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Modern Manners | Our resident Southern Gentleman guides our readers through the complex maze of contemporary etiquette
by Jimmy Hoard

I'm attending a science lecture in a very nice performance hall in a couple weeks and am not sure what to wear. It is in the evening so feel like I should dress up. I've heard that after 6:00pm a gentleman is supposed to wear a tux but I also have seen guys wearing shorts to the opera. At this point, I don't even own a suit or blazer. Any suggestions?
- Suitless in Seattle

Dear Suitless,
Always follow those gut feelings, honey. They’ll never steer you wrong. As my mama used to say, “I never leave the house without my face on.” Not that I expect you to show up to your lecture in a full face of makeup but there are some general rules of etiquette that do apply here. Think of your clothing as a means of showing respect to the persons you are going to see. An evening science lecture sounds like a nice event which calls for nice clothing. You also mentioned it is being held in a performance hall- another point that tells me a touch of class can’t hurt. While a tuxedo may be a bit much for a lecture, a suit and tie certainly seems to fit the bill. However, I’m the first one to admit that I value comfort over style from time to time so I think a happy medium may be in order here. Business casual is all the rage. Stick to these rules for the event and you’ll look like a million and one bucks. No blue jeans. No t-shirts. No tennis shoes. A nice button down shirt, some comfortable slacks (cotton pants are fine), comfortable nice shoes and a blazer are my picks for the evening. If you don’t own a blazer, picking one up doesn’t have to break the bank. Check for deals online or pop into a local suit shop chain to get your size. You’ll be glad you did. I guarantee it.

I am an architect and am going to be doing some international travel with several colleagues to meet staff at several of our offices throughout Europe and Asia. My question is about cocktails. When is it appropriate to have cocktails? Sometimes I see travelers in the VIP lounges or on planes having all sorts of drinks at 9:00am local time (though it might be a different time where they originated. I know there safe bets like Bloody Mary's in the morning but what are some guidelines for drinking in multiple timezones?
- Cocktail Conundrum (Dallas)

Dear CC,
I don’t know about you, but for me there is nothing better than a “just right” cocktail or glass of wine for relaxing, especially after a hard day’s work. And like my Aunt Lois used to say, “Honey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” However, a bit of restraint and decorum never hurt anyone. And they used to carry my Aunt Lois to the guest room by 5 o’clock most days anyway. I say, stick to the “noon and one” rule. Drinking after 12pm is just fine, but stick to one drink at that point. Once the evening comes, it’s open season. “When in Rome” sometimes means, consider the time where you are! Besides, this travel is business related and you always want to look and act your best with business colleagues. Save the sloppiness for your friends and neighbors who are more likely to join you or at least look out for you. And always remember to drink at home. Safety is the key! A bloody mary might be great at breakfast but may lead to two or three by lunch and who wants to be caught face down in an expense report in front of a group of strangers you’re there to impress? Take it from me- let your behavior set an example to other and show them what type of businessman or businesswoman you aspire to be.

I'm attending what I am told is a traditional Indian wedding. The groom is European-American but the bride is from India. I'd like to wear apparel or accessories from India but I also don't want to do so and then offend anyone accidentally (guess I've seen too many TV shows or movies in which this happens).
- To Wear or Not to Wear (Chicago)

Dear Wear-y,
As Dolly Parton’s character Truvy said in Steel Magnolias, “I haven’t left the house without lycra on these thighs in 20 years.” Which really means- have some respect for your appearance when being seen in public. I will say, however, that we are in a time where most anything goes. There’s never been a better time for individual expression in fashion. That said, if you follow a couple of easy rules, I don’t think you can go wrong picking out something wonderful for your friends’ wedding. 1) Don’t choose anything that would distract from the focus of the day- the bride and groom! 2) Modesty is always the best policy- while Americans might like showing a little skin from time to time, many other cultures frown upon it and you’re better off playing it safe! 3) Make your clothing choice an adventure! And don’t be afraid to ask. The Indian culture might find it a gesture of respect if you attend in their traditional dress. Check with the bride or groom with a quick email or phone call. Then you can be sure of what makes you and others comfortable. Once you’ve made your choice, have fun with it! Check out a sari or salwar kameez. They’re beautiful, colorful and interesting! Who knows- you may completely change your outlook on apparel!