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The 'Going Out Wardrobe'

Unless you've taken up residence under a particularly large rock the last month, you can’t have failed to notice we’re in the midst of what is generally known as ‘the festive season’, a period of commercially-created merriment that extends from some point in October right into January. As a result, blogs don't get updated (Sorry!), diaries get clogged with drinks, dinners and debauchery as your various social groups endlessly suggest dates in an effort to meet up, get drunk and wave around the mistletoe before family ties temporarily refasten themselves.

And seemingly since time began has it been. Then, at a juncture in the not too distant past, some bright sparks decided that men needed a very specific wardrobe for this short period each year, a set of clothes separate to the very ones they appear to be able to manage with quite competently for the rest of the year. Essentially, they decided men weren't dressed quite jazzily enough. And so the ‘going out wardrobe’ was born.

Now, I certainly take issue with the pointy patent shoes that were adopted into this stylistically fancy family, but even these winkle-picking monstrosities aren't the worst to befall us during the festivities. Want to know the ultimate inappropriate iteration of a menswear favourite? It’s the ‘going out’ shirt. When a genre is created simply to satisfy a barely perceptible need, you have to start to worry. When said genre is shrouded in, at best, ‘individuality’ and, at worst, novelty, I see little redeeming value in it at all.

“Dress to impress” they say. “Stand out from the crowd” they implore. But in reality, these largely synthetic shirts only leave the wearer somewhere between Liberace and a conference after-party: neither sufficiently fabulous nor cool enough to be successful in either pursuit. Don’t get me wrong – I own a couple of jolly printed shirts and even one cool Christmas jumper (or so I keep telling myself) – but there’s something with this particular variety of shiny styles that tips me over into bah-humbug territory. Men have never been so aware of every aspect of their appearance; how their clothes, body and hair affects how they are perceived by their potential partners, friends or colleagues. And yet it seems as though as soon as Coca-Cola declares the holidays are coming, some guys park their sartorial savviness and go all out with an outlandish and frankly (fire) hazardous shirt. What is it about Christmas that encourages comedy over class? And where does it all go wrong?

Stripes dodge the bullet by being acceptable in a plethora of other occasions, particularly the office, while polka dots are just about playfully simple enough to avoid the connotation. However, the worst offenders are those specifically designed to ‘party hard’. Foils, reflective and patent bands, cartoony prints. Hell, even glitter finishes are all rolled out in the hope of attracting those magpie-like shoppers after shortcuts to that seasonal soirĂ©es look. Only they fall flat – this is one instance in fashion where the novel isn't needed.

Let’s be clear: this is not the most recent evolution of dandyism – as far as I’m concerned, these shocking shirts are little better than a Rudolph jumper or, shudder, a onesie. Look, we've all been there and bought something dubious because we think it’ll be fun and raise a smile but, unlike your Garfield slippers or Thundercats pyjamas, the idea is you wear your going out shirt, well, out. People can actually see you, which isn’t ideal when you’re trussed up like a Quality Street, even if it is Burberry Prorsum.

The old adage claims a suit is to women what lingerie is to men, so what’s wrong with a slim two-button, single-breasted version and a nice pair of shoes? Why not stand out for your put-togetherness rather than sticking out like a severed thumb? Friends and colleagues may titter at your ‘conversational’ print (newsflash: they’re conversing alright – behind your back), but would you rather amusement or honest admiration? If a suit’s not quite your thing, may I suggest a sharp haircut, an equally sharp pair of trousers and, the old favourite, a cheeky sock? Or, and this is radical I know, a plain slim-fitting shirt? It’s the lightness of touch your look displays, not how many LOLs it prompts, that will ensure the only joke this festive season was the one found in your Christmas cracker.