What to wear to your graduation ceremony

Stand out for all the right reasons at your graduation

Stand out for all the right reasons at your graduation
Image: Sean Locke Photography

Congratulations – you’ve finally finished racking up your college tuition fees. Now it’s time to get a job so you can spend the rest of your natural life repaying your giant debt. But first, there’s your commencement ceremony to look forward to – that proud moment when you step onto the dais to receive your reward for all that hard work – your Bachelor’s Degree. Well done you.

You’ll need a suit, but before you part with yet more money, it’s wise to stop and think. The suit you buy now will probably serve as your job interview suit and, assuming you’re successful in your quest for employment, it’ll be the suit that sees you through your first fall and winter season at the office.

So what do you look for? Here we give you the low down on suits – what’s hot, what’s not, and all with a flavor of quality British tailoring.

Suit cut

The British cut suit from Samuel Windsor features structured shoulders and a tapered waist

British cut suits feature structured shoulders and a tapered waist
Image: Blue summer suit from Samuel Windsor

Traditional American suits are constructed using a “sack cut” method. Unlike British and European suits which are derived from military uniforms, the standard American suit was designed around ease of production. The cut is rather square with unstructured shoulders, single vent, flap pockets and three button cuffs. If you’re a larger guy this is a great shape to consider but if, like many young people, you’re built on the lean side, this is not the most flattering look for someone your age.

If you’re skinny, you might like to try an Italian suit – the jacket doesn’t have a rear vent and it’s strongly structured in the shoulder. The cut is form fitting, and that goes for the pants too. It’s a smart suit, but some would say too extreme for such a formal occasion, and it’s not that comfortable for long days at the office either.

Unless you’re a big guy, your best bet is to wear a suit with a British cut. It’s elegant, refined and designed to show off your manly physique to the utmost. It’s what James Bond wears.

The jacket has some structure to the shoulder and features half canvas construction – a layer of stiffening covering the breast section which helps the fabric to retain its shape and drape nicely. Moving on, British cut suit jackets have double vents, a slightly nipped in waist, two button single breasted fastening, and four button surgeon’s cuffs. The pants are fitted but with room to move – simply put, this is a lovely suit and it’s one of the reasons the Brits punch above their weight in business, finance, the arts and more. It’s hard not to take someone seriously when they look this professional. Still not convinced? Read our article on the difference between British and American suits for more information.

Fabric of choice

Prince of Wales check suit from Samuel Windsor

If you want to jazz things up, try a narrow stripe or simple check pattern
Image: Prince of Wales check suit from Samuel Windsor

Tempted to make a bold statement by choosing an unusual fabric for your graduation suit? It’s up to you of course, but just remember, in years to come, your mom is going to reach for the photo album to show your future partner just what kind of young man you were.

Unless you live in tropical climes, you should avoid lightweight fabrics like linen. Although this is a very cooling choice, it doesn’t translate to a new office job. Your go-to fabric is light to medium weight worsted wool – standard suit material. A British suit stands out for fitting in.

That said, we’re not averse to a tasteful thread or two of color – try a Prince of Wales check suit in navy blue, or perhaps a dark pinstripe. If you do insist on texture, really the only acceptable choice for your graduation is quality tweed – try a gray check.

Color of choice

Lighter colors can have a slightly younger vibe
Image: Suits: Season 6, USA Network

Black is too funereal for graduation and besides, it’s not the easiest color to wear. Black best suits dark complexions – if you’re on the pale side, at the risk of looking like you live in a coffin and come out at night to feed, it’s best avoided.

Bright colors – electric blues and summer tans look good on young people, but if you’re intending to carry on wearing your suit into your first period of full time employment, you really need something that fits in an office environment and which ages you in a good way.

Charcoal is a nice option, and goes well with graduation day robes. But when it comes to color, we heartily recommend going with navy blue. This complements most colorings and naturally provides the gravitas that gives a young chap a bit of confidence. Feeling in more of a party mood? Try an Oxford blue suit which is also eminently suitable for office wear.


Prestige Oxford shoes from Samuel Windsor

A pair of polished black Oxfords will see you through graduation and for many years beyond
Image: Oxford shoes from Samuel Windsor

Black Oxfords are your go-to shoes of choice for formal occasions. You can tell an Oxford from a Derby because of the way the eyelets are stitched under the vamp – the front of the shoe. The shoe gets its name from Oxford University in England where, during the early 1800s, rebellious students began wearing ankle boots with a side fastening.

Over time, the boot became a shoe and the side fastening migrated to the top, and the rest, as they say, is history. If you’re not wearing Oxfords at your graduation, you might as well give up on making it as a professional because no matter how nice your suit, people always judge your character by your shoes.

Ties and accessories

Exude style and gravitas - the next stage of your life is about to begin

Exude style and gravitas – the next stage of your life is about to begin
Image: g-stockstudio

Please avoid silly ties featuring Donald Duck or any other Disney creature. You need your ties to express some flair, not announce to the world that you have the mental age of a toddler.

Crazy novelty ties excepted, this is your chance to imbue your ensemble with a little of your character. A knitted tie for arty types; an elegant silk tie for those entering a profession. Most men choose a dark tie for graduation day, but don’t be shy of showing color. Perhaps restrict it to a single block, or a tasteful stripe, and look around for a matching pocket square – a nice touch.

Keep your accessories to a maximum of three including your wrist watch. That might equate to a watch, a signet ring and a set of tasteful cufflinks, or a watch, a pair of cufflinks and a pair of smart classic sunglasses. Take your pick, but always wear a watch – you don’t want to be late for this special occasion.

When we wish you the “best of British,” that’s our way of saying “good luck,” not that you’ll need it. Remember – your Samuel Windsor suit is your armor. Add your good looks, charm, and that all important Bachelor’s Degree certificate, and the sky really is the limit.

Tell us how you’re dressing for your graduation – leave a comment below.

Posted in Men's Style Guides.

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