An Expert’s Guide to Cocktail Attire

by Scott Wagner

From jacket and jeans to black tie in-between, Matt Hranek has you covered 

Matt Hranek is the founder and creative force behind Wm Brown, a print-only magazine covering all aspects of men’s style through an Americana laced lens. Pages of fashionable men young and old in immaculately tailored suits are arranged side-by-side with stories about all things bespoke and visual trips to majestic places far from the beaten path. Each issue operates like a kind of manual for how to live well and look good doing it. 

On the topic of cocktail attire, we felt Mr. Hranek was a good call to make and find out how an arbiter of good taste like himself approaches such a sartorial directive. Below, read what he had to say while taking our call from his country retreat in upstate New York––a 100 acre farm where he, his wife Yolanda, and their daughter make time for pause from the demands of city life.  

First off, how would you describe your personal style? 

I love classic American style and have always been inspired by it. I grew up in the Northeast and was very much a preppy kid in a khakis, Lacoste polo, deck shoes kind of world…I think that I still very much gravitate towards that look, but with better materials, better fits, and better construction. I’m also very drawn to the Italian world of tailoring. The Italians are great at interpreting a more tailored version of great American preppy style and I lean into that. They do it in a way that’s deconstructed, light, and less rigid. 

When it comes time for cocktail hour, do you have any go-to looks? 

My go-to looks are pretty specific to seasons. In the fall and winter it would most likely be something that’s very tweedy and wooly. I have some fantastic Harris tweeds and English wool suits made by my friend Jake Mueser in New York that I love. In the spring and summer I tend to wear very light al fresco jackets and suits. Last year I had a very deconstructed rumply seersucker suit made that I lived in all summer…we washed all the fabric first and then we made the suit completely unstructured so I can literally chuck it in the washing machine. I also love putting on black tie and I own an embarrassing amount of tuxedos that I will use any excuse to put on. 

When was the last time you wore a tux? 

You know, we’ve been dressing for dinners and cocktails here so I wore a tux probably last week. 

How about the shirt, are you a ruffles kind of guy? 

I’m a pleats kind of guy. I like big broad collars and medium to narrow pleats. Jake, again, made me the most amazing powder blue pleated tuxedo shirt that I love to wear. 

And how about the tie? 

I have two versions of big Roger Moore style bow ties I go between. I like a big wing and I tie them myself.

I’ve never been really big on cufflinks, but I have this beautiful pair of Cartier cufflinks that were gifted to me and I was just like “when am I ever going to wear these things?” and I wear them all the time because they’re just so elegant. They’re sterling silver and they’re sort of like etched bordered little cubes. 

Shoes can be a difficult choice with black tie. Classic patent with a bow, a slipper… 

I think in general it should be some kind of slipper. You can go patent, there’s always that route, but I have a pair of Stubbs and Wooten black woven rattan slippers that I wear. I also have some black Belgian loafers that I like and then I have these beautiful olive green suede Ferragamo formal shoes with a bow that are the most elegant things ever. And you might wonder how olive suede works with black tie, but it’s perfect. 

Even though you’re upstate without any need to dress formally, you’re still pulling out a tux from time to time. Why put in the effort? 

It’s fun! Sometimes if you open up a good bottle of something or make yourself a great cocktail, you want to bring it on. This house was built to be the antithesis to our life in New York and surrounded by 100 acres of farmland we’re quite isolated.  Even though it’s quite raw around here, it’s a very elegant little box of a house and we always felt like having clothes here so that we could dress for dinner for no other reason than it’s a fun thing to do. Yolanda has her amazing collection of kaftans, like very Mrs. Roper 1970s, and I have my suits, jackets, and tuxedos.  

Other than a good tux, is there one piece of clothing every guy should have to be ready for cocktails? 

Every guy should have a jacket or a blazer…and what you get should depend on what season you’re going to wear it the most. Something unconstructed in a navy hopsack or charcoal flannel would be an amazing choice for spring. And it really doesn’t have to be so formal. I think there’s nothing more elegant and cool than a classic navy blue blazer with a pair of beat up 501s and boat shoes. 

Follow Matt on Instagram and check out his books A Man & His Watch: Iconic Watches and Stories from the Men Who Wore Them as well as A Man & His Car: Iconic Cars and Stories from the Men Who Love Them, available this fall. 

IMAGES from @wmbrownproject

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