Crack the Christmas dress code

Luke Leitch

Fashion writer, Edition magazine

A Yuletide study of 4000 households a few years ago concluded that, come Christmas Day, British families observe a timetable.

This timetable is not planned – and yet, just as the Pacific salmon knows when to proceed upstream without first checking its smartphone, it's something to which we respond. Highlights, which certainly struck a chord with me, included: 8.39am (average time for first taste of chocolate), 9.58am (average time for first family bicker), and 11.49am (average time of first nip of something warming).

Luke picks his favourite Christmas gifts

Even more than that 11.49am moment, clothes can play a significant role in easing you through the most important holiday of the year. In the run-up to the main event, most of the season's time-honoured outings – whether they be midnight Mass or the last-minute tinsel-and-battery run – should be pretty self-evident dress-code wise. At social events, however, it never hurts to punch above your weight formality-wise. I'm not advocating you wear a white tie to the Rotary Club benefit, but dressing up – sporting something slimming, tailored, and dashing – is a sure-fire way of sending the message that you appreciate the hospitality being heaped upon you.

Christmas Day itself is a different matter. Surrounded by your nearest and dearest, the temptation to succumb to the lure of the elasticated waistband can be overwhelming. But think again; if every Christmas typically brings some form of domestic drama, then why not ensure that you're properly costumed for your part in it? For whether it's under the tree (8.29am: average time first present opened), or around the table (3.24pm: average time lunch starts), observing certain niceties of style can help events run smoothly.

So here, depending upon your part in the proceedings, is a broad-brush guide to the ideal capsule Christmas wardrobe.

If you are…. a young man staying with your newly significant other's family

As a new, and potentially controversial, inclusion to an established Christmas ecosystem, you must play it safe. Dress smartly enough to acknowledge the importance of the day, without erring nto flashiness. This is not the time to break out that cool, slim-fit and vaguely Reservoir Dogs-esque black suit that, doubtless, you've been partying in earlier in the month.

Happily, everything you need should already be part of your go-to capsule wardrobe. A white shirt is always a solid anchor around which to build your look, then add casual trousers – either elegantly tapered chinos or whale cords (but not jeans, however tempting). Your foundation is a pair of worn, but not too abused, leather shoes – maybe go for brogues. Avoid (and this is for life, not just for Christmas) squared-off toes.

No jacket, really, is required, but if you do need the armour as well as the shoulder definition, look to the heritage trend – as so comprehensively iterated by JOHN LEWIS & CO – and opt for a tweed or herringbone blazer.

And do be polite about the homemade mince pies, however horrible they are.

If you are…The alpha male (in theory) of the house

There's more to this than carving the turkey and assuming ownership of the remote control. You have to dress the part too. You are, I'd imagine, a connoisseur of the fine-gauge knitwear, bench-made shoes and considered tailoring that are all central touchstones for the well-dressed man this winter – but now is not the time to show that off.

And put away your rugged checked shirts, your fairisle sweaters, and your twill trousers worn modishly above the boot in the manner of John Lewis & Co man-muse Johnny Harrington. Because today, and only for today, Ralph Lauren should not be your inspiration.

Stop, breathe, then put on a Christmas jumper. Snowflakes, reindeer, and a round neck – just like the fine item I'm modelling here – are what you want. Nobody can accuse you of not making an effort. And today, that's half the battle won.

If you are…Grandad

Rest easy, for all the boxes on your family loyalty card have been stamped – and you're entitled to please yourself. Feel free to be the first in the family to fall asleep (4.59pm). Colourful cords and a burgundy sleeveless jumper are the perfect time-honoured yet current choice. How about some skinny jeans above your slippers? That'll wean that headphone-muted grandson of yours off them!

Happy Christmas

Buy Luke's Christmas jumper for £49 and John Lewis will donate £25 to Save the Children, in support of its Christmas Jumper Day on 13 December. Visit (opens in a new window)

This feature originally appeared in the Christmas annual issue of Edition magazine, November 2013