I received a lot of emails this week from scrubs and sartorialists alike asking me for recommendations on what to wear to a Thanksgiving dinner. In keeping with my general philosophy that it never hurts to be more dapper and put-together than the situation requires, I tried to offer some options for making a good impression while still accounting for the messy situations that always arise during large, food and booze-driven get-togethers. Here goes...
AWAY GAME: Clothes for Visiting the Folks
Unless your better half comes from one of those "Granny Hall"-type families, you probably don't need to wear a full on suit and tie to Thanksgiving dinner. Too much formality at an event where there will be fat aunts smearing lipstick on your face and little cousins throwing M&Ms (or worse) at each other can make you look like real uptight square.
You may feel like you are running for office, but don't wanna dress like you are pitching a new account. You have to pretend you are comfortable in these battlegrounds. Cool and casual.
That said, most American men have a very warped sense of what casual is, so let me just come out and say that wearing any combination of T-shirt, faded jeans, hooded sweatshirt and/or dirty white sneakers to a sit-down dinner at someone else's home is just disgraceful. Rocking college flop house attire like that will make it hard for the grown-ups to tell you from the tweens -- and on the reals, I'm not sure "where's the unlimited breadsticks" is the vibe you want to give off. Time to class your shit up.
Don't stress, though, this problem is easily fixed. Instead of a stuffy suit or schlubby Chicken Nugget teenager gear, go with some well-chosen separates. A man can never go wrong with a tweed or heavyweight wool blazer, some crisp dark blue jeans, a pair of penny loafers or suede desert boots and an oxford shirt. This is the pinnacle of casual-slash-polished dressing. A modern American look for that most American of holidays.
In terms of colors, don't wear anything black because you think it's more "dressy." It's a meal, not a funeral. Be sure to throw some color into your outfit, even if it's just as subtle as a red tie (recommended in red states) or some colorful socks (which will probably go over better in blue states).
And now that your outfit has created the illusion that you are a man with class and sophistication, take off your tie and jacket and help out with the dishes. That will win you more points than anything you are wearing.
HOME TEAM: Clothes for Being a Man's Man at Home
Hosting any food-based event at your crib is stressful and Thanksgiving is probably the most stressful because we are not using to cooking things like turkey and stuffing on the reg. In fact, I don't know any dude who will cook a turkey on his own volition. It's just not a tasty bird when you really think about it.
In the event you are the Man Of The House and the one doing the cooking, wear whatever the hell you want while you are doing the deed. I really couldn't live with myself if I was talking to you about the best outfits for skimming gelatinous fats off your chicken stock, so just use your best judgement. Something you don't mind getting a little fucked up seems like the obvious choice.
However, when it's time to sit down, you don't want to be dressed like Chef Al Bundy, so lose the crappy T-shirt, take five and put yourself together. If you can pull off the pleasurable irony of wearing something that screams "winter fun time," like the recently popular Fair Isle sweater vest, by all means do that. It says, "I'm happy to be here, I'm not afraid of a splash of sky blue in my life and I'm willing to roll up my sleeves after this meal to clean up and get the job done."
If that's too much for you, stick with an oxford shirt with a button-down collar and a V-neck sweater and look like the homie Warren Beatty. As for bottoms, dark blue jeans are preferred, as khakis and corduroys will most likely bear the scars of spilled sauces and beet juices.
That's it. You did it! Now smoke a joint and hit that leftover turkey.