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.