November 11, 2010

Tux redux - wear a tux like you really own the night

To rent or to buy is not always the question.

What really matters when it comes to wearing black tie is looking like you belong in a tuxedo.

Admittedly, all men can't be James Bond or Barack Obama, but it is possible to achieve some true panache, thereby avoiding any associations with Batman's flightless adversary, the Penguin (who technically wore a tailcoat and therefore was dressed in white tie), or high school graduation.

Guy Voglino, New York-based divisional merchandise manager for Brooks Brothers, offered the following advice: "Buy something that is classic, that will stand the test of time. When you stay classic, you'll never be ashamed to take it out of your closet."

Look for traditional lapels. Notches, at Brooks Brothers, are the most popular and easiest to wear of the classic cuts; peaked lapels are considered more formal; shawl lapels are re-emerging as a classic option favoured by the very hip. The softer line looks good on the thinner man. If you have rounded features the peak will sharpen you up and maybe even shave some pounds.

Personally, I would avoid patterns of any kind or odd colours or details. The lapels should be fully satined, not "framed," which means there is only an edge of shiny trimming. It is impecunious and I mean cheap.

You may feel like a peacock, standing out in full trim, but black tie is party clothes. Half-measures are pointless and erode the sense of glamour one may wish to convey.

If you can't handle the full sheen, try grosgrain lapels. They are ribbed silk without the super shiny qualities of satin. It is very elegant.

Striped suits must be avoided at all costs. In the secret language of experienced black tie wearers, they come across as callow and in snobbier environs striped pants are worn by those who earn their living by opening car doors and hefting luggage. Don't be surprised if someone hands you his car keys and a five dollar note when you're wearing stripes.

Even if you own the striper, it will simply give off a "return by Monday" reek.

When it comes to buttons, Voglino says: "If you're more average height, I'd steer you into a one-or two-button cut. It definitely gives a longer look to the individual." With three-button jackets, be wary. The tubular torso created with too many fasteners can ruin the careful balance of black and white in a tuxedo. Only use the middle button on a three-button. Ultimately, one button is all that is ever required.

On the opposite end of the button spectrum are double-breasted dinner jackets. Offering sometime up to six fasteners, they are considered one of the Duke of Windsor's contributions to menswear. His reason for championing the DB are still relevant today. It dispenses with cummerbunds, vests and braces. It prevents one from indulging in a major faux-pas: unbuttoning a dinner jacket. Almost never do it. It is considered very rude in some circles. I avoid doing so nearly at all costs.

DB's also prevent a man from sticking his hands in his pant pockets. What are we rummaging for anyhow? A slingshot? My next dinner jacket will be a grosgrain DB - though I should check my closet. I might already have one.

Voglino also emphasizes fit. "One of our things is making sure people are walking out of our store with a proper fit and that he's comfortable and feels his best when he is in his tuxedo," he says.

For the final touch, a man should always tie his own bow. Nothing says "ownage" like a knot with a little personality.

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