There is a single, tiny moment in a man’s life which is always one of exquisite fear. That moment comes upon hearing that it is time to meet your future prospective in-laws. You could refer to them as your partner’s parents and nothing more, but this would not give the occasion of dread the correct gravitas.
Most men fear disapproval at this point. It is only natural and not at all, as some would have us believe, cripplingly effeminate. Will I impress them? Will they advise against the match? Will I be utterly bored out of my skull? Very few pontificate on the possibility of a more than positive reception.
One question some may ask themselves on the morning of the occasion is one about which there is scarcely any advice; what will I wear? This question should not be seen as a further sign of effeminacy of the modern male race. People can judge on appearances very quickly and the little matter of clothing choice should not be laughed at as a pointless insignificance. The good first impression, striding up to the front door, smiling broadly in a pleasant and uncontroversial outfit should be on the mind of every man who is willing to step out a little for the sake of their other half.
Being (almost) true to yourself
The first thing I would advise is not to swap clothing styles; no one wants the sheep in wolf’s clothing, they’d rather have the sheep in sheep’s clothing. If you’re naturally a casual dresser, you’ll look grossly uncomfortable in overly conservative attire.
The best thing to do if you are casual is buy sober colours and comfortable fabrics. Pima cotton and cashmere are wonderful and will make you feel at ease in the strange surroundings. Avoiding clothing with large writing all over it will also score you points with any parent as many of the older generation just cannot understand the younger obsession with doing so. Jeans are fine, but avoiding baggy jeans is probably best. If you always wear trainers, do not switch to very smart shoes; your unaccustomed movement in them will make you uncomfortable. Try soft-leather driving shoes or other slip-ons; darker browns and blacks are the best colours.
Not being too dressy
Even those of you who, like me, don’t really go for casual clothing styles that often need warnings about such meetings. Parents, especially fathers, do not take kindly to dandies in my experience. They want to know their child is being looked after properly and is being paid attention to, not being ignored by someone they consider is having more of a relationship with his bathroom mirror than the precious child they have raised.
Subtle reflections of personality are fine; if you like smart jackets, wear them. However, don’t go too far and start attaching buttonholes. Even though clothing is a reflection of personality, it’s time to play the game and not let your imagination go wild. Ask your partner what you’ll be doing on the visit; activities and outdoor treks usually mean sportier clothing is required and the chap in the Jermyn Street brogues will stick out like a sore thumb. Most importantly, though it’s good to show that you have a mind for style and have the confidence to attempt it, do not don ensembles that will mark you as an attention seeker. It’s a rapport choker.