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Joseph Abboud on Groomswear, Style Philosophy, and His Most Challenging Design Moment: The Well-Groomed Interview

By Well Groomed

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“That’s what I’ve always tried to do”,  says Joseph Abboud when we talked about his signature look, “is to make American men more sophisticated and have them be more wordly, not just be so preppy or so American.”

The iconic American menswear designer, Joseph Abboud, was personally involved in this year’s BRIDES Live Wedding series featuring Elle Fowler, YouTube star AllThatGlitters21 who posts beauty and style-related tutorials, and her groom: Alex Goot, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist from New York. Just as the bride carefully chooses her gown, Men’s Wearhouse believes the groom should have his special look too. Make sure the guys measure up in stylish, slim-fit tuxedo rentals from Joseph Abboud, available in black, gray, and navy.”

In between his busy schedule, Joseph Abboud gives an exclusive Well-Groomed Interview where he shares his insights on grooms wedding wear and his style philosophy.


Well-Groomed: Some may not know the difference between a suit and a tuxedo. Do you have a tip on how to distinguish the two and general rule of thumb for when a tuxedo is more appropriate than a suit?

Joseph Abboud: Generally a true tuxedo has some kind of a trim on a lapel; there’s a formal element to it. Like a satin lapel or a grosgrain lapel. So you have something that defines it that you can visibly see.

But, you touched on something interesting: “can you explain the difference”. You can take a dark, a black suit that doesn’t have any trim on it, and wear it with formal accessories to create a formal look. In and of itself that might not be considered a tuxedo but the rules are blurring a little bit. So men can sometimes dress up, really dress up a very dark suit, [and it] feels like you were wearing a black tuxedo.

Joseph Abboud Interview with Well-Groomed Blog

WG: Are the formal look whether true tuxedo or dressed up dark suit appropriate for day time weddings as well?

Joseph Abboud: I think they both can be done daytime or evening.

Joseph Abboud Interview with Well-Groomed Blog

WG: What do you see as the big trend in grooms-wear this coming season? 

Joseph Abboud: Well it’s interesting that we see a lot of seasonal evening wear and tuxedo pieces. For example, the Ivory jacket, the light jacket. (We don’t really call it pure white, more of Ivory) for let’s say southern weddings or outdoor weddings.

(We also see) things that are little bit more associated with the environment. It isn’t always just about the black tuxedo.

WG: And is there a certain detail element that you think will come up more? I saw your beautiful F/W collection and I just love that high composition on the feather lapel pins.

Joseph Abboud: Yeah they were great ones. 

Well, that was a fall show so you probably saw a lot of black velvet which are beautiful for evening and wedding wear. For example, if you’re  getting married in a lodge or somewhere that has a country feeling, You could then add those kind of details that are appropriate. I love doing that. And the scarves are beautiful as well.

So it really depends on the individuality and let’s say the creativity of the groom along with the bride’s consent.

WG: Right, right and I think that’s really the general feeling right now, isn’t it? It’s no longer just about wearing a black and white tux but it’s adding an element of personality to it. 

Joseph Abboud: That’s right. It’s bringing your own personal style into it. And the rule about that too is: just remember that 20 years from now, you’re going to be looking at pictures of yourself. So you wanna try to always do it in good taste.

Think about it. You don’t wanna look back and say “Oh my God, what did I do!”

Joseph Abboud Interview with Well-Groomed Blog

Is there ever an occasion for a groom to wear short sleeves? 

Joseph Abboud: I mean, I don’t see that because it feels almost as if it is disrespecting the moment. You can be creative but short sleeves, I would say no.

If they were no jacket, just shirts – I would suggest wear a long sleeves linen shirt. Make it kind of sexy and romantic. See, the bride is going to be somewhat of a bride, right? She’s going to wear a wedding dress, (so) you need some formality even if it’s casual formality.

WG: You mentioned about an ivory jacket and I sometimes see an all white tuxedo. What kind of color of shoes, socks and accessories should be worn?

Joseph Abboud: If you’re wearing all white, I’m assuming it’s generally for the warm weather or summer? So I like that with no socks, which is very cool. I don’t see black shoes; not necessarily white either. I think you need to find something that blends rather than a heavy contrast. So, maybe something like a bone shade.

It (also) depends on the kind of shoes. Maybe you’re wearing a slip on, suede dress slip on like an evening slipper. You could do something like that. If you’re doing white, … I would only recommend that to warm weather climate.

WG: Is there any rule to mixing and matching materials? So if the groom wears a linen suit, can he wear silk / satin tie or something else to go with it?

Joseph Abboud: Yah, I like fabrics for the season I like the idea of velvet for fall and linen for spring and summer, because I like the seasonal aspect about it. I think that’s really important, but then that’s where your individuality comes into play.  I do think it’s important that you add your own special touch. But as we said before, remember? You’re going to be looking at this or a long time so make sure you do it well.

Joseph Abboud Interview with Well-Groomed Blog


WG: Are there different style tips or rule for dressing different body types? 

Joseph Abboud: Yes. Just because the trim or the skinny suit is in, doesn’t mean it fits all body types. If you’re doing a suit or a tuxedo, you wanna it to be tailored right.

Tailoring is very important.

And is there a good resource for the guys to learn about the rules of dressing up? 

Joseph Abboud: You know that’s so interesting. Many companies, like us have a website and we talk about formal wear. Men’s Wearhouse does a great job with our evening and formal programs – our Joseph Aboudd formal business is really strong and we can provide very good information on how to style.

WG to the readers – at this point, we both agree that there is a lot of valuable information out there, but no one stands out as a one-stop-resource for the ultimate menswear guide. 

Joseph Abboud: So, you can go into great stores who do formal wear and (they) can help you with it. I should probably do one. I’d love to be able to get that information out to guys and give them tips as much as I can, you know would love to be able to help them understand that.

WG: Not that you have too little on your plate, but I think that’s a brilliant idea for your next project?

Joseph Abboud: Yes, I have so many, but yeah (laughing).


You’re an iconic men fashion designer. Who do you look up to in the industry? 

Joseph Abboud: I worked for Ralph Lauren for 5 years as one of his design team. And I really, really admire Ralph Lauren because of what he’s done over the years. Such a great job in bringing American style to men. So he’s someone that I’ve always respected. And you know I considered him a friend and a mentor.

What was the most challenging styling or the design moment that you had? 

Joseph Abboud: I think it was when I created my first collection. That was in 1987. What I wanted to do is to change the way American men look. I didn’t want them to be too preppy or too boyish, I want to create a modern American collection that has international appeal. So using more sophisticated color and shape but still being an American designer. And that was when I launched my first collection. We were very successful in selling in the best stores in the country because I think we hit a nerve. So that is a design moment I will never forget.


Joseph Abboud Interview with Well-Groomed Blog

WG: What would you say to those who just don’t believe in the concept that “they need to dress to impress”?

Joseph Abboud: Oh! I think that you and I can say that that’s actually the worst thinking possible. The young consumer today needs more than ever to make a presentation of who they are personally. And you express yourself through your clothes. I can’t tell you how many young guys who have graduated from college seeking from their first jobs want to get that perfect suit. They know that dressing well is key, because you have to do business with people face to face. You have to make a good first impression and dressing well is very important part of that.

Joseph Abboud Interview with Well-Groomed Blog

There are also ways to still dress casually and still be well dressed.

And that’s the difference – rather than just a T-shirt and Jeans, although we all love that…  the new soft jackets allow a guy to be a little more casually dressed but still be dressed appropriately for meeting his girlfriend’s parents or going out on a first date or even going for a different kind of job interview.

A guy needs a jacket on his wardrobe. 

You can’t think you can get away without dressing appropriately somewhere.


This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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