Determining the proper attire for an event on dry land is maddening enough; add international waters to the mix, and you’re in the throes of a sartorial dilemma. With post-Covid dress codes still in flux, what exactly constitutes yacht appropriate eveningwear in 2023? As a cofounder of Pelorus, a luxury travel service that charters yachts and plans custom itineraries, Jimmy Carroll has had a front-row seat to watching norms change. Clients still hold black-tie dinners, he says, but how they define “black tie” is not so black-and-white. “I think it’s more creative,” he says, noting that velvet smoking jackets worn over turtleneck sweaters have become a staple on colder expeditions, with silk jackets and open-necked shirts playing a similar role in tropical climes. In addition, clients are more willing to embrace color. “Navy blue, burgundy, and green—it’s not just the traditional black-black.”
Meanwhile, New York–based bespoke tailor Paolo Martorano prescribes a yachting capsule that captures the romance of the steamer-trunk era without the steamer trunks: “A beautiful, singlebreasted dupioni-silk blazer, with either notch or peaked lapels and flap pockets. Or maybe a double-breasted black-linen suit that could also effectively serve as a proper, albeit slightly more casual, choice for evening,” Martorano says. “Better still,” he adds, “the suit trousers could be paired with the silk blazer, while the black jacket might just as effectively double as a blazer paired with anything from shorts to white duck trousers—thereby neatly multiplying one’s options for day or evening.”
As ever, a ship’s port of call may determine dress norms. André Fayad, founder of the Miami-based bespoke operation Fayad & Co., says that whitelinen shirts and trousers are the local staple, whereas his clients in Manhattan Beach, Calif., have a penchant for pairing formal-styled Western shirts with removable-stud fronts with cowboy boots.
Fayad himself favors the combination of drawstring linen trousers and a white-linen dinner jacket. “I also love pairing off-white dinner jackets with charcoal trousers,” he continues, “and doing a dark jacket—black, navy, or even charcoal—with off-white trousers.”
But sometimes there’s nothing so simple as following the rules. “You should always in these environments go for the best version of a classic option,” says Larry Curran, director of digital personal styling at Saks Fifth Avenue. “So, if this is a black-tie event on a yacht, you should be dressed in a similar fashion to how you would be for any black-tie event.” An exception, however, can be made for the shoes. “I think something with a rubber sole is appropriate,” he says, “as long as it is not sacrificing formality.”
If you can’t resist an individualistic flourish, Curran suggests sporting a brooch or perhaps a nautical accessory such as the yacht-club cuff links favored by his father. But, no matter how you style yourself on-deck, Curran has one request: socks, please.
“I think the days of no socks with tuxedos should be over,” he says, while acknowledging that passengers are typically asked to remove their footwear once aboard. “But I would hope that you’re all wearing socks if you’re asked to remove your shoes, regardless of where you are.”
Advice that’s always worth heeding, on land and at sea.