From Suits to Statement Sneakers, Sommelier Style Evolves

Franky Marshall / Photo by Rose Callahan

Search Google images for the term “sommelier,” and you’ll find an endless stream of serious-looking people in a sea of gray, black and navy suits and separates. But many modern sommeliers dress casually, in brighter colors and with more individuality. The evolution of sommelier fashion reflects the movement to take wine from staid traditionalism—some might say elitism—toward accessibility and inclusivity.

The industry is changing, pros say, and the proof is in plain sight.

“The wine and spirits industry is not what it used to be 10 years ago,” says Óscar García Moncada, wine and spirits director for 67 Wine and Spirits. “The softening of all ideas of what ‘professional dress code’ means has [created] change over time, allowing me to express more of my personal style while still feeling professional.” He primarily opts to wear classic tailoring with fun pops of color during his workday, at times with a statement sneaker, and can often be found in more avant-garde ensembles by designers like Willy Chavarria.

Sommelier Oscar Garcia Moncada fashion
Óscar García Moncada / Photo by Gene Shaw

Moncada believes presentation and style is a key factor in this line of work. A great look, he says, can influence the way one sells a bottle, be it a boost of confidence or channeling a specific vibe.

“I always feel it’s important to distinguish yourself and show the unique quality that’s all yours,” says Franky Marshall, a New York-based bartender, educator and consultant specializing in Cognac and Pineau des Charentes. In industry circles worldwide, she’s known for her love of electric purple and pink, and her dedication to the color palette has become a personal brand of sorts.

“I believe in making an impression, presenting well and caring about the way I look—to be honest though, I tend to dress for myself, whether it’s for work or not, because it’s just who I am,” she adds. “I like the way I feel when I’m expressing myself.”

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Fashion icon Vera Wang, who recently launched her own Prosecco brand, prioritizes self-expression in every setting.

“It’s very important to me to express all the different styles in my fashion, how I like to dress myself, and it is sort of this crazy mix,” she says. “At the same time, I think it’s very reflective of the modernity of today and the freedom people have to put looks together and how they dress and how they wear clothes. I think it’s that freedom that we’re celebrating in fashion right now, [and] that’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.”

Franky Marshall sommelier style
Franky Marshall / Photo by Lizzie Munro

Unfortunately, everyone’s self-expression is not received in the same way. Due to deeply ingrained biases, female, queer, non-binary, BIPOC and other marginalized people in wine tend to have more leeway to explore nontraditional personal style than others.

As a result, Moncada and some industry friends formed a monthly lunch club called Wine Migos. It’s a dedicated space to share perspectives on fashion, work, life and all sorts of social issues.

“​​In our industry, we are often asked in various ways to succumb to the homogeneity of white corporate respectability politics,” says Kelvin Uffré, a spirits and wine specialist, and one of Wine Migos’ founders. “Certain styles that are deemed ‘urban,’ ethnic,’ or ‘ghetto’ do not fall into the parameters of ‘professionalism’ in white supremacist corporate culture.”

The industry is changing, pros say, and the proof is in plain sight.

This is damaging to individuals and to the wine business, Uffré says.

“Presentation and style are important to me because it’s a means of telling your story, and it allows you to feel comfortable in spaces where you may not always feel seen or even welcomed—differentiating yourself through style sets a tone regarding how much you are willing to conform to the false idea of white professionalism.”

Kelvin Uffre sommelier style
Kelvin Uffré / Photo by J. Martins Photography

While wine professionals are able to present themselves more freely today than, say, a decade ago, the industry still has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring that the opportunity is fair for all, Moncado says.

In the meantime, the Migos will keep doing their thing.

“When I throw on a fit that communicates that I’m standing in my power, I feel unstoppable,” says Uffré. “There is no greater feeling than being at a table popping bottles with these cats in all this drip.”

Published on November 12, 2021
Topics: Wine & Fashion