Let’s face it: we men are
obstinate. If we don’t
want to make the effort to dress well then we’ll accept any excuse to
justify our laziness.
That’s why it’s likely that the first time we were told to wear a
suit we fought it tooth and nail. But we’re also vain which means the first time we saw
ourselves in a suit we realized we looked good. Damned good.
A recent survey of American
attitudes regarding menswear proves just how common these male
traits are. Given a
choice between defining their style as an “everyday Joe” who values
comfort over fashion or as sleek, suave and debonair 69% of
men identified with the unfashionable option. No surprise there. However, men
also reported being highly aware of the shortcomings of
72% said they feel
underdressed most of the time
69% thought that one of
the sexiest things a guy can do is dress well
80% thought men
instantly look better in a suit
Knowing that nothing will
sell a man on wearing black tie better than actually wearing black
tie, the following is the Guide’s earnest attempt to convince
novices to drop the excuses and get in front of the mirror to see
for themselves how good they look. How really damned good.
Myth: Tuxedos cost too much.
Many men cite cost as the
issue for avoiding tuxedos but that is no more than a smokescreen.
Men who pay hundreds of dollars for a gala ticket then show up in a
$1,000 suit aren’t forgoing formal attire because they’re strapped
for cash. And even those men with an income modest
enough to allow them to holiday on cruise ships and attend opening
night performances can certainly afford a measly tuxedo rental fee.
Myth: Tuxedos are
The days of stiff formal
shirts and starched collars are long gone. Unless your attire
was made before 1940, it will be every bit as comfortable as a
regular suit and tie (assuming, of course, that your regular dress
clothes are properly fitted).
Myth: Tuxedos make me look
like a waiter.
A cheap, poorly fitting
tuxedo will indeed make you look like hired help. A
well-tailored, smartly coordinated tuxedo will make you look like
Myth: Tuxedos look
Only the unsophisticated would
confuse “old-fashioned” with “classic”. “Old-fashioned”
describes something that was a product of its time while “classic”
implies something that transcends time. Think of disco versus
jazz or 1970s architecture versus art deco.
Myth: Formal wear is too
First off, let’s acknowledge
that the excuse regarding extra “work” is really about extra time:
no one is claiming that attaching cufflinks instead of buttons
qualifies as strenuous manual labor. Secondly, while it is
true that dressing up in formal wear takes more time than putting on
in a suit and tie, the difference is minimal and diminishes with
each outing; even tying a bow tie soon becomes no more
time-consuming than knotting a four-in-hand.
More importantly, the
additional effort actually plays an often overlooked role in making
an evening special. Consider two scenarios involving a night
out at the theatre. In the first, a man comes home from work
on the night of the show and throws on any old dress shirt, trousers
and jacket along with pair of scuffed shoes. In the second,
the man takes the time in advance to have his shirt cleaned, his
jacket pressed and his footwear shined. The first approach is
certainly effortless but does nothing to distinguish the evening
from any other function. The second approach, meanwhile,
creates a feeling of anticipation before the man even leaves home.
Instead of being a passive participant he is playing an active role
in creating a sense of occasion.
The ritual of dressing up in formal evening wear elevates
this anticipation to the level of the sublime. The satisfying
feel of the onyx studs slipping into place, the familiar
clasping of the buttoned suspender tabs and the skillful knotting of
the silk bow tie all build to the denouement when the
well-tailored jacket is slipped into place. Accompany
this sensual process with a glass of good scotch and by the time a
man is done dressing he’s likely to find himself with an unexplained
craving for a cigarette. That’s what wearing a good tuxedo is
Myth: A suit’s as good as a
If this was true then hosts
would have stopped asking guests to wear tuxedos decades ago.
There is a very good reason
that black-tie affairs are specifically associated with milestone
events such as the opening of a major theatrical production or the
presentation of achievement awards: the formal dress code invites
attire that aptly reflects the distinction and prestige of the
occasion. Therefore what a person decides to wear to an event
that is black tie optional – whether by
invitation or tradition – cannot be
viewed solely as a personal choice of wardrobe but as a contribution
to the evening itself. In these situations he can either wear
a suit and consequently lower the occasion’s standards or he can opt
for formalwear and raise the bar instead. Keep in mind that
the more that people rely on other guests to bring a sense of
formality to a special occasion, the less formality there will be
Fortunately, the reverse is also true.
Myth: Black-tie events don't
necessarily require a tuxedo.
If your host wanted you to
show up in a black suit he or she would not have written “black tie”
on the invitation. See
Evening Wear Dress
Codes to find out why contemporary etiquette authorities around
the world continue to define this dress code almost exactly the same
way it was defined when it first came into existence over seventy
Myth: Black-tie events require a tuxedo but the details aren't
"Black tie" and "tuxedo" may
have begun as identical concepts back in the 1930s but they parted
ways when colored tuxedos and Nehru dinner jackets entered the scene
in the 1960s. See Black Tie
vs. Tuxedo to find out why “black tie” is now best defined as
tuxedos for grown-ups.
Myth: The black-tie dress code is
Only if you don't know what you're doing.
sartorial conventions are adhered to much more stringently than
those for business attire or casual wear. However, unlike the
latter categories, formalwear’s standards are not an ever-changing
mystery. By simply
following the basic rules laid out in this very Guide any novice
will meet the requirements that are second nature to experienced
socialites. In fact,
chances are he’ll end up better attired than the majority of other
men at the average black-tie affair these days.