My Slate Article

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In the run-up to Sunday’s Oscars, online magazine Slate asked me to write a tuxedo primer so that readers might appreciate the men’s red-carpet fashion choices as much as the women’s.  I had some fun with the piece, themeing it as a sartorial field guide to the various tuxedo incarnations commonly seen these days.  It was published today and while dedicated readers of The Black Tie Guide will find the article’s lessons familiar, I imagine the information will be an eye opener for the average Slate reader.  Considering that these readers number in the millions each month, I couldn’t resist encouraging them to apply the lessons to themselves should they ever have the opportunity.  If there is a surge in Black Tie Guide traffic coming from Slate in the next few days then I’ll know I’ve won a few more converts to the cause.

25 Comments

  1. Jovan

    A very fine article. I wouldn’t have noticed or cared prior to my sartorial education almost a decade ago, but I just realized the man to the right in the Downton Abbey screencap (sorry, I don’t watch it so I don’t know who he is) is showing some waistcoat below his coat front! Tsk, tsk. But apart from that they are good examples of white tie that would still look correct today, a century after the show takes place. One of the great things about evening wear is how it dates so little compared to all other men’s fashions.

    I feel sorry for these people commenting on the article. They will never know the joy of looking their best.

    “I say Slate! Next you’ll be telling us we how to name our yachts or how to furnish our servants quarters properly. Good day, sir! I said good day.”

    “Noting that mens formal wear dates back 150 years and that the tux is “timeless” pretty much says it all. Update the fabric, widen a lapel, shrink a cuff…nothing changes. Timeless = yawn.”

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Actually, those are the only two negative comments that I see. At this moment there are 36 others that are supportive or neutral which is quite heartening!

      Reply
      1. Jovan

        That’s what I meant by “these people”, as in just those two. Though to be fair, anyone who was interested enough to read the whole article is likely to be receptive to its advice and opinions. So the negative comments would naturally number in the few.

        Reply
        1. Peter Marshall

          Very true.

          Reply
      2. wdwright77

        Actually, I expected that the few negatives would be from those working the event as Star dressers who would protest that the client they serve must have some color to show off. Maybe that will come, but as you have said, Men’s Formal Wear must be Black and White. There are very few times when White Tie is called for. Most men will never get to wear it here in the US, as Black Tie does everything properly that we need when dressing formally. It’s only in the guise of Hollywood says that the formula must be messed with. Or as you pointed out, more specifically, the music industry. As the article mentioned, we of the hippie generation finally learned how to put aside all of the craziness, only the call for it never completely disappeared as the celebrity parade shows when the awards shows are on. Overall, though, I am noticing that many singers are not buying into the hype that Formal Wear gets messed with. Young Mr. Timberlake comes to mind quite readily and the ease in which he appears in the tux, especially those photos of him in concerts, show that he as the confidence to pull off the best dress a man can wear.
        For me, I kicked out all of the weirdness in my formal wardrobe a long time ago. Frankly, I look at some of those pictures now, and wonder how I could have spent the money on much of it. (Being young and in my twenties, sowing wild oats comes to mind really fast) Now the only things that are not normal are colors in my bow ties, but for the most part, I wear those for day time and stick to black for the tux. And I find I actually have come to love the look of a semi-butterfly bow tie on me as it works very well with a point collar tux shirt and completes the overall look of the tux I wear very well.

        Reply
  2. Belfagor

    That was an outstanding job of distilling so much history and detail into just a few hundred words.

    Reply
    1. wdwright77

      Actually, if you have done as much research as is possible to write the BTG, the writing of a magazine article comes somewhat easier as you have a ready source to check constantly. (At least this is how I look at the process. Once you do it, it will be easier to do it again)

      Reply
      1. Peter Marshall

        Compressing a 90,000-word web site into a magazine article is actually quite a challenge. Every time I’ve done it I’ve exceeded the requested word count by at least 1,000 but the good part is that every editor has gladly accepted the longer version (sadly, none have agreed to a corresponding increase in payment). I also take time to give each article a different slant even if I’m essentially stating the same basic information.

        Reply
        1. Belfagor

          It’s much harder to be succinct when you know something very well and have so much to say about it. And you succeeded in giving it a different slant — it’s not just a epitome of this site, it has the feeling of something new. Great expository prose

          Reply
          1. Peter Marshall

            Thank you very much.

  3. omschiefslr

    Well done! It was a fun read and right on par to wehat you have been teaching all of us for years.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Thank you.

      Reply
  4. Jovan

    Peter, I’ve shared this article with my friends and they love it. I think they’ve gained a new appreciation for the art of dressing. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      I imagine they could learn a few lessons from you too!

      Reply
      1. Jovan

        Perhaps. It’s rare that I have an occasion to actually discuss menswear with them though.

        Reply
      2. Jovan

        Thank you, by the way!

        Reply
  5. Bill Cleary

    Nice Job Peter.

    Reply
  6. Gil Fox

    Just watched the Oscar ceremonies–I have never seen a larger assemblage of men with money, power and supposed sophistication who apparently knew less about how to dress for a formal occasion (or any occasion) than those at the Oscars. Apparently these days any old dark rumpled suit and bagged out white shirt is acceptable.

    Reply
    1. wdwright77

      I also finished watching the show and fully agree with Mr. Fox: Why so many men who can buy a tuxedo on the drop of a dime, can dress so badly is beyond my comprehension. Now, I will agree that there were many people who dressed properly, and the white dinner jackets worn with proper Black Tie accessories were a nice touch in the sea of black. But the majority of men didn’t even bother to button their jackets, let alone put a proper waist covering on; Those that wore neck ties instead of bow ties degraded the entire look an that crotch of material peering out of the jacket when buttoned showed a total disregard for a proper fitting tuxedo. Maybe the biggest problem is that there are too many costumers out there who think they know what a proper Black Tie look is all about. I suggest they pull a copy of the Slate article and read it page to page; if that does not satisfy, then pull out the authority-BTG-and read it section to section. Overall, it gives everyone of us males out here who save for a long time to buy a tuxedo and wear it properly a chance to say at least we are doing this correctly. Peter, I suspect that the 2014 edition of the Hall Of Shame will have a lot more material in it than any before it, but somehow there has to be a way to fully embarrass those men from Hollywood into seeing that their dress was not unto true Black Tie standard. I don’t know how to do it, but there has to be a way. I mean even Leonardo DiCaprio for crying out loud wore a two-button tux in The Great Gatsby and that wasn’t correct for the time, along with the high vest that looks better on a business suit than a tuxedo.
      As for Ellen, better that she would have gone with a dress as opposed to the tuxedos and suits she wore. I think she made so many clothes swaps it makes runway fashion shows look like they’re in neutral. She also didn’t have the look right, especially that awful Prom tux she had on for a segment. Should have spilled a large Pepperoni on it and got it full of tomato sauce! White doesn’t clean easily and tomato sauce from a pizza on that tux would have been almost priceless!
      I guess I got saved from the worst of it by tuning in late. Missed the run up at 4 o’clock all together. Anyway, I’m hoping that in future telecasts the words of the Black Tie Guide come to haunt these gentlemen and that is the only acceptable color for a tuxedo and its accessories at a FORMAL event is Black (although Midnight Blue due to its ability to look very black under light would pass) and the only acceptable and correct neckwear is a bow tie. And yes you must wear a cummerbund or vest, but never both at the same time! I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned to see what will happen! Meanwhile, kudos to the guys who DID wear Black Tie properly. They are either schooled in how to do it or they did a quick read from Slate!

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        I think the correct answer is that they don’t care anymore; If you have the amount of money of them you can crush the rule whenever you want. Mark Zuckerberg at wall street is the perfect example of our times.

        Reply
        1. wdwright77

          You are very much on target. I do believe the right answer is they just don’t care! BUT, the one night of the year when they are all on parade an very visible should be the one night when they care enough about themselves, let alone what they might win to look their best. I will admit as a tux wearing guy, that I’m comfortable in it, but that confidence came from having tower a tux often enough that it is like a second nature thing to me. On the other hand, I’m not rich, where all these men are. They got that way because they had the confidence to act in a way that led us all to see their films and support their acting. As to Mr. Facebook, he has worn one suit in two years and that was for his wedding. From what I gather, he has never worn a suit when talking to money people, nor did he wear one to open his stock’s account on Wall Street. I often wonder how his appearance came off to those gentlemen, what was their reaction and did his behavior and clothing (that darn hoodie) just cut them down? It goes against what most of us were taught about dressing. So whether it’s Wall Street or the Oscars, it’s a shame that folks like this tend to dismiss how they look. It makes all of us look bad when we follow their trends. Or, whatever happened to guys like Cary Grant that used to set the bar really high in terms of appearance and behavior? Let’s hope the answer comes fairly quickly as I don’t think we can delay trying to correct proper dress and proper behavior. One will always propel the other and dress will always be affected by it. Meanwhile, I think I’ll go suit up in my tuxedo and properly present myself to whatever activity I might want to do tonight.

          Reply
        2. John

          I think there may be some truth in them not caring, but it begs the question: Why do the women still care about their appearance while the men don’t? I can’t believe that vanity is distributed unevenly between the genders in Hollywood!

          Reply
          1. Jovan

            Because somewhere along the line, caring about one’s appearance became “effete” and “gay” (as if those things are necessarily bad) and considered not masculine for some reason. Thankfully the youth of today are playing catch up and getting into traditional menswear, however un-traditional the cuts may be. They care, it’s just not always well executed. ;) But it’s still better than generations of guys in nothing but logo t-shirts and designer jeans.

          2. wdwright77

            I’m not noticing a big change in my area, but then Spokane is not a fashion lover’s paradise. I think overall the idea of getting away from designer jeans and t-shirts is a good one. I am in the process of moving from a house and I think one thing I want to do while in this process is toss darn near every t-shirt I have. Sure they cost me good money, but I’m really trying to break away from that kind of sloppiness for work. Yet, the folks I’m working with to secure new employment all say jeans and t-shirts are the ‘in’ thing. Not for me! I’d prefer to wear suits (and the occasional tuxedo) daily and look professional for what I do. And not just at the interview either. I think that if you go to the trouble of dressing up well,then the job needs to follow and that the boss you work for should be thanking you for respecting him enough to wear a suit. I knowI’m not the only one out there that feels this way, but we seem to be hard to find jobs for.
            Also,if you don’t care about your appearance,you will eventually suffer from not caring. I think I detected this yesterday when I checked on an application I turned in. The hiring manager looked pleased that I had bothered to wear a dress shirt and a bow tie as opposed to just showing up in a standard t-shirt and jeans like most high school types would. So, if I get this job, I will have to think that it was because I went to the trouble of dressing up and looking my best as compared to how everyone else might be looking. As to the vanity angle, I’ll admit I do like dressing up, but then I’m used to wearing dress clothing and tying up a bow tie as well as dealing with all off the fun that goes with dressing good to support my causes. I have found that my causes turn out to be well suited for those around me and dressing up just reinforces all of this; in short it is good and I should do it. And yes, I agree with everything you say, especially the last part about how it’s better to dress up than appear in the standard hum-drum clothing that is not a suitable choice for all that you do. Dress well and everything else will follow soon for later.

  7. Minnesotaboy2

    Peter —

    Another honor, well deserved.

    Reply

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