A mere formality.

With various weddings, and the awards season and gala season in our scope, etc. I came to the conclusion the time had come (the Walrus said) to wax eloquent on the matter of men's formalwear.
Speaking technically, the tuxedo (or, more accurately "evening suit") is actually semi-formal; formal being the white-tie-and-tails ensemble. The definition of formal implies adhering to the form. The question then surges: "How does a civilized man adhere to form with the maximum of style and individuality?" The first thing to be addressed is what makes an acceptable tuxedo (and its rakish brother, the dinner jacket) and what makes an unacceptable tuxedo. A tuxedo, at its core, is basically a black suit, and all the elements of fit and construction and workmanship and fabric quality apply thereto. There are important distinctions, howe'er. JACKET: A tuxedo, if single breasted ONLY has one button. If double breasted, it can have 6 buttons (any two of the lower four can be buttoned) or 4 (the lower two are buttoned). The lapel may NOT be notched, as in the usual single breasted suit but they may be "shawl-ed" and obviously may always be peaked. These lapel characteristics are in force regardless of whether or not the jacket is single- or double-breasted. A jacket with double besom pockets is slightly dressier as is a jacket with ribbed silk lapels, or fabric covered (the same fabric as is used on the lapels) buttons. None of these elements, however are, strictly speaking, necessary. TROUSERS: The trousers really should be forward pleated (although, again, this is not strictly mandatory) and should taper gradually from knee to ankle (say, 21" to 17"). There should be one silk stripe along the outseam, matching the silk on the lapel. There should be either adjustable side tabs on the outside of the waistband and/or suspender buttons on the inside of the waistband. A tuxedo's trousers are NEVER cuffed. FABRIC: Black tropical-weight wool is the safest of the widely available choices. Linen and cotton can be rather whimsical choices and heavier weights of wool are okay if the weather (and climate control) lean towards the nippy. Ideally, one could get a tuxedo in midnight blue, which looks black under artificial light (black often looks like a really dark green…I dunno why) but this is almost exclusively the province of custom tailors. If you truly must, go to Savile Row, Edgar Pomeroy or Alan Flusser. SHIRT: Two choices, really. Pleated-front shirt with turn down collar (either some manifestation of spread or straight) and wing collar shirt with a piqué front. In the latter case, the tie may, or may not, properly go behind the wings of the wing collar, as the collar is properly so damned stiff one has no choice. The shirt ideally should be insanely white. A band (or buttondown, or tab, etc.) collar is, as we used to say back at school, "bad wrong." A good choice is Charles Tyrwhitt and the most old-school choice is Brooks Brothers'. TIES: A tuxedo is ALWAYS worn with a bow tie. No long ties, no black 'n' gold buttons/studs in lieu of a tie. The tie should be was wide as the outer corners of your eyes and should "flare" between 1.5" and 2" (3.75 - 5 cm). It should be black and it should match the facings of the lapel. The tie can be non-black if the rest of the outfit is pretty classical and if the event allows some for some stylish variance. Some patterns of blackwatch, of TINY black and white houndstooth are quite smart -- and therefore, my personal choice -- when the event is not that strict. VEST/CUMMERBUND - With a double breasted jacket neither is necessary, although a viable (and often visible) option. A cummerbund should always match the bow tie, and should always have a ticket pocket. A vest may or may not match the tie. JEWELS - This means cufflinks and studs, which ought match and be rather simple. Flat gold discs--with monogrammed cufflinks, ideally--are best. Sterling silver or platinum can also prove a nice touch, if a bit "cooler." Onyx or mother of pearl are also acceptable if a bit less classical. The links should NOT be swivel backed. A pocket watch (to match stud/link set) is also ultra-dressy, and works best with a vest, although in some cases the trousers have a pocket to accomodate such a timepiece. Any wristwatch should be small, discreet and plain gold or silver with a glossy black leather (think reptile) strap. SHOES - Patent leather, capless oxfords are the safest choice. Opera pumps (available in--in increasing levels of formality--alligator, matte calf, etc.) are for the ultra snappy dresser. Oh, and a white linen pocket square is an absolute must. The choice of folds is yours. -J.


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