The Plunge sat down for a Q&A with Dwight Fenton, VP of Design for Bonobos. In our Q&A with Dwight, he discussed trends for men, must-have accessories for men and even the most absurd groom’s attire he’s seen.
How have trends in grooms’ attire changed since Bonobos started? Do grooms look better now than they did before?
The past five years have seen a huge shift in the way guys dress in general and that includes what they’re wearing to get married. Guys just paying attention accounts for a large part of it, but better fitting suits and tuxedos, expanding “black tie” parameters, and better footwear and accessories are also due credit. Grooms also seem to be more willing to take risks to put their stamp on the wedding day. So I would say the average groom looks much sharper today than in the past.
Assuming he doesn’t have a Bonobos customer service ninja, how should a groom go about shopping for his wedding attire?
Have the details of the big day in mind when dressing the part. There’s no way around wearing a tux to your black tie wedding. In the same vein, don’t show up in a morning jacket to a beachside lobster bake. If your fiancé or wedding planner can’t tag along, bring a parent or groomsman – someone you trust to offer good advice and who understands what you like but also what will fit the day. Bonobos Guideshops are great places to start, as you’ll get one-on-one attention from our expert Guides who are trained in fit and style. Plus we host trunk shows for the whole wedding party that are fun and easy; the staff takes the lead in coordinating to make sure no groom forgets to order his suit and the right dress shirt. Our Guides are experts in outfitting full wedding parties and know the questions to ask to figure out your wedding style so you feel and look your very best and stay on theme.
“The dress” is the star, but a man deserves to look fresh on his wedding day, too. How can the groom look just as great as his bride on a third of her apparel budget?
Everyone will be looking at her, as they should. You just need to keep up and the great news is you can do so at a fraction of what her gown costs. A great fitting tuxedo or suit, dress shirt, tie, and accessories from Bonobos will be among your less expensive wedding purchases. Our premium Italian wool tuxedos and Foundation suits come off the rack but look and feel made-to-measure. Same with our dress shirts, which we offer in slim and standard fits and three collar options. This wide assortment guarantees you’ll get the best in fit and style without the time and expense of a custom suit. And if you can, go to a Bonobos Guideshop. Advice, personal service, and styling is free – can’t argue with that. (Locations include: NYC, Boston, Chicago, Bethesda, DC, San Francisco, and Austin with more opening in select cities nationwide throughout 2014).
Known for eliminating “khaki diaper butt,” Bonobos suit pants are designed with a curved waistband, medium rise, and tailored thigh that is neither too restricting nor too baggy.
Is there a Bonobos suit for every shape and build of guy?
We spent years perfecting the fit of our pants and we’ve done the same for our suits. I’m excited to say we do have a suit for most shapes and builds. Our Foundation Suits are now available in both slim and standard styles, offering the luxurious feel of a high-end tailored fit that works for a range of body types with the flexibility of shopping for separates.
Known for eliminating “khaki diaper butt,” Bonobos suit pants are designed with a curved waistband, medium rise, and tailored thigh that is neither too restricting nor too baggy. Like most classic suits, the pants come un-hemmed with a 37” inseam so wearers can tailor the perfect break for their height. The slim fit Foundation Suit pants have a 1 ¼” smaller leg opening and a 1” smaller hip than the standard fit pant.
Bonobos’ suit jackets are slightly tapered through the body for a fitted but not too tight feel. The standard fit has a trim silhouette that is flattering on smaller builds yet relaxed enough through the waist to avoid cinching on larger frames. The slim fit jacket keeps to the same fit idea but goes one step further by hugging the body a little closer without compromising comfort. Jackets come in long and regular options so there’s literally an option for everyone.
What are your must-have accessories for a groom and his boys on his wedding day – shoes, socks, cufflinks, watches, pocket squares, ties, etc.?
The right accessories depend on the choice of attire, but let’s assume some level of formality like a tuxedo or suit. Ties and/or pocket squares are great; a watch (as long as it’s nice – no ratty bands) and good shoes are all you should need. Beyond that it starts to look overwrought. Also, cummerbunds are NOT required for a tuxedo; go without for a more modern look.
Can’t go wrong with classics. There are so many options of classics out there that you should be able to find the right fit for your style…
What is the right balance between modern and traditional? How can a groom personalize his look without suffering future ridicule from his children and grandchildren?
Can’t go wrong with classics. There are so many options of classics out there that you should be able to find the right fit for your style – seersucker or cotton suit to wool to black tie. Avoid the outlandish (baby blue tuxedo) and you should be fine 60 years from now.
Speaking of ridicule, what is the most absurd groom’s attire choice you’ve seen? What’s the best wedding day look you’ve seen that you never would have thought of yourself?
The biggest whiff I’ve witnessed was the groom and groomsmen in matching Patagonia Pataloha Shirts and Stand-Up Shorts. I love Patagonia, maybe just not on a wedding day? One of the unexpectedly best ones I’ve seen was the groom and his men in the traditional Bermudian look of Bermuda Shorts with the dark knee socks, blazer, tie and loafers. They pulled it off well.
Get your crew in the same gear; it keeps it simple for everyone, looks better in pictures, and limits surprises.
Eliminating “Khaki Diaper Butt” can be tough to do in a rented tux. Is the groom responsible for making his boys looking good, or just getting them to the show? Do they all have to match?
There are no rules here, but here’s what I think works best. Get your crew in the same gear; it keeps it simple for everyone, looks better in pictures, and limits surprises. You can do a trunk show at a Guideshop and get it all done in one session. If you have some disgruntled peacocks in the group who feel obliged to impress the crowd, tell them they can let it rip at the rehearsal dinner or have fun with their socks. Hopefully they remember it’s about the groom, not them, and there won’t be any issues.
Lightning round! Create the best outfit for each of the three scenarios:
Surprise flower delivery to his fiancé’s bridal shower: Thong! Or, knowing his in-laws will be in the crowd, nice denim and well fitting casual button down. If he wants to score extra points, find out if there’s a color scheme for the shower and try to sync up with that, but avoid being too matchy-matchy.
Groomsmen at the rehearsal dinner: Suit and tie if the wedding is black tie, blazer and dress pants (tie optional) if it’s a suit wedding. Beyond that you have some latitude, but I’d work a blazer into the mix. You can never go wrong with a blazer and if it feels overdressed it’s an easy fix – take it off.
Fathers of the bride and the groom on the wedding day: You’re somebody’s patriarch, dress like it. Keep up with groomsmen at least and don’t risk being underdressed; it’s one of the few times no one will notice if you’re overdressed.
When all else fails, what is the one go-to rule for dressing like a boss on your wedding day?
Fit is the most important detail whether it’s a tuxedo, suit, or blazer/chino combo. Same for the dress shirt. You don’t want extra fabric bulging under your arms and jacket. As long as your attire fits – trimmed to your silhouette so it’s still comfortable but not boxy or billowy – you’ll look like a million bucks. You can get the perfect fitting suit and dress shirt at Bonobos but if you don’t, be sure to visit your tailor a few weeks before the big day. Great fit and quality fabric will go a long way. Also, a shoe shine; be sure the accessories are just as polished as the attire.
Last one. The clothes make the man, but behind every great man is a great woman. So which is it, the suit or the bride?
The bride, always the bride, any other answer could get you hurt.
Dwight Fenton Bonobos VP of Design
Dwight Fenton was the Vice President of Design for Bonobos, the men’s apparel brand known for great fitting, vibrant clothes.
Fenton was responsible for overseeing the design of all menswear categories including suits, woven shirts, denim, knits, sweaters, and outerwear and managed the full Bonobos design team. Fenton traveled the globe seeking inspiration to help with the seasonal design concepts and the corresponding color palettes he created. He also worked with textile and trim mills to ensure that Bonobos’ apparel was always of the upmost quality and style.
Fenton has had an extensive, 15-year career in fashion. Prior to Bonobos he served as Senior Director of Men’s Design at J.Crew. During his nine-year tenure, he worked in the design department run by Todd Snyder, under CEO Mickey Drexler. Fenton started at J. Crew as a designer of men’s bottoms and denim before transitioning to senior director of men’s wovens, footwear, and accessories. Previously, he was a designer at Vineyard Vines, where he helped create and launch their debut clothing line, rounding out the tie and bag collections for which the brand had become famous. Before that, he worked at Gap Inc. on the design team at Old Navy where he was responsible for men’s active wear styles. Prior to becoming a designer, he worked as a product developer and merchandiser at Patagonia.
Fenton graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Film from Dartmouth College. He is a Greenwich, CT native and currently lives in Manhattan with his children.