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Imagine this: A group of twenty-something ladies are going out on a Friday night. Where are they going and what do they look like? Hair done perfectly, makeup caked on, a dressy skirt that emphasizes the best parts of their bodies, and high heels. They're going to some club or bar that caters to this group, loud dance music, over-priced vodka drinks, the whole nine.
Now imagine your presence has been requested – what does a guy wear? A dark button-up shirt, dark jeans, dark shoes. Boring, yes, but fortunately, we're not expected to wear ties and jackets to these venues because they're crowded and they're hot. The interesting thing about the motivations of these young women is that they're not dressing like this for men; they do it for other women – BUT, more importantly they dress this way for themselves. Every person, guy or girl, likes to look their best in a fun, comfortable place they can relax and forget about the week.
Women have these clubs, and men follow them there. Women get to drink and dance and feel on top of the world. The men are there for the women and the booze – the loud house music, the strange mix of people you'd normally not be surrounded by and late nights may have been fun in college, but as time goes on these things become more deterring than inviting.
Unfortunately, men don't have a place like this they can call their own, a place that caters to the interests of men who want to relax and feel their best. Normally we default to a beer bar with 50 brews on tap or a whisky bar. But these are casual venues. Where can a guy go to enjoy himself once and awhile and feel like a million bucks?
Your guess is as good as mine. Back in the day folks used to have events specifically for this purpose. You may have heard of them, but probably have never been to one, at least not one put together by your peers: the cocktail party. These were get-togethers people would have at their house requesting more-than casual attire, emphasizing delicious libations and perhaps cigars in the den with your buddies. These types of things have gone by the way-side for people under 50 as our culture has embraced the casual lifestyle. With good reason, I suppose – in the days of Mad Men it was probably too dressy all the time. As times changed, people jumped at the chance to buck wearing a jacket and tie Sunday through Friday.
But now men are left with nothing. If a 26 year old wears a jacket anywhere that isn't required people wonder why he's so dressed up. And that's a shame, because even if you don't like wearing suits regularly, it's hard to deny it can feel great to wear one on occasion.
Recently I was invited to attend an event that would satisfy all of these needs: A classy place full of scotch and cocktails, with live low-key music, plenty of places to sit, and activities gents love to gather around like foosball and pool.
The folks at Chivas have created a club for guys like us who want a place to go once in awhile for good drinks and good atmosphere. They call it the Chivas Brotherhood 1801 Club. It's exclusive, only for members, so you're not surrounded by hooligans who try to walk in while they're passing by. The best part? It's free to join, and so are the drinks.
This is an instance of a company doing marketing right: they don't just put spreads in magazines showing attractive guys laughing in a dimly lit speakeasy drinking whisky; they let you experience it…for free.
Fortunately the 1801 Club isn't in a specific place that only guys in that city get to enjoy. It's a roving affair, setting up in cool venues across the country.
Upon arriving, my date and I were greeted by a hostess who checked us in on an iPad. She then gave us each three drink tokens, to be used on any one of the multiple scotch cocktails being slung inside, or even better, a dram of Chivas 18 Year Old.
Inside, the space was decked out as a modern take of a Mad Men era club, with lots of elaborate seating, a DJ with a beautiful woman singing contemporary takes on standards, and whisky everywhere.
It had just the right atmosphere: Music at a comfortable level, plenty of places to get a drink without having to flag a bartender, and lots of well-dressed people, with enough room to move around comfortably.
The theme of the event was The Art of the Suit, so there were a few different vendors set up including Tie Society, the self-proclaimed Netflix of Neckwear.
There was even a barber giving shaves from Blind Barber, a New York & LA shop that have vision-capable barbers and cocktails in the back room.
Once we were a few tokens in and comfortable, the pool and foosball tables offered a nice moment to relax and just enjoy the evening.
I earnestly recommend checking it out. When the club sets up in a city they have a few events over the course of a couple of weeks before moving on. It's a great way to hang out with your buddies for a different kind of evening, or to take a date for a low-cost but super-classy night.
So what exactly is cocktail attire? It's is an all-encompassing term for everything above casual and everything below semi-formal. The exact level of dressiness is a personal determination on the nature of the event and the venue.
But above all, it's a way of dressing up and having a little fun with it. It doesn't need to be near as formal as a wedding or fancy business event. It's an opportunity to pair a dark colored suit with a bold pattern or color. Wear a tie, lose the tie, it's all up to you.
What I Wore
Not knowing exactly what to expect I wanted to make sure I wasn't underdressed, but also not too formal if it was more casual than I expected. The following getup nailed it perfectly, and I'd recommend something similar if you find yourself in such a situation.
The purple check shirt and the tartan tie may be too colorful or too bold of a combination in the dressed-up situations you normally find yourself in, but here it provides the right level of dress with the right mix of casual and fun. The brown Allen Edmonds do the same thing for the navy suit. Perhaps it's the perfect example of how certain dress shoes make an outfit more casual. If you were going somewhere more conservative you'd opt for a dark pair of shoes, even though the AE's are expensive dress shoes, in this context, with this color suit, it makes it more casual than a darker pair.
What's your take? Does this sound like something you'd enjoy? If so, maybe I'll see you at the next one!