Expressly required dress codes
Nowadays, mandatory dress codes are generally only applicable for events or at work. Where events are concerned, dress codes are designed to create a special, usually festive atmosphere and to ensure that invited guests do not experience the embarrassment of appearing wearing ‘wrong and inappropriate attire’. For this reason, invitations sent out by Airbus usually indicate the desired type of attire.
Employers may put regulations in place that require employees to dress in a certain way that reflects the company’s desired image, corporate culture or corporate identity.
Below you will find an overview of commonly used, internationally recognised and clearly defined terms for dress codes, as well as a list of other terms to do with this subject. Details for each dress code can be found in the respective articles (each named after the respective dress code).
It goes without saying that any dress code for work is always aligned to the respective company or business where you are employed. Nowadays, there are no clear boundaries and no longer any stringent rules. However, when choosing your clothing, it can still be helpful to at least paint a picture in your head of the event in question; that way, you can avoid being noticed for the wrong reasons. And this also applies to events in a private setting.
Why are dress codes and other purportedly obsolete rules and guidelines still important in today’s modern world? (Below are a few quotes to reflect on):
“Manieren sind Ausdruck von Moral” (Manners are an expression of morality)
Asfa-Wossen Asserate (Ethiopian-German corporate consultant, best-selling author and political analyst, great-nephew of the last Emperor of Ethiopia and author of the best seller ‘Manieren’ (Manners).
“Too much has already become commonplace: shitstorms, coarse and shameless language, insults, lies, a total lack of restraint in judging others. The fundamental principles of human decency are in question. Then again, what exactly is decency?”
Axel Hacke (German journalist and author)
“The World was my oyster but I used the wrong fork”
Oscar Wilde (Irish author who studied in Dublin and Oxford before moving to London).
“Those who do not have good manners and morals cannot find inner stability. Anyone who does not know the value of words will never understand men.”
Confucius (Chinese philosopher)
Pro Tip: If you are unsure, we recommend asking the host for clarification – a gesture that would certainly be seen as a sign that you attach particular importance to the event. Once this matter has been clarified, please adhere to what was stated!
This isn’t actually an official term or dress code in itself because – as the name implies – it doesn’t constitute a code but rather refers to a casual way of dressing.
For this reason, the following information is a guide and only really applies to
Private events hardly ever include the dress code on the invitation and nowadays, people often invite their guests on the phone or WhatsApp (or a similar medium). If you are unsure, we recommend asking the host for clarification – this will certainly be seen as a sign that you attach particular importance to the event, even though it is a private one.
Whenever the dress code indicates a more ‘private casual’ style of clothing, then the following is possible:
Come as you are
Please take care with this dress code rule! This does not imply that you can appear in what you would wear to go shopping or to carry out an everyday activity, such as taking the dog for a walk, etc. You are expected to appear in office attire.
‘Stresemann’ (a variant of the cutaway / morning dress worn in Germany)
It was often worn at the time Konrad Adenauer served as Federal Chancellor, and was named after Gustav Stresemann. For this reason, it was also known as a Bonner Anzug (Bonn suit). In contrast to the cutaway / morning dress, the jacket of the Stresemann is the same length all around and has no tails. However, the Stresemann is not worn for highly official events. If you are unsure, we recommend asking the host for clarification or wearing a cutaway / morning dress instead.
‘Evening dress / formal wear’
This dress code is intended to grant guests more personal freedom. Possible attire ranges from dark suits to dinner jackets or tailcoats.
In this case it is therefore usually imperative that you ask your host what kind of attire is expected.
‘Black tie optional’
This means you have a choice between a dinner jacket or a formal dark evening suit. If you are unsure, we recommend asking the host for clarification.
‘Swallow-tail’ or ‘claw-hammer’ coat
Colloquial terms used in the United Kingdom for a dress coat (waist-length jacket with peplum – the tails look a bit like a swallowtail or the prongs of a claw hammer).
Silk stripes on black tie and white tie trousers. Black tie trousers have one silk stripe on each side; white tie trousers have two silk stripes. The silk stripes are also known as galloons.
A gilet is a sleeveless, very elegant waistcoat worn by men. It is worn with a cutaway / morning dress, a dinner jacket or a tailcoat.
A cummerbund is a waist sash worn by men. Cummerbunds are worn over black tie trousers and are worn in lieu of a waistcoat. A matching bow tie is worn. Traditionally black, they are now also available in other colours (even red). Cummerbund and bow tie should match in terms of colour, but should also be in keeping with what others are wearing.
Wikipedia describes the historical and phonetic development of the Cummerbund as follows:
A cummerbund (Persian: کمربند, romanized: kamarband) is a broad waist sash, usually pleated, which is often worn with single-breasted dinner jackets (or tuxedos). The cummerbund originated in ancient Persia, and was adopted by British military officers in colonial India, where they saw it worn by Indian men. It was adopted as an alternative to a waistcoat, and later spread to civilian use. The modern use of the cummerbund to Europeans is as a component of a traditional black tie event.
The word cummerbund is the Anglicized form of kamarband (Hindustani: कमरबंद; کمربند), the name commonly used in the South and West Asia including India for the article of clothing. It entered English vocabulary in 1616 from India. It is a combination of the Hindustani words (kamar) meaning ‘waist’ and (band) meaning ‘strap’ or ‘lacing’. The ‘waist-band’ was a sash accessory worn by Indian men for many occasions.(Before the British colonial presence, Persian was one of the court languages in India, hence the Persian influence).
The word cummerband (see below), and less commonly the German spelling Kummerbund (a Germanized spelling variation of the English word), are often used synonymously with cummerbund in English. Today, the word kamarband in Persian refers to anything which is or works like a belt, be it a clothing belt, a safety belt or a ring road around a city center (کمربندی).
It is believed that British soldiers imported this fashion of wearing sashes to Europe from India during British colonial rule: officers found wearing waistcoats under jackets to be too warm on account of the tropical climate. They instead adopted the Indian custom of wearing a belly band made of fine fabrics, the so-called kamar band, as an alternative. The Persian word ‘kamar band’ (= ‘waist-band’) then evolved phonetically into the English word cummerbund, which is still used today.
This new fashion made its way from India to England, where a waistband with three or four horizontal pleats has been alternative to the waistcoat when wearing an evening suit since 1893. Wearing a cummerbund with a dinner jacket started becoming more prevalent in Europe from circa 1930.
The ascot, also known as a day cravat, is a predecessor of today’s neck tie. Today, self-tied ascots are worn mainly by traditional hunters. Ascots are also part of an elegant bridegroom’s attire, worn in combination with a three-piece suit (suit and waistcoat), a cutaway / morning dress, or a high-quality wedding waistcoat.
An elegant pocket handkerchief worn with a dark / lounge suit.