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Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland | © Donaldytong / WikiCommons
Grafton Street, Dublin, Ireland | © Donaldytong / WikiCommons
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A Gentleman's Guide to Looking Good in Dublin

Picture of James Hendicott
Updated: 9 November 2017
When it comes to fashion, Dublin walks the middle ground, especially for men. Irish men tend to be understated: beards are in vogue, shirts and jackets are generally the preserve of people actually doing some kind of business, and hitting the town in a tracksuit carries instant associations with certain less salubrious sides to the city. The style is a kind of understated shabby chic.

So what are the keys to fitting right in? Let’s start with a few faux pas. For a start, you should ditch the bright green. And definitely ditch the orange. Sure, they’re our national colours, but Irish nationalism – a slightly fading trait in itself these days – is a political stance, not a fashion statement (and importantly – and something plenty of tourists miss – orange is very much the colour of the other side). If you’re going to visit the tourist spots and stock up on nationally branded t-shirts and leprechaun hoodies, save them for home: the locals won’t be impressed by your sentiment, or amused by your membership of an ‘Irish drinking team’; you’ll simply be branded tourist on sight.

If you’re hitting the town for a big night, shoes are your big thing. There’s barely a club in Dublin that will turn away a man in a decent pair of jeans and a nice t-shirt or button down shirt (okay, there are some, but not many). Turn up in sneakers and you’re not getting much further than the pubs and gig venues. Your footwear doesn’t have to be high-end, just smart and moderately stylish.

The locals don’t make a big thing out of the weather. It’s Ireland, and whether you like it or not, at some point it’s going to rain. Suck it up. Unless it’s really pouring – in which case you have our permission to sup whisky-spiked coffee in the nearest pub while it passes – you won’t see half as many umbrellas as you expect, and most locals will simply charge on through the rain as if it’s not a thing (because frankly, it isn’t). Bring a coat if you’re more comfortable, it’s not like they’re frowned upon, but most Irish men will go with the light, not-all-that-waterproof variety and throw it over a chair to dry off when they arrive, rather than get fussy about a little moisture.

Grafton Street | © antonf/Flickr
Grafton Street, the retail hub of Ireland’s fashion scene | © antonf/Flickr

That ‘not all that bothered’ approach is probably a good direction to head in if you want to fit in. Irish men, generally, aren’t that fashion fussy. Our ‘statement’ is to be understated: to let our personality do the talking, and wear clothes that won’t overly garner attention. Brands are not as big as in most places. Slightly rugged-feeling jumpers, jeans, well-cut brand-free tees and a sharp belt are your go-to Irish wardrobe. You might throw in a beanie hat, a slightly unkempt beard and the obligatory coffee cup along the way. The look, essentially, is a smartness you notice only on second glance, less you be thought to be a little self-important.

Where do we head to get kitted out? Aside from notorious, mixed quality outlet Penney’s, Irish clobber is pricey, which means buying little, but well. The St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre has the kind of toned-down boutiques you might be after, while the Powerscourt Centre goes a little more high end. If you’re thinking of going designer, people like former GAA star Paul Galvin, suit maker Louis Copeland and the legendary Paul Costelloe are your local staples.

Oh, and sports jerseys? No one’s impressed by your college team jersey (another certain tourist marker), your NFL clobber (yeah, we don’t play that, so we don’t care how good your team might be), or your bling (we’re REALLY not impressed by your bling). Throw them on if your team’s playing and you’re heading out to the bar to watch it. Otherwise, leave it in the suitcase.

You might be surprised by the Irish take on men’s fashion, then. It’s not so much a throwback as an understated simplicity, topped up with a little weather-related woolen sweater charm and that famous quick wit. There’s a couple of major exceptions: Christmas and Halloween. Then, half the country dons ridiculous colourful jumpers, spends way too long organising costumes, goes on extended pub crawls, parties ’til they drop, and lugs ridiculous comedy presents. You may as well dive in: we lose the plot with our fashion a couple of times a year, and we’re not in the least bit sorry.

DCU Fashion Show 2010
A style typical of Irish men’s fashion | © Sebastian Dooris/ Flickr