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Style March 25th, 2024

Considering An Ivory Dinner Jacket? Read This First

Style March 25th, 2024
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Often referred to as a white dinner jacket, an ivory (or off-white) dinner jacket is one of the classiest pieces in all of formalwear.

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in “Casablanca.” Nicholas Clay as Patrick Redfern in “Evil Under The Sun.” And many iterations of James Bond from Connery to Craig. These are some of Hollywood’s most famous wearers of the ivory dinner jacket.

And whether you want to release your inner James Bond, wear something timeless and classy for your wedding that’s not a tuxedo, or simply want make a smart addition to your formalwear wardrobe, look no further than our in-depth guide.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • The origins of the ivory dinner jacket
  • When to wear an ivory dinner jacket
  • Four different ivory dinner jacket styles

Now that you know what to expect, let’s dive right in.

A Very Brief History Of The Ivory Dinner Jacket

The ivory dinner jacket first appeared in the early 1930s as a more “casual” — scare quotes absolutely necessary — and comfortable alternative for black tie dress in warmer climates. For those who had the occasion to wear black tie often, it was a nice and needed departure from the typically heavier fabrics worn for evening fêtes in luxurious tropical destinations.

Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in “Casablanca” wearing his iconic double-breasted ivory dinner jacket.

Nicholas Clay as Patrick Redfern in “Evil Under The Sun.”

Sean Connery as James Bond in “Goldfinger.”

Because of its roots as a more “leisurely” approach to black tie — not to mention its use in warmer climates — the ivory dinner jacket came to symbolize a more relaxed approach to one of menswear’s most formal dress codes.

When Can You Wear a Ivory Dinner Jacket?

If you’ve been a long-time HSS reader, you know that we like to straddle the line between tradition and modernity. Classic with a modern sensibility — that’s us. I mention that because menswear can be notoriously prescriptive. Or, at least, that’s how some people will make you feel. There are rules and you need to follow them! Well, I say, sometimes yes, sometimes no. When you are “allowed” to wear an ivory dinner jacket is one of those things. We’ll start with the supposedly approved wisdom and then give you our take.

Since the ivory dinner jacket was initially used as a black tie alternative for warmer, tropical climates, some will make the argument that it is only appropriate “at formal events in tropical climates throughout the year, and during the summer season in America, particularly at outdoor social events like country club dances and yacht parties.”

Hogwash!

If you wish to live by this particular atavistic style code, then you are most certainly a better and more disciplined man than I. But really, it’s the 21st century. Style norms have been shattered, reinvented, and remixed many times over. But like I said, while there are definitely some “rules” of style you should always follow, this is not one of them. Why deny yourself the pleasure of wearing one of menswear’s most exquisite standout formal garments just because you never find yourself at a black tie event in a tropical climate?

Our stance here, if you couldn’t tell, is that an ivory dinner jacket is appropriate to wear just about anytime the dress code calls for black tie. Now, the caveat here is that how strict the enforcement of the black tie dress is really up to the host of whatever event you’re attending. Because if you get a black tie invite, you should technically wear a proper tuxedo. But, like I said, it’s the 21st century and these days even black tie can be a little more relaxed.

The author wearing an ivory bamboo dinner jacket sitting in with the band at the WM Brown Party at Pitti Uomo 105.

I’ll give you a personal example. At Pitti Uomo last winter, I attended not one, not two, but three black tie events. I had a brief moment of panic when I’d only packed my ivory bamboo dinner jacket — these were dinners with some of the menswear business’s biggest power players, after all. But my worry was completely unnecessary. When I arrived at the first of these dinners, I was relieved. Someone was wearing a purple velvet double-breasted dinner jacket. Another, a wonderful jacquard number. And so on.

The point is, the rules of black tie have changed. And while it’s always a good idea to know the rules and what is expected of you at any given event, work within those guidelines and wear what you like. You could do a lot worse than an ivory dinner jacket.

With that said, you do have options when it comes to ivory dinner jackets. Here are four different styles to consider.

The Classic Option

Here we have the purest and most timeless expression of the ivory dinner jacket. You can never go wrong with a single-breasted, self-facing shawl collar version in a classic wool fabric. It’s about as four-season a weight as you’re going to get, so if you are looking for the easiest addition to your formalwear wardrobe, look no further.

Classic ivory dinner jacket with shawl lapel

The Luxe Classic Option

If you are looking a little further, you’ve made it here. And you may certainly be thinking, “Wait, what’s the difference between this one and the last one?” There is one major difference and it’s not that this version is slightly more ivory and less creamy in color. The big distinction here is the fabric. This particular ivory dinner jacket is made with a bamboo fabric. Bamboo has one of the most incredible hands — it’s so soft and luxurious, it is easily confused for cashmere. Add to that the fact that it is quite breathable, it has earned the nickname “California Cashmere.” For those looking for something a little extra special, this one is worth the slight upgrade.

Ivory bamboo dinner jacket with shawl lapel

The Classic Meets Modern Option

Here’s a version that takes classic and updates it just a bit for modern tastes. First of all, this is the lightest ivory that you’ll see. So if you’ve really got your heart set on a “white dinner jacket” and literally don’t mean ivory — I find that many guys use those terms interchangeably, sort of like sport coat and blazer — this is the dinner jacket for you. And second, instead of the most classic shawl lapel, here, we have a self-facing peaked lapel. A more modern look and feel for a more modern man.

White dinner jacket with peaked lapel.

The Sartorial Classic With A Twist Option

You can’t do a double-breasted ivory dinner jacket without the obligatory allusion to Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in “Casablanca.” In menswear circles, that jacket is as iconic as the Air Jordan logo. Double-breasted, 4×2, self-facing shawl lapel. Perfection. In DB form, it’s also the most sartorial of the offerings here at HSS. And we’ve updated it just slightly with an extremey subtle palm leaf pattern baked into the fabric. Check it out in the fourth photo here.

Double-breasted ivory dinner jacket with shawl lapel

The Bottom Line

The bottom line here is that an ivory dinner jacket — or white, cream, or off-white dinner jacket — is one of the most iconic pieces of formalwear for men. It’s timeless and classic, yes, but can also be designed for more modern tastes as well, so there really is an ivory dinner jacket for any guy.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa

Brian Sacawa is the Founder of He Spoke Style and one of the original men’s style influencers. Since 2013, his goal has remained the same: to provide men the advice and inspiration they need to dress well, develop their personal style, and gain more confidence. Brian’s interest and passion for men’s style and luxury watches has led to his writing for The Robb Report, The Rake, and Sotheby’s and he has been quoted on menswear in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Today.com, Brides Magazine, and the Huffington Post. He lives in the woods north of Baltimore with his wife, Robin, kitties Nick and Nora, and German Shepherd/Collie mix Charlie.

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Photography by Rob McIver

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