt Oscar style tuxedo dressing in this material? Let's get this straight: The velvet jacket is not something you keep in the closet. It’s actually quite a daring piece to acquire, and more so to wear. Getting to this level of dressing means you have gotten your formal tux game set, and then, with confidence, are ready to experiment. The fabric, though cushy soft, can be thicker than what we usually wear, hence, it works well with a slimmer body type. Not that it wouldn’t work with the portly, it just needs to be well-tailored. There are a lot of off the rack choices, specially during the holidays, and there is no harm in giving them a try. 

Chris Evans. Photograph by REUTERS:Mario Anzuoni

Choosing a color beyond black would be super cool—if you have the guts. For me, perhaps dark blue would be a safe choice for now. I wouldn’t go hyper dandy or rocker in pastels or purples. The velvet jacket is more of an edgier piece of clothing. It is an investment and a statement—you'd have to spend for it. So if it’s your first time to wear it, better keep things in check.

Here are three ways to wear it:

 

The Dinner Jacket and Being Mr. Lauren

You actually don’t see much velvet in Manila unless you are in the entertainment industry or are doing the ball circuit. So, for us guys to be able to make use of it, let's keep the rules simple: keep it slim, trim and taut. Velvet adds depth to any standard tuxedo required look, but only if you let the fabric be the leading star. This means a sharp silhouette must come into the picture as the best supporting act. Bespoke is the name of the game.

“Velvet for the Philippines would be too heavy, but for a formal event, aircon naman. We make whatever our client desires since it is bespoke,” John Marcelo, manager of Ascot Chang Manila at Rustans says. “The look is a single button peak lapel, done in deep blue, or oxblood, with black silk lapels. But we haven’t taken an order for one yet.”

Black velvet a la Ralph Lauren for me is the ultimate color for super formal events, keeping the bowtie, shirt, trousers and accessories relatively neutral and clean. Think Henry Golding.

Doing an Andy Warhol

If you're going for a 70s vibe, wear it with a cotton turtleneck. Simple, but with a little edge. Pair it with jeans and Chelsea boots. This way of wearing the velvet jacket recalls a leather cafĂ© racer. Need some pomp? A nice printed scarf would give you the psychedelic jet-set vibe. Printed silk scarves work well with velvet; the flat sheen of the silk counters with the luxe of the jacket. Channel Austin Powers. Yeah, baby, yeah.

Doing a Stallone

I see a lot of this going on. An easy-look, amped up by a plush rather than a plain linen coat. You need some derring-do, because this fashion wrinkle can be surmountable if you approach it effortlessly. Sprezzatura is key. Wear with slim jeans, a nice t-shirt and white sneakers, and you'll project a chill vibe.

So, whatever level of velvet commitment you have, remember it’s all about going for it. The caveats for me are but a few. As long as you keep it slim and tailored, you'll be fine no matter how your physique goes. The Manila weather, who cares? You’ve already committed to the look. You are mostly indoors, anyway, and usually attending some IG-driven party where dressing is all about making a statement. Wearing velvet correctly, I must say, will always make you the best-dressed person in the room. I guarantee it. But please don’t use Jason Momoa as your peg.