The “Canadian Tuxedo”

"Canadian"? Sure, why not. "Tuxedo"? Don't even go there.

“Canadian”? Sure, why not. “Tuxedo”? Don’t even go there.
(Photo: Danique Roswell)

I recently discovered the existence of the term “Canadian Tuxedo” that refers to a denim top worn with denim pants.  There’s even an entire blog showcasing examples of such outfits  and a web site by that name that promotes them as being legitimately formal*.  I was a little baffled that I had never heard that moniker in over four decades of living in Canada but when I surveyed friends and colleagues I found I wasn’t alone.  In fact, the more I explore its usage the more it appears to be an Americanism.  And not a very nice one at that.

Canadians are known for their often self-deprecating sense of humour and I certainly enjoy jokes about our compulsive politeness and love of beer, hockey and saying “eh”.  In fact we poke fun at our rural bretheren by associating their town names with “dinner jacket” in reference to a plaid lumberjack shirt.  But we can also get a little prickly about the often condescending attitude and cultural myopism of some of our US neighbours.   And implying that this hick (and banal) outfit represents the height of Canadian sophistication certainly smacks of that kind of derision.  I’d be much happier if Americans used the other term for this outfit: Texan Tuxedo.  Knowing the Lone Star state’s affinity for mavericks and iconoclasts I imagine they’d consider it a complement!

Out of curiosity, I’d like to know what my fellow Canucks think of the term and whether they’re even familiar with it.  Please answer this quick poll and/or leave a comment on the topic.  (I’ll publish the results in a few months so everyone who didn’t qualify for the poll can see them.)

[polldaddy poll=7526839]

*This web site’s view is the exception; people that use this term don’t actually expect the outfit to be treated as formal wear.  In that regard it is different than an actual tuxedo made of denim which pops up from time to time such as a 1970s After Six model and a Levi’s reproduction coming out next spring.

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Postscript

As promised, here are the results as of January 15, 2014.  Based on the responses, Canadians readers appear to be evenly split on whether the term is offensive. Canadian_tuxedo_poll_results_Jan_15,2014

19 Comments

  1. Duncan Pike

    I’d heard it before, but forgot all about it. Fairly offensive.

    Reply
    1. Jovan

      I’ve heard of all sorts of “tuxedos” used in jest. Most of them seem to be some area foisted onto the “denim tuxedo”, which is what I first heard of as the denim jeans/shirt/jacket combo. The variations I’ve heard are “Indie tux”, a plaid flannel shirt and thrifted sport coat with jeans, and “California tuxedo”, a blazer and khaki chinos.

      Reply
  2. Jovan

    Oh, and I think the denim tuxedo has been covered by Black Tie Guide. We all know how well THAT went. All the power to these “Canadian Tuxedo” people who think they are being daring. The ironic thing is, it’s actually more edgy to be properly dressed these days. People like Mr. Pike and all the others featured as “Reader Role Models” get so much attention (deserved of course) for what would be expected attire half a century ago. Fascinating.

    Reply
  3. Peter Marshall

    Regarding the denim tuxedo, I’ve added a footnote to my post to clarify the difference between it and the so-called Canadian tuxedo.

    Reply
    1. Jovan

      Oh, I knew the difference. I’m just saying that particular form didn’t really last. I’m amazed Levi’s is trying to bring this back… predictably with skinny, low rise jeans rather than the 501s actually worn by Crosby. Hm.

      Reply
  4. John Tatum

    Peter, I just read the Wall Street journal article about this, and I had never heard the term.

    I was born in west Texas and have lived my entire life in Texas. I am proud to be a Texan! I have been to many events where a Texas Tuxedo was worn. Yes, the “Texas Tuxedo” moniker is already taken and it is a legitimately formal type of apparel.

    A Texas Tuxedo (sometimes called a Texas Tux) is a tuxedo worn with jeans, cowboy boots, and cowboy hat. Only the tux shirt, jacket, and bow-tie remain from the original tuxedo. Often worn is a large belt buckle. Many times a string bow tie or a bolo tie is worn. It can be worn with a vest or without. The cowboy hat is usually black and many times the jeans are black.

    I can certainly identify with the condescending attitude of Americans. It seems that in this great multi-cultural society, many Americans (and others) regard Texas culture as the one culture in the world that is somehow unacceptable and worthy of being “trashed”.

    As for the denim on denim look as something legitimately formal, this sounds more like something California would do. Perhaps it should be named the “California Tuxedo”.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Thanks very much for the info John. That form of Texas Tuxedo is certainly more elegant than the other interpretation. From my understanding “California Tuxedo” is also already taken and refers to a navy blazer and khakis. I would actually be happy to have “Canadian” associated with either of these outfits as the context would be amusingly tongue-in-cheek as opposed to being a derogatory slur (albeit one aimed more at the wearer’s tacky fashion sense than at at Canadians).

      Reply
      1. Duncan Pike

        Where it becomes offensive, to me, is the implication that the word “Canadian” is, itself, used as the insult, implying that Canadians are hicks/bumpkins/rednecks/backward, whatever. It is in the same genre, though less extreme, as using “retard,” or “gay,” as generally derogatory terms.

        Reply
  5. Gretchen Schneider

    CanadianTux.com is about celebrating the look. It is indeed fashionable and a subculture of style. When Chanel is making a denim-on-denim ensemble, it’s officially an elegant look and here to stay. The term “Canadian Tuxedo” seems to be the most widely used here in the States, which is where the blog is based. No one thinks is derogatory at all – at least not any American I’ve ever interviewed. There are plenty of sites that mock the look. Ours is about finding the fashion forward denim-on-denim looks and showing the world that it’s a great look – not one we EVER refer to as “tacky.”

    Reply
    1. Jovan

      Thank you for taking the time to clarify your position. I disagree with your logic on a couple points, however. First, just because something is made by a designer doesn’t mean it is “here to stay”. There are many fashion trends that come and go and most don’t stay very long. Second, even when a lot of people think something isn’t derogatory doesn’t mean it can’t be on some level. As Mr. Pike points out, there are already words used by many who are ignorant of how it sounds. Even people who claimed not to be racist saw nothing wrong with minstrel shows at one point in history. Perhaps instead adopt a different title for your blog? Denim On Denim sounds perfectly fine to me, and quite direct in its intentions.

      I’m also going to be direct in saying that this website and blog’s readership are likely not sympathetic to the look you champion. It’s great that you are strong in your convictions, but we just don’t speak the same clothing language. But I don’t recall Mr. Marshall claiming that you looked at it as tacky, so… not sure where that indirect accusation came from?

      That newspaper article, like many, is quite misleading and sensationalist. Mr. Marshall was just using your blog as an example, he was by no means directing his ire your way. Read the article for yourself right above! Yeesh. Can somebody fire that writer for trying to stir sh*t where there wasn’t any? They’re paraphrasing and just making things up, because not once do I see him say he was “miffed” at discovering your blog. And I’m curious to see where that “head is spinning” sentence leads to. Probably putting more words into his mouth and making out of context connections where there were none.

      Reply
      1. Gretchen Schneider

        I think when someone like Karl Lagerfeld designs an all denim look, it does take – whatever you want to call it – to a whole new level and becomes much more acceptable for those in the fashion world. And Mr. Marshall did say something about tacky, perhaps not referring to my efforts, but I did want to clarify that that has never been my mission: quite the contrary. As for the journalist who wrote this, I cannot speak to his goals here: you will have to handle that one on your own. I am one of the least racist, most accepting and open people on earth. I love Canada and grew up as a proud neighbor to the south in Ohio and later in Montana. There is no beef from me about your country or its people. I am just here to show the world denim-on-denim can be a wonderful thing – whatever you want to call it.

        Reply
        1. Jovan

          I don’t doubt your intentions are free of bigotry, I’m just saying that even so something can come off that way. Thanks for responding.

          Reply
        2. Kate

          I heartily disagree with your assertion that denim is elegant. In my opinion, denim can never be considered elegant. Its history makes it quite clear that it was created for people who needed sturdy clothing which withstood the stresses of strenuous physical labour. It’s a heavy, durable fabric, and still worn by farmers, cowboys, construction workers, and others who can expect to get dirty as a part of their work. I don jeans when I take my dog for a walk or clean out the horse stables, because I can throw them in the washing machine and not worry about ruining nice clothes with horse manure. Honestly, the concept of £300 jeans is a mystery to me, as I would never pay that much money for something that is essentially work attire.

          I see the elevation of a clothing item from work attire to cult status as another sign of society bowing to the lowest common denominator, and the eternal worship/glorification of youth culture. Let us not aspire to dress well anymore, but let us adhere to a uniform that can be worn by all.

          Of course, the “elite” still want to distance themselves from the masses, and do so by wearing £300 jeans with a designer label prominently attached. I have never understood the appeal of showcasing logos; shouldn’t they pay me if I advertise for them?

          That brings me to my next point: fashion. Fashion and good taste have never been synonymous, and just because something is fashionable does not make it stylish, tasteful, or even well-suited to a person or an event. I cannot think of many fashion designers, apart from Oscar de la Renta, who I would consider consistently well-dressed. On the contrary, Lagerfeld looks more and more like a badly drawn and quite frankly, bizarre, caricature.

          I agree with Jovan and others who wrote that fashion trends come and go. I also concur with him that your visions will not fall on sympathetic eyes and ears on this and similar blogs.

          Reply
          1. Kate

            Jovan,

            I just noticed that my stupid iPad did not display the posts properly, and that I accidentally responded to you. My reply is directed at Ms Schneider. I quite agree with everything you wrote.

          2. Jovan

            No problem, Kate. I understood you were addressing Ms. Schneider. You make some good points. I don’t quite believe that fashion should be used as a four letter word you are making it to be, though. “Trend”, perhaps? Even then I’d more likely say, “Fashion trends and good taste don’t always go hand in hand.” After all, black tie trends right now include midnight blue, pocket squares, and fly front shirts in black tie, and those are either classic or, in the case of the last item, tastefully in the spirit of the dress code. I also think none of use would complain if the shrunken, low rise suit were dumped in favour of more traditionally fitting garments in fashion.

          3. Gretchen Schneider

            This look has been around since the dawn of denim, so I think it’s been here and will remain. So let’s just agree to disagree and move on. Cheers.

  6. C. Ray

    Here’s Bing Crosby, in a demim tuxedo which Retronaut send out this morning.

    http://www.retronaut.com/2014/02/bing-crosbys-levis-tuxedo/

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      I actually included that link at the end of my post.

      Reply
      1. C. Ray

        Oh sorry Peter, I had forgotten all about it.

        Reply

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