Monday, April 17, 2006

Tuxedos – Fashion or Tradition? A Fashion Manifesto

We think of tuxedos today as being steeped in tradition. Black tie, white tie, it all means something very specific. After all, the Proper Attire for formalwear is a 1-button, peak lapel style tuxedo, white pleated front formal shirt (your choice of wing or laydown collar), black silk self-tie bowtie and matching black silk cummerbund.

Of course, you may deviate from this formula. If you are going to a morning event you are allowed to wear a morning coat i.e. a cutaway or a stroller. Likewise, if you are going to an evening event you would wear a tailcoat, white pique shirt, vest, and tie.

So it may come as quite a surprise to learn tuxedos were originally a rebellion against these rules. Back in 1896 Griswold Lorilland was tired of the stiff dictates around formalwear. He had his tailor create a tailcoat without tails. Worn to a society event in Tuxedo, New York, his radical outfit became TODAY’S traditional tuxedo (the 1-button peak lapel style noted above).

Let’s be clear- the outcast rebel of fashion over 100 years ago snubbed tradition by wearing a 1-button peak lapel jacket – which today is considered the traditional tux ensemble. Get the point – yesterday’s rebellious outfit is today’s stiff classic.

Sure there are other examples. Denim blue jeans were first adopted by teens in the 60’s as a rebellious stand against the ideals of their parents. Blue jeans were worn by laborers who needed utility over fashion. Now, of course, blue jeans are a staple fashion item long since removed from their earlier uses.

But I digress, my point is this – why is innovation in formalwear considered heresy? The “classic tuxedo” was a statement against the rigid dress code of the time. Yet today if someone chooses to wear anything but 1-button peak lapel style they have broken the fashion rules. I say, let the wearer decide! Naturally someone who chooses to wear a powder blue tuxedo SHOULD be tarred and feathered (because nobody can look good in this type of a costume). But why should we call the fashion police if someone chooses a 3-button notch lapel tux? Would Lorilland bless the fashion of a silver vest and 4-in-hand tie? Why not – it’s simply another step towards distinctive yet handsome fashion.

Ultimately, that’s what we should all strive for. Distinctive yet handsome fashion. Sure we’ll be tweaking the nose of the fashion police, but at the end of the day we don’t dress to please others, we dress to express ourselves and our vision.


At 10:58 PM, Blogger STL said...

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At 8:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Classic is shawl, not notched or peaked.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Zach said...

The first tuxedo designed without tails was a peak lapel, not a shawl collar.

At 6:27 PM, Blogger ralhp said...

Touche!A tux will always look good on the wearer as long as he knows how to innovate some fashionable combination of his clothes. Take for example, a zoot suit may look inapt for others but who cares, as long as you are comfortable and looking really good with the outfit. It's the challenge of deviating from tradition...we love challenge.

At 3:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lorillard was not the first to wear a 'tuxedo'. The first was created by Henry Poole and Sons, ,Savile Row tailors for the Prince of Wales. He offered his tailor to an American guest, a Mr. Potter who made a copy of the short jacket the Prince was wearing which Potter then wore on his return to the US at a dinner in the Tuxedo club. Lorillard caused a stir somewhat later when he and a group of friends wore the traditional tails but cut off the tails themselves as a parody of the short jacket.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, the tuxedo industry would really benefit if they brought back the 70s tuxedo fashion. This style made it fun to go to a tux shop and rent for a formal occasion. i remember when I was a kid, it was mesmerizing to go into a tux shop and have a hard time deciding. but unfortunately the obscure processes of "political correctness" which I prefer to dub "political narrow-mindedness" have fenced in and taken us hostage and made us susceptible to "drab", square, anal! That is what the "classic" tuxedo means to me. You know, it would be better if you doctor up the black with a velvet collar or lapel, broaden the lapels, and brought back double-knit polyester to make drab stand out! That was the point in the 70s to make things stand out. And for men, it is time for a change! Bring back ruffled shirts, wide velvet bow ties, color tuxes with bellbottom pants! Has it ever occurred to the tuxedo industry (which has closed lots of tuxedo shops) that the only way to save your industry now is to go back to the good old days of peace and love? retro is IN ya know! Dig?!

At 7:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Google and read "The Black Tie Guide" for true education. Best advice/commentary on the web.

Disappointed in your blog. Brightly colored waistcoats(vests for the uninitiated) and cummerbunds with matching bow-ties are a costume for a clown, and you'll get the respect of one to be sure, should you be foolish enough to wear them. And long four-in-hand ties with notch lapels only serve to turn formal-wear into a fancier business suit.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger David said...

Dear Anonymous,

Sorry you don't like our take on fashion. The beauty of fashion is it is always changing - even classics like a tuxedo become stuffy without change and fashion updates. Remember, today's tuxedo was a radical fashion shift from yesterday's tailcoats.


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