The Cocktail Hour


One of my acquaintances recently asked me for advice on what to wear to a luxury hotel’s cocktail bar for an evening of martinis and mushy conversation with his new girlfriend; “I am going to go home from work and change” he said “what should I change into?” My first suggestion would have been to save himself the hassle of returning home to change, were it not for the fact that he was discussing a Friday; a day which has become, in his firm, a strict ‘dress down’ day. My second suggestion was simply to dress as if he would for a day at the office and then, as the barman peels the proverbial into the glass, add a ‘twist.’

There is no doubt that a luxury hotel’s cocktail bar, particularly for a date with a pleasant and well-dressed young lady, requires a smartness of dress. I cannot count the number of times I have seen a radiant, elegantly attired lady sweep into a gilded, marbled £12-a-pop bar only to be followed by a cowering slob in a faded polo shirt and pale jeans, who having ignored his female companion’s lead in consideration of the occasion, glumly peruses the menu, complains about the prices and fiddles with his Blackberry.

This is about romance, elegance, twinkling lights and flashing smiles; whiffs of perfume, lipsticked glasses, high heels, cufflinks and gleaming ties. A suit is perfectly adequate for this environment and will serve as well as almost anything else but I like to wear something slightly different, something upbeat and individual; whenever I know I’m off to down a martini or two in smart company, I slip into an ensemble that I refer to as ‘The Cocktail Hour.’

If the sensible, sombre suit is the drink, the Cocktail Hour is the twist. I nearly always employ contrasting trousers as part of my cocktail attire ensembles to remove any lingering connotations with ‘the office’ – a vulgar term in the dreamlike atmosphere of a festooned and frilled cocktail bar – and usually add a riskier pocket square and tie, whilst keeping the shirt relatively conservative. One recent jaunt began with me dressing to Count Basie – providing dollops of inspiration – picking out a plain white shirt, navy tie with substantial white stripes, a mid-blue double breasted jacket, chestnut brown trousers and chocolate coloured Oxfords and, to finish, a multi-coloured silk square carelessly stuffed into the pocket.