With a dinner date on the horizon, you’ve enough to worry about without stressing about what to wear. A few simple tips will ensure you put your best foot forward on a supper date-, whatever the setting.
Whether it’s a dress-to-impress Michelin-starred restaurant, an informal supper at the local bistro or a quick bite at a no-frills burger joint, a dinner date is the perfect opportunity for you to bring your A game when it comes to your outfit, whatever the setting.
While we don’t have a doctorate in dating, we do, however, have a wealth of experience when it comes men’s style. So, if you’re wondering what to wear on a dinner date, we’ve got some suggestions.
Any one of the following outfit suggestions will ensure you play a blinder in the style stakes, leaving you with one less thing to worry about. Go forth and conquer!
1. SMART RESTAURANT - DINNER DATE
If you’re intent on pulling out all the stops with a no-expense-spared, three-course meal in an upmarket restaurant, it’s only fitting that you should dress accordingly.
Fine dining calls for serious style, so consider a smart blazer-and-trousers combination, or even a sharp (non-business) suit. Whatever option you choose, a few pointers will ensure your look is memorable for all the right reasons.
BLAZER, SHIRT & TIE
Worn with grey flannel trousers, dark chinos slacks or cream chinos, the blazer is the great go-anywhere, do-anything jacket; always smart and body-defining with a collar and a classy tie.
The choice of blazers is endless, so be sure to pick yours carefully. Classic solid navy is a safe bet, but you might prefer to experiment with a bit of colour or pattern, such as windowpane, houndstooth or Prince of Wales check; or an elegant herringbone.
If you’re choosing a coloured or patterned blazer, it will call for some moderation with your trousers. Very ‘busy’ up top? Then you’ll need to go for an understated but smart trouser, such as a charcoal, moleskin or flannel, or a cream chino.
And be sure that there’s an obvious colour difference between your blazer and trousers, so you won’t look like you’re wearing an ill-matching suit.
Your choice of shirt should be similarly determined by your blazer. The important thing to bear in mind is pattern variation. If you’re comfortable and confident with your personal style, feel free to play with pattern on both your shirt and blazer, but just make sure that the patterns are of different proportions – a large windowpane check on a blazer can look fantastic with, for example, a dark gingham shirt.
But – and it’s a BIG but – if you’re uncertain how to combine patterns, it’s best to play it safe with a plain shirt. White will go with anything, but also consider alternatives such as pink (which works surprisingly well on most men) and light blue.
BLAZER & OPEN-NECK SHIRT
If you’re planning on wearing a blazer and shirt for a dinner date, a tie is recommended, although not strictly essential – a crisp white shirt can look well with the top two buttons left undone, so long as the rest of the outfit is razor sharp.
High-quality knitwear such as a polo neck (or turtleneck) can make a stylish alternative to a shirt and looks ultra-sophisticated beneath a well-fitted blazer.
A polo neck also provides an easy yet effective way to add a splash of colour to your restaurant date outfit. Black, navy and charcoal grey are a safe yet smart choice, but more adventurous options, such as red, burgundy, olive green and even cream, can provide a stunning contrast to a darker blazer.
Try out a few options to see what works best with your colouring, skin tone and, of course, the rest of your outfit, rather than simply settling for the safety and security of black.
As it’s a casual garment, a polo neck offers a little more leeway to play with different trouser options. While denim isn’t an ideal choice for a date in a smart restaurant, a pair of slim-fit, dark jeans can be very complementary, so long as they’re worn with high-quality leather shoes.
Dressing to the nines in a suit is perhaps the safest option for a restaurant date – the margin for error is slim – but it’s also the least exciting. A suit may even appear slightly intimidating and runs the risk of appearing too ‘business’, especially since a restaurant date should be relaxed and fun.
If you’re intent on sporting your finest whistle-and-flute, though, make sure that it’s instantly obvious that it’s not your everyday business suit.
As ever, a classic navy suit is the sartorial equivalent of a safety blanket security – it will look the part in any setting. But why not step out of the comfort zone with a dapper check number, or stylish double-breasted suit? Both will mark you out as a man of distinction. And first impressions are, of course, everything.
2. INFORMAL RESTAURANT - DINNER DATE
Planning a restaurant date in a less formal setting gives you the freedom to introduce more casual garments to your outfit, but it doesn’t give you carte blanche to roll up without having made a visible effort.
Relaxed dining is about looking stylish, respectable and assured from head-to-toe. It’s also, of course, about feeling comfortable with what you're wearing.
Cords, moleskins, chinos or clean, dark jeans are all perfectly acceptable for a dinner date, so long as they’re teamed with something reasonably smart on top. A collared shirt will lend the requisite polish to an informal outfit and offers an easy way of introducing colour or pattern to your outfit.
For an extra layer, consider a plain crew- or V-neck sweater in merino wool or, for those with deeper pockets, cashmere or a cashmere-wool mix. Finish off with a lightweight jacket to give the outfit some added warmth, while still maintaining its clean, fitted look.
3. CASUAL DINING - DINNER DATE
For a dinner date that’s undeniably informal, the last thing you want to do is turn up in a bespoke three-piece! While it’s a date and you obviously will want to look your best, keep it relaxed and casual with pieces that are stylish yet comfortable.
The options are endless: dark or navy denims, suede or leather Chelsea boots, minimalist leather trainers, shawl-collar cardigans, grandfather shirts…
Just make sure that the look is stylish, not sloppy. After all, comfort needn’t entail a compromise on style.
THE FINER POINTS
As ever, the devil is in the detail, so, once you’ve nailed your outfit, don’t blow it by overlooking the importance of your accessories.
There’s nothing to compare to a pocket square when it comes to personalising and enlivening an outfit. Even a plain white or monochrome sliver of cotton or silk can upgrade a breast pocket, but a colourful, patterned design can have even more visual impact.
If you’re embracing pattern or bold colour, just ensure your pocket square complements (but is not an identical match to) the rest of your outfit, particularly the tones in your shirt or blazer.
And if you're intent on really making an impression with a statement look, go bold with the fold and really give your breast pocket some va-va-voom.
Small (and, for the most part, hidden) they may well be, but those small strips of fabric that cover your feet have the power to make or break an outfit, so don’t let your choice of socks let you down!
Novelty socks are an absolute no-no, so leave them until Christmas Day. Instead, keep it classy and simple with a pair of grey, navy or black cotton socks. And make sure they’re in good condition – not covered in fluff balls, faded or sporting busted elastic.
A sleek watch has the power to instantly - and effortlessly – upgrade your look. It’s also the one piece of jewellery that looks great on every man.
A stand-out watch is the difference between looking fine and looking fine. You may want your wrist to attract attention, but resist the urge to splurge on anything too elaborate. That means you shouldn’t go looking to Jay-Z for inspiration. You want something that makes a subtle statement.
Remember: your watch says more about you than almost any other consumer choice you make, so make sure that yours signals your impeccable taste and sophistication.
As you’re a true gent and will, naturally, be footing the bill, your wallet will be making a fleeting, yet significant, appearance.
Having dazzled with your wit and charmed with your personality, the last thing you want to do is blow the mood by pulling out a dog-eared wallet with velcro fastening.
A handsome leather bi-fold wallet is an understated yet elegant way to carry your cash and cards. Steer clear of anything with blatant logos for maximum style points. Less is more.