What To Wear On Thanksgiving

I know, I know. Add another one of these articles to the pile.

Like you, I’ve been seeing the “Thanksgiving style” articles abound ever since Halloween ended. They’re all mostly the same, though. Have you noticed?

Most of the ones I’ve seen skew young, for lack of a better description. They talk about “getting back into town” and “meeting up with the old crew” and wearing joggers and “your nice sneakers” on Thanksgiving Day in order to stay comfortable while you eat and watch football.

I have a strong suspicion that the people targeted by these articles are still sitting at the kids’ table.

That doesn’t apply to me and it doesn’t apply to you either.

We’re adults. We have spouses and kids. We don’t view holidays simply as means to loaf around in drawstring pants. We take a little more pride in how we look, especially on special occasions. We have an example to set.

If you’re like me, you’re doing one of two things on Thanksgiving. You’re either staying at your own home, or visiting the home of family (yours or your spouse’s). Regardless of where you end up, your goal should be “dressy casual”. I know that term kind of sucks, but it’s the best way I could describe what I’m getting at (and honestly, it bears close resemblance to “business casual”).

The biggest challenges with holiday dressing, I find, are temperature and activity level.

Anywhere near the kitchen or dining room is going to be boiling hot. The living room will be much cooler, especially if the kids are running in and out of the house playing.

That calls for, not only layers, but easily removeable layers. That could mean a tweed jacket. But for most of us, it means a cardigan sweater. Now, be sure to choose one in a dark color since we know what happens when gravy and children are in the same vicinity. If you don’t have, or want to wear, a cardigan then a regular sweater will be fine. Also, make sure that every layer works on its own. If you need to doff the sweater, you want to make sure the shirt underneath looks presentable.

Wearing a cardigan, or a v-neck sweater, with an oxford shirt and some chinos is dressed up enough to show respect to your hosts, or to your wife who is probably doing most of the cooking, while also being robust enough to gather some wood for a fire or head outside to chuck a football around with the kids.

Thanksgiving feels rustic and friendly. Your clothing should be textured and soft and touchable. The kids should want to snuggle up with you on the couch. Don’t wear your crisp, worsted wool trousers or your icy, poplin, French-cuff shirt. Leave your black cap-toes at home and opt, instead, for some loafers or Chelsea boots.

Getting back to the subject of jackets, I love wearing a jacket on the holidays, especially if having dinner at my own house. It’s an unmistakable visual reminder that the day is special. You’ll need to make the call, though, if a jacket is too much for the company you’ll be around. It does make for an excellent removeable layer. In my experience, I will only wear a jacket if I am going to the house of extended family. A few years ago, we had Thanksgiving with my wife’s grandparents. I felt a jacket was appropriate in that instance. As for the kind of jacket, I always default to tweed since it’s a great middle option between casual and formal (and hides stains well).

What about a tie? Glad you asked! One of the fun things about the holidays is that there is plenty of latitude for self-expression. Whether you’re home or away, a silk knit or madder or wool tie is a fun way to express your acknowledgement of the specialness of the day. And since you’ll be wearing a sweater, the tie will stay put all day even as you’re wiping up spills and cleaning dirty faces. And don’t worry about the whole “you can’t wear a tie without a jacket” stuff. Those rules were made up by people who don’t actually enjoy their clothes.

What about my friends in the south, where it’s warm? Ok, so you probably won’t be wearing a sweater and tweed jacket. But you can still wear some cotton or linen trousers and an OCBD or knit polo shirt.

This all boils down to: resist the urge to go super casual. You’ll regret not dressing up and looking nice in the pictures, especially since your wife will be putting in some extra effort. Your kids also need to see what makes Daddy dress up even if it’s just at home. They’ll have more fun on the day and remember it more fondly if they see the adults marking it as special. If it’s just another day Dad sits on the couch in his sweatpants and watches football, then they’re not going to care about it.

I bet your wife is dressing up for Thanksgiving. She is, isn’t she? Don’t you want to show her the respect she is owed for doing the lion’s share of the preparation? Of course you do! She will appreciate it.

This is a day for relaxation and good company. Of course, you should be comfortable, but we know that classic menswear IS comfortable. We don’t have to wear sweats and sneakers to maximize comfort.

And what about the pictures? There will be plenty of pictures taken. Trust me… looking back, you’ll wish you dressed up.

Separate yourself from the children and remind your kids how a man is supposed to dress.

This holiday is about being thankful. As fathers and husbands we sometimes need to remind ourselves to pick our heads up and take a look around at the wonderful life we have built for our families.

You’re doing a great job! Your spouse and your kids are thankful for you, even if they forget to say it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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