The Western Tuxedo: All Gusssied Up

(After Six)

(Jim’s Formal Wear)

Probably the earliest form of cowboy-themed formal wear is the “black tie and boots” dances held by Texan social organizations since at least 1940s. The most famous of these events is arguably the Black Tie and Boots Inaugural Ball hosted in Washington quadrennially by the Texas State Society.  The fashion received nationwide attention in 1989 when President Bush the senior (a Texan) attended his inaugural balls in cowboy boots decorated with the presidential seal.  In 2001 Bush the younger did the same at his own inaugural parties.

1973 El Paso newspaper ad

1973 Texas newspaper ad

Back in the southwestern states, a more distinctive hybrid emerged under the handle “western tuxedo”.  It is also known by Texans as a “Texas tuxedo” although this term is often used by non-Texans to refer to an outfit that has nothing to do with tuxedos.  A combination of dressy rancher attire and traditional evening attire, the ensemble typically includes the following:

  • tuxedo jacket, usually black
  • formal shirt
  • optional vest
  • black necktie, either the traditional bow or more a western themed bolo, crossover (aka Continental) or string tie
  • jeans, often black
  • cowboy boots
  • cowboy hat, usually black
  • often an oversized belt buckle

Of course, the rental industry likes to put a youthful spin on the theme, often by mixing in other items from their inventory such as longer jackets or even tailcoats and coloured long ties and vests.  (They also frequently suggest tuxedo trousers, watering down the western motif to little more than lipservice offered by the hat and tie.)

An early western themed formal outfit from a 1983 issue of GQ.

An early western-themed formal outfit from a 1983 issue of GQ.

Crossover tie worn with turndown collar shirt and blue jeans.  (After Six)

Crossover tie worn with blue jeans.
(Jim’s Formal Wear)

Example of a string tie.  (After Six)

Example of a string tie.
(Jim’s Formal Wear)

Westernized tuxedo jacket featuring front and back accented yokes.  Worn with a bolo tie and vest and comparing formal trousers vs. dark jeans. (Chaps Ralph Lauren)

Westernized tuxedo jacket featuring front and back accented yokes. Worn with a bolo tie and vest and comparing formal trousers vs. dark jeans.
(Chaps Ralph Lauren)

Wing collar shirt worn with a "bulldogger" tie. (Sheplers)

Wing collar shirt worn with a “bulldogger” tie. (Sheplers)

Next: the etiquette of western tuxedos

________________________________________

Speaking of cowboys in tuxedos, here’s the archetypal cowboy John Wayne looking impossibly debonnaire in an archetypal tuxedo:

(Bettmann/CORBIS)

Publicity still from 1941 film A Man Betrayed. (Bettmann/CORBIS)

1 Comment

  1. C. Ray

    Well, we know at least where The Duke stands in all this.

    Reply

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