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This is the fashion dictionary that every gentleman needs

Though Meghan Markle’s Givenchy Haute Couture wedding gown was the talk of the town this past weekend, some of us couldn’t help but be distracted by the many other sartorial stars at her and Prince Harry’s nuptials. David Beckham, George Clooney, Nacho Figueras, and Idris Elba all rocked up to the Royal Wedding with their best fashion foot forward — and left us very much transfixed on how dapper they looked.

As you’re catching up on all the ‘best dressed’ lists, you might be wondering: What’s a morning dress? Are pinstripes as prickly as they sound? To answer all your burning questions, we break down the most common style terms for men in this fashion dictionary.


fashion dictionary
As they say, the clothes maketh the man. (Photo: Igor Ovsyannykov/Unsplash)

Used everywhere from cocktails to travel itineraries, the term “bespoke” first started out in menswear. A bespoke suit is a custom-made suit that has been tailored to your specifications. It is the pinnacle of tailoring, as a bespoke suit is crafted from the ground up to fit you perfectly. You can create your own patterns on your fabric of choice. This sets it apart from another method of tailoring, made-to-measure.

Black tie

fashion dictionary
Sean Connery as James Bond in the 1962 flick, Dr. No.

You’re most likely to encounter this dress code when attending a formal event. The black tie uniform calls for a tuxedo (with a peak or shawl lapel) and matching trousers, a white pleated shirt, a black bow-tie, and a cummerbund. Fortunately, this standard is slowly evolving, especially with the colours and fabric. Tom Ford does a particularly good psychedelic evening jacket.


fashion dictionary
We’re in love with these Gucci appliquéd leather wingtip brogues (£963) from

Brogues are sturdy leather shoes with detailing done on the cap. The details are usually perforations (called broguing) and serrations along the visible edges of the shoe’s layers.


fashion dictionary
You can’t go wrong with a pair of chinos. (Photo: Caleb Woods/Unsplash)

One of the more versatile items for the modern man, chinos are a staple in every wardrobe. They were originally made for soldiers, but now everyone can wear them. They’re slightly dressier than your denim jeans but not as formal as a pair of trousers. You can wear them day to night, all year round in an array of colours.


fashion dictionary
Accessorise your dress shirt with a pair of cufflinks. (Photo: Nick Karvounis/Unsplash)

A fitting dress shirt isn’t complete without a pair of cufflinks. This piece of functional men’s jewellery will add flair to your formal outfit as they can be made of assorted materials (glass, stone, gems even) and bear various motifs and insignia. Be warned: You can only use them with shirts that do not have buttons on their cuffs.


fashion dictionary
Pair your red cummerbund with a red bowtie to truly stand out.

Cummerbunds are more than just another style statement. Not only does the cloth sash cover your waistline (goodbye bunched-up shirts), it catches crumbs and holds your opera ticket stubs. You can also colour-coordinate with your partner. Remember to wear it with the pleats facing upwards.


fashion dictionary
The gingham pattern as seen on this Hugo Boss Enzo cotton-poplin shirt (£83) from

There are many styles of checkered shirts, with gingham being one of the more popular ones. The pattern hails from the Malay word “genggang”, or striped. Anyone can look good wearing a shirt with the gingham pattern, as it hides wrinkles so even slight creases after a long day won’t be noticed.


fashion dictionary
The detailing on this Dunhill herringbone wool-blend coat (£1,404) from

This pattern can be found on wool suits in more temperate countries with cooler climates. The herringbone is a twill that alternates a diagonal weave to form its iconic “V” shape.


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The houndstooth pattern.

One of the most interesting patterns is the houndstooth. Unlike standard checks and squares, the houndstooth pattern is a repeated geometric tessellation with protruding teeth that give it its name.


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(L-R) Notch lapel on Ermenegildo Zegna Blue Milano slim-fit wool-twill suit (£2,203); peak lapel on Brunello Cucinelli cream slim-fit linen, wool and silk-blend suit jacket (£1,890); shawl lapel on Tom Ford Shelton satin-trimmed silk-jacquard tuxedo jacket (£3,740), all on

The lapels on your suits and tuxedos run from your chest around your collar. There are a few types of lapels, the most popular styles being notch, peak, and shawl. Notch lapels are the most common and can be used in any social setting, be it formal or casual. Peak lapels are slightly more formal and are a power move for suits. Shawl lapels are only seen in tuxedos and evening jackets.


fashion dictionary
Gucci Brixton Horsebit collapsible-heel leather loafers (£612) from

Slip them on and walk out the door — that’s what loafers do best. They’re classic and timeless, suitable for both business and leisure. A classic design would be the Gucci loafers you see above. There are also penny loafers with a strap across instead of those buckles, and tassel loafers that bear decorative tassels.


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Made-to-measure services are the bridge between ready-to-wear and bespoke tailoring.

There’s a big difference between made-to-measure (MTM) and bespoke clothes. MTM is the less expensive option for tailoring, as your suit is taken from a ready-made pattern and altered to your measurements.

Merino wool

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This Burberry check-panelled Merino wool sweater (£245) on should only be dry cleaned.

Wool is one of the most prized fabrics in fashion, with the Merino blend taking the top spot. The fibres are exceptionally fine and soft. Its high elasticity also helps it retain its shape.

Morning dress

fashion dictionary
David Beckham rocked up to the Royal Wedding in Kim Jones’ first creation for Dior Homme.

The de facto dress code for formal daytime festivities, the morning dress ensemble consists of a morning coat, a waistcoat (or vest), and striped trousers. Unlike a suit jacket, the morning coat isn’t buttoned and comes in the standard colours of black or grey (blue is a more modern pick). The waistcoat is the garment where you can add some pizzazz. The shirt’s collar should be tucked under the coat.


fashion dictionary
Berluti Roccia Leather Oxford Shoes (£1,682),

Often referred to as the most elegant men’s shoe, oxfords stand out from other shoes like derbys and boots at the laces. The lacing of oxfords is stitched closed at the bottom, whereas the laces on derbys are open. This gives it a more streamlined and formal look.

Panama Hat

fashion dictionary
The Panama hat originated from Ecuador. (Photo: Craig Whitehead/Unsplash)

It’s not a beach vacation without a Panama hat. The summer accessory is traditionally woven from the leaves of the toquilla palm and is lightweight and breathable. The art of weaving a Panama hat is also on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists.


fashion dictionary
As long as you have a good parka that can keep you warm, you just need to wear a simple t-shirt inside. (Photo: Talen de St. Croix/Unsplash)

The boss of winter wear is a long, hooded jacket that will protect you from the elements. It was invented by the Caribou Inuit of Canada’s Northwestern Territories, as they needed a garment to protect them from the frosty climate. A parka is usually lined with fur, preferably faux. It also goes by the name “anorak”, from the Greenlandic word “annoraaq”.


fashion dictionary
The pinstripe fabric is one that denotes power.

The pattern seen in boardrooms and Michelin-starred restaurants during lunch, pinstripes are most often associated with conservative business attire. The narrow stripes usually come in grey or white, although designers can adopt a coloured stripe for a more casual look. Pinstripes help to elongate the perception of a torso, making someone look taller than they are.


fashion dictionary
These Thom Brown striped seersucker swim shorts (£428) from are the perfect addition to your wardrobe for the impending summer season.

This preppy fabric of choice during summertime is quite different from pinstripes. While it is also striped, the fabric is thinner, lighter, and has a crimped texture. The traditional colours are blue and white, but over time a variety of colours has been used by designers for more bold statements. The term originated from the Hindi word “sīrsakar”, which was itself an adaptation of the Persian word “shīroshakar”, meaning milk and sugar.

Selvedge denim

fashion dictionary
See that clean, refined edge? That’s the defining characteristic of selvedge denim. Fabric-Brand & Co.’s Distressed Selvedge Denim Jeans (£824),

Yes, there are different grades of denim. Most of us wear mass-produced denim woven on projectile looms. Selvedge denim is produced on shuttle looms, which are now limited to a handful of denim mills located largely in Japan. Selvedge denim refers to the “self-edge” of denim. That edge of the denim has a clean, sealed finish that will not unravel, unlike typical denim which has to be stitched closed. This doesn’t mean normal denim is inferior. Jeans made from selvedge denim are just more desired because of the high price tag and demand.

Single- vs double-breasted

fashion dictionary
On the left, a Canali single-breasted light-blue Kei slim-fit stretch-cotton suit jacket (£717); On the right, a Kingsman double-breasted Harry’s grey puppytooth wool and linen-blend suit jacket (£887), both on

The most common suit style is one with a single-breasted jacket. It usually has one, two, or three buttons arranged in a single vertical column. Double-breasted suit jackets have twice the number: Four, six, or eight buttons. A single-breasted jacket is the safer sartorial option, as a double-breasted jacket needs to fit right on your body. But when done right, it’s a powerful style statement.


fashion dictionary
You wouldn’t want to wear a pair of suede shoes out in the rain.

Suede is a variant of leather that is softer and more fibrous. While leather is the outer layer of an animal’s hide, suede is made from the inner layer. You can find it on almost anything, from bags to shoes to jackets. The biggest downside to suede is its water resistance — there’s barely any. You wouldn’t want to walk out in a storm with white suede sneakers, as that’s a recipe for disaster.


fashion dictionary
Tweed is so quintessentially British.

Mention tweed and you’d think of a group of hunters out in the countryside. The quintessentially British fabric is a wool-based textile that has been tightly woven and dyed. It can come in various patterns (herringbone, houndstooth, even checkered). How do you ace a tweed outfit? If you’re wearing a tweed jacket with bold colours, make sure your shirt and pants are kept neutral to avoid clashing.


fashion dictionary
(L-R) A Berluti ecru unstructured Slub linen and Mulberry silk-blend blazer with no vents (£2,565); Mr. P Navy unstructured worsted wool blazer with a single vent (£436); Thom Browne charcoal slim-fit wool blazer with double vents (£1,141), all on

The back of a blazer is as important as the front. Vents are the slits intentionally cut into the back of your suit jacket. They date back to a time when horseback riding with a suit was the norm, as a vent (or two) would prevent the jacket from creasing. A jacket with a single vent can help hide a protruding derrière, while double-vented jackets are great for gentlemen with good physiques or for those who want a slimmer profile. A blazer with no vent is more suitable for men with leaner frames as it hugs the torso for a snug fit.


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The vicuña is a distant cousin of the llama that lives in the Andes.

The world’s rarest and most expensive fabric — that’s what vicuña is. It is made from the hairs of the animal with the same name. Why is it so rare and expensive? The vicuña live in the high Alps of the Andes, and they can only be shorn once every three years, making the supply scarce. A Kiton vicuña suit would set you back a cool US$27,000 (S$36,000).

White tie

fashion dictionary
Tom Ford and Benedict Cumberbatch nail the white-tie dress code at the 2014 Met Gala. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Take the morning dress and combine it with black tie and you get the most formal style of dressing for men: White tie. There are strict rules to follow when attending a white-tie event. You must have a tailcoat with a single vent at the back, and paired with a white shirt, a waistcoat, a white bowtie, and black leather shoes.

(Featured photo: Heng Films/Unsplash; Main photo: Olu Eletu/Unsplash)

This is the fashion dictionary that every gentleman needs

Josiah Neo is a tech writer who contributes occasionally to the fashion, travel, and culture beats. When he’s not busy keeping up with the keynotes, he’s probably stuffing his face with the best Melbournian donuts (at Shortstop, BTW) or watching his favourite esports team, the Los Angeles Valiant, pummel their opponents into oblivion.

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