Unsolicited thoughts is a recurring column on the standards of men’s clothing by ACL’s friend and adherent rule follower Mr. David Coggins.
Approaching Inauguration here are a few thoughts on the tuxedo.
A tuxedo is the pinnacle of formality, it exemplifies class and style. It hasn’t been improved upon over time because it cannot be improved upon. That’s to say: regardless of your everyday sartorial prerogatives you should own one and own it proudly. If that idea scandalizes you, then consider withdrawing from civilization.
Sinatra arriving to the Inaugural ball, January 20, 1961.
A man shouldn’t look forced into a tuxedo any more than he should look forced to drink champagne. Unless you’re attending your mother’s third wedding you should not carry an air of dutiful malaise. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to wear a timeless suit that serves you well.
-A tuxedo need not be expensive, just properly tailored. That’s true for any suit but more important with a tuxedo because the contrasts are so stark and the elements to simple. Slightly narrow shoulders are smart; the unwieldy overlarge coat that resembles a hand-me-down is not.
-Simplicity reigns. Don’t reinvent anything or tempt fate with novelty. Aspirational cleverness–the bold bow tie, the thematic suspenders–reek intolerably. (Incidentally, your clothes should never reflect your hobbies–golfers, you know who you are.) If you’re Scottish then wear trousers made of the family’s tartan. Since you’re not, don’t.
-It’s a tuxedo, wear a bow tie. Like notched lapels, the long tie is meant to dress down a tuxedo. It’s a mistake in both cases. Unless you’ve been nominated for your portrayal of Che Guevera, do not dabble. Men who know wear bow tie–the rare rule with no exceptions.
-Keep your daring to the periphery. If you have to express your individuality do it around the edges–suede pumps, for instance, or your grandfather’s cufflinks–but your shirt and tie should be as clean and undistracted as possible.
-It’s time to learn to tie a bow tie. Clip-ons are for people who spike the punch at prom and then drink too much of it. Like many sartorial matters, once you’re attuned to it, you gratefully recognize your fellow travelers as long as you’re in this waking life.
The purpose of the tuxedo is to show respect to cultural tradition and to your hosts. Should you feel less than sympathetic towards either of those concerns consider this: it’s the ensemble that puts every man in the best possible light.
All good things,
The Last of the Trencherman.