2014 Academy Awards Red Carpet

Part of an ongoing series spotlighting the (in)ability of the men on the red carpet to capture the timeless elegance and sophisticated equivalence of black tie, whether through careful adherence to its conventions or skilful manipulation of them. (Readers unfamiliar with the standards of successful black tie may want to first check out A Field Guide to Tuxedos.)

(Ethan Miller / Getty)

(Ethan Miller / Getty)

The 2014 Oscars were a reflection of the conservative red-carpet trends we’ve been seeing for the past few years.  One-button jackets and proper bow ties are holding their own and it even seems possible that the notch lapel is starting to lose ground.  Well, at least among the celebs: minor players still can’t get enough of notch lapels, two buttons and long ties. Also continuing is the regrettable preference for skintight suits, low pants and uncovered waists.

Exceptional

The following examples demonstrate the tuxedo’s potential fulfilled, illustrating why black tie has been unequalled in its ability to transform a man and inspire an evening for over a century.

12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor in a Rake tuxedo. (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

12 Years a Slave star Chiwetel Ejiofor in a Rake tuxedo. (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

Lone Ranger star Armie Hammer.  (David Livingston Getty Images)

Lone Ranger star Armie Hammer at the Vanity Fair party. (David Livingston Getty Images)

Jon Hamm (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Jon Hamm (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Ryan Seacrest in Burberry (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Ryan Seacrest in Burberry.  There were a number of white dinner jackets on the red carpet but Seacrest shows how to do it right.  (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Commendable

Admirable efforts.  Excluded from the highest honours due to minor shortcomings but nonetheless very respectable examples for the average man to emulate.

(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Bradley Cooper (in Tom Ford) missed the best dressed list only because his suit’s fit wasn’t up to his usual standards.  (Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Chace Crawford in Girogio Armani (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Actor Chace Crawford adds tasteful variation with subtle texture in his Giorgio Armani tuxedo. (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Matthew McConaughey in ivory Dolce & Gabbana (Axelle / Bauer-Griffin)

The fit of Matthew McConaughey’s ivory and black Dolce & Gabbana is elegant, if not quite up to Seacrest’s example.  (Axelle Woussen / Bauer-Griffin)

Brad Pitt returns to the ranks of the well-dressed thanks partly to his Tom Ford tuxedo.

Brad Pitt returns to the ranks of the well-dressed thanks partly to his Tom Ford tuxedo.

Harrison Ford in Giorgio Armani. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Harrison Ford in Giorgio Armani. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Michael Fassbender in Tom Ford (ABC / Rick Rowell)

Michael Fassbender’s Tom Ford could fit a bit better but at least he wore a waist covering. (ABC / Rick Rowell)

Ben Affleck (Alberto E. Rodriguez /  WireImage)

Ben Affleck is surprisingly well dressed considering his poor track record.  (Alberto E. Rodriguez / WireImage)

Joseph Gordon Levitt in Calvin Klein (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Like Chace Crawford, Joseph Gordon-Levitt also shows off a bit of texture in his Calvin Klein tuxedo. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Tom Ford in a more low-key take on blue.  Maybe not kosher for the red carpet but perfectly suitable for the after party. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Tom Ford in a blue velvet dinner jacket. Maybe not kosher for the red carpet but perfectly suitable for the after party. (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

Debatable

Tastefully off the mark. Thought-provoking variations not necessarily recommended for viewers at home.  Most likely to be chosen “best dressed” by fashionistas who neglect to put the outfit in context.

burgundy

The boys in burgundy: Former NFLer Michael Strahan, actor Joshua Jackson in Berluti, Thor star Chris Hemsworth in David August.  While definitely dressy (if somewhat busy), these ensembles don’t offer the same formality of a conventional tuxedo.  (Frazer Harrison / Getty Images, (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images, uncredited)

Tyler Perry in Martin Katz (Jason Merritt / Getty Images) Jeremey Renner Riccardo Tisci tuxedo (ABC / Rick Rowell)

White tie contingent: Writer/director Tyler Perry in Martin Katz and actor Jeremey Renner in Riccardo Tisci.  White bow ties work very well with open tailcoats, matching white vests and tall detachable collars but with the more informal black-tie outfit they just disappear into the shirt. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images, ABC / Rick Rowell)

Neil Patrick Harris (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Neil Patrick Harris.  Grey has been a popular alternative as of late but while it may make for an interesting suit it can’t provide the dramatic contrast and intrigue that black or very dark blue does.  (Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images)

Jared leto (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Jared Leto’s Saint Laurent ivory jacket is fine . . . if you can get past the bright bow tie and cascading locks. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Kevin Spacey in Burberry.  Midnight blue evening wear, yes.  Royal blue, no.  (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Kevin Spacey in Burberry. Midnight blue evening wear, yes. Royal blue, no. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Forgettable

More insipid than inspired. Examples of bland execution that will hopefully inspire others to step up their game.

Leonardo DiCaprio in Armani (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Leonardo DiCaprio (in Armani) traded up his usual long tie but but traded down his usual peak lapel jacket. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Jonah Hill (ABC / Rick Rowell)

Jonah Hill demonstrates the tuxedo as business suit. (ABC / Rick Rowell)

Zac Efron in character as a well-dressed accountant.  Yawn. (Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP)

Zac Efron in character as a formal accountant. (Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP)

Regrettable

Good intentions, bad choices.

Bill Murray ( Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Bill Murray sports a bright green pre-tied bow tie and a suit that creases like it was made out of linen. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Will Smith (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

It seems that every red carpet has at least one guy that thinks he can do without a tie.  This year that guy is Will Smith. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Kellan Lutz (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Actor Kellan Lutz’s suit is ridiculously tight (a highly impractical choice when wearing French cuffs) and festooned with at least one too many accents. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Ewan McGregor appears to have picked up his suit from the women's department.  (Kevork Djansezian / Getty, Jon Kopaloff / Getty)

Ewan McGregor appears to have picked up his suit from the women’s department. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty, Jon Kopaloff / Getty)

Laughable

Hall of Shame candidates.  The most blatant bastardizations and sophomoric interpretations of formal convention, whether due to naïve ignorance or smug self-importance.  The results denigrate both the wearer and the occasion.

Chritian Bale in Dolce & Gabbana (ABC / Rick Rowell)

Christian Bale (in Dolce & Gabbana) is back to his usual look of a bland and dishevelled mass of black. (ABC / Rick Rowell)

U2 (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Believe it or not, this is remarkably tasteful red-carpet attire for U2. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Pharrell (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Pharrell continues to fight for attention with his wife rather than take the chivalric high road offered by proper men’s formal wear.  (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Joseph Luft (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Judy Garland’s son Joseph Luft in full prom mode. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Jim Carrey (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Jim Carrey has never been known for tasteful restraint. (Kevin Winter / Getty Images)

Special Mention

ellen_degeneres

Host Ellen DeGeneres wore three tuxedo suits designed by Saint Laurent as a nod to their revolutionary Le Smoking from 1966.

Filmmaker Shuhei Morita in traditional Japanese formal attire.  (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

Filmmaker Shuhei Morita in traditional Japanese formal attire. (Jason Merritt / Getty Images)

41 Comments

  1. Adam Williamson

    I’d love to know who decided flapped hip pockets on a dinner jacket could be improved by simply…adding a jetted ticket pocket(?!) See Will Smith and Joshua Jackson. I think Will Smith did the no-tie thing about as well as it’s possible to do it, though – at least he had something black up there.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      I agree that Smith’s outfit looks very sharp, just not very formal.

      Reply
  2. omschiefslr

    Of the Burgundy Bunch, Chris Helmsworth’s dinner suit actually works for me. Tasteful styling, proper waistcoat, black self tie bow and enough black in the suit to make it work.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      I agree that it’s the most tasteful. I would have liked to see it with the jacket closed, though. Most men who wear a waistcoat just can’t seem to resist the urge to show it off which often ends up making the overall outfit look busier than it needs to be.

      Reply
  3. Dan

    What’s wrong with the fit of Bradley Cooper’s tux? Jacket too tight?

    Reply
    1. Adam Williamson

      It’s not exactly that it’s too tight, but it’s just not very well fit. He’s got gorilla arms going on – if you look at the shape across the arms and shoulders, it’s like a long continuous convex curve, which isn’t entirely what you’re going for. You really want the shoulder to extend a bit further and give a clearer and more dramatic separation between the horizontal line across the shoulder and the vertical line down the arms. Comparing to the others standing in similar poses, Tyler Perry has the same problem; Ryan Seacrest’s looks a lot better, as does Neil Patrick Harris’ (in pure *fit* terms, the style is horrible). Kevin Spacey might be the best comparison – he’s got his right arm in his pocket and slightly curved, which is definitely a pose that’d show off this problem if he had it, but there’s still a nice clear distinction between the shoulder line and arm line. His might even be a tad too wide across the shoulder, but that’s probably a better direction to go wrong in than ‘too narrow’. (He has the same problem with not having any space for his gigantic watch under his suit and shirt sleeves, and his pants don’t have the best fit…hum, another one that looked better live on TV than it does in the photos.)

      The sleeves are badly wrinkled, which is probably both part of the problematic fit across the shoulders and maybe also because the pitch is off, and you can see the telltale X shaped wrinkles across the buttoning point indicating the fit there is too tight. The jacket sleeve doesn’t really look wide enough for the watch to fit under it neatly. The pants look slightly tight around the crotch/thigh and loose around the knee/ankle (which isn’t entirely surprising if they’re off the rack pants; he’s an in-shape guy, and OTR pants tend to be cut for the less well-exercised :>)

      That’s my amateur diagnosis, anyway :)

      It’s certainly not horrible, just not as good as the really great ones. The style is perfect.

      Reply
      1. Peter Marshall

        What he said. Cooper’s tuxedos at the 2014 Golden Globes and 2012 Golden Globes showing Cooper drape much more smoothly and show some shirt cuff too.
        2014 Golden Globes

        Reply
        1. Adam Williamson

          Oh, if you want to compare one that’s just flat-out *tight*, Kellan Lutz’s is the one to look at. Cooper: incorrect fit. Neil Patrick Harris: correctly fit slim cut. Lutz: insanely, ridiculously tight.

          Reply
  4. PizzaMannetje (@pizzaman79)

    I really like the Kevin Spacey version. Only things where I doubted is shawl collar to make it more smoking-typical and braids. Black braids on blue trousers give it a bit of a uniform feeling. But on the picture it’s not visible if he has braids.

    Reply
    1. Adam Williamson

      Yeah, I thought Spacey looked great too. Ejiofor is just impeccable. Brad Pitt looked great on TV, but now I see the still pictures his jacket looks a bit too big. Still nice, though.

      Reply
      1. Peter Marshall

        Although Spacey’s outfit is tasteful, the hue is too bright for black tie. It’s grandstanding when it should be harmonizing with the evening setting and the tuxedoed guests. That’s the thing with tasteful variations of black tie: they often look great in a solo shot on the red carpet but don’t hold up when part of a formal crowd.

        Reply
        1. Adam Williamson

          When I look at the static pictures of Spacey I’m not as keen, indeed (see above comment). But on TV it came across pretty well, I think. He may have picked the color with how it would look on TV, rather than how it would look in real life, in mind? It seems to come across much darker on TV.

          Reply
          1. PizzaMannetje (@pizzaman79)

            The color on the picture is probably not only influenced by the brightness of tha flash, but also the cold hue.

            The way it looks on the picture, maybe this one shouldn’t be compared to the midnight blue that is meant to look deeper than black, but to a burgundy jacket or the blue velvet one Tom Ford was wearing. In that regard I prefer the way it looks on the picture. In the video it looks a bit washed out greyish imho.

  5. Anonymous

    In the long tie brigade i could mention to Benedict Cumberbatch: one bottom, SELF FACED peaked lapel, besom pockets, waistcoat and whole cut shoes, looks sharp in a black suit. The only objection they should have used a windsor knot.
    http://www.justjared.com/photo-gallery/3064034/benedict-cumberbatch-oscars-2014-red-carpet-01/fullsize/

    Reply
    1. Hal

      Surely should have made sure his tie knot hadn’t slipped is what you mean…

      Reply
    2. aalpern

      It’s quite subtle, but Cumberbatch’s jacket wasn’t self-faced – it was grosgrain, and his necktie is actually in matching grosgrain! I saw a closeup shot where this was clear – I’ll try to find it and update when I do.

      I was impressed with the grosgrain – I much prefer it to satin, it’s just a shame he ruined it with a long tie instead of a bow, and a waistcoat that’s too tall.

      Reply
        1. Anonymous

          What a pity! there is no worse combination than faced lapels with long ties. for a moment i thought that was a one button peaked lapel suit seen this days.

          Reply
  6. Hal

    By far the best review of the black tie on offer at the Oscars I’ve seen. I can understand the praise for the dramatic outliers of black tie that I’ve seen in many other run downs (Pharrell Williams, Will Smith and Jared Leto) who’ve done something dramatic that is bound to catch the eye of the jaded fashion journalist looking for extra copy, what I find harder to understand is the praise lavished on someone like Leonardo di Caprio, whose suit was astonishingly pedestrian and was not, as it has been repeatedly referred to as, ‘classic black tie’.

    That said, I also saw the Guardian newspaper, I think, talking about Chiwetel Ejiofor wearing a double breasted dinner jacket – which suggests they may not actually have bothered looking before typing their copy.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      I don’t get the Leo DiCaprio thing either. GQ listed both him and Zac Efron as two of their top ten when everyone else on their list dressed far better.

      Reply
      1. Adam Williamson

        I think Leo’s going all-in for Ivy League (trad) at the moment, which is…well, I mean, I guess it’s a look. I’m not fond of it, but I think that’s what he’s doing. I don’t know if any of the East Coast newspapers actually employs anyone who’s enough of a stick-in-the-mud trad type to truly consider the trad version to be ‘classic black tie’, though, it’s much more likely they simply haven’t a clue what they’re talking about…

        Reply
        1. Jovan

          I’m not certain what a two button notch lapel tuxedo has to do with Ivy League or Trad? Especially considering the “Trad” brands like J. Press, Brooks Brothers, and O’Connells offer proper jackets.

          Reply
          1. Adam Williamson

            I’ve seen quite a few two button notch lapel tuxes from those brands. http://www.brooksbrothers.com/mens/formalwear/0235,default,sc.html?lid=topnav-menu , for e.g., shows BB currently selling several *three* button tuxedos, a two-button in velvet, and a ton of notch lapels. They do have some in correct classic styles too, to be fair.

  7. John

    Sorry, Peter – and not to pick on Toronto (well, maybe that’s not entirely true), but I did see Mayor Rob Ford on Jimmy Kimmel’s post-Oscars show where he demonstrated how wearing one’s trousers at one’s hips – despite wearing a waist covering – can leave a wide swath of shirt exposed. A lesson for us all!

    Here’s a picture from the Toronto Sun:
    RoFo tuxedo

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      You have every right to pick on Torontonians. Our crack-smoking, binge-drinking, lying, homophobic, gangbanging, semi-literate, law-scoffing, bullying excuse for a mayor still had a 43% approval rating as of February which is a very sad commentary on many of the citizens of this great city. At first this clown’s antics were amusing, then sad, and now that he’s cursing out our chief of police in public and taunting the chief to arrest him, he’s downright appalling. (Sorry, I just had to vent.)

      Reply
  8. Rafael

    I think Morito should come up pretty highly among the best dressed this year. And I think it should inspire Mr. Marshall to present some research on formal dress in other cultures from the bisht to the kimono.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Funny you should mention that. I’ll be adding an in-depth primer om Japanese formal wear to the Guide later this month.

      Reply
      1. Hal

        Excellent. I think there is definitely room for more about equivalent formal wear traditions and I look forward to it (even if I’m unlikely to have to wear traditional Japanese dress soon).

        Reply
        1. Peter Marshall

          I’d like to feature more of this too but I’m at the mercy of volunteer members of, or experts on, other cultures to write the features.

          Reply
  9. Jovan

    You know, I like a lot of these actors, but wish I had the opportunity to dress them. Men of such gravitas as Benedict Cumberbatch would look stunning in traditional black tie. They deserve better.

    I find it unfortunate that Ellen Degeneres’ tuxedo seems to be well fitted, yet has a pre-tied bow with the fastening blatantly visible around the tiny wing collar. I get that women are allowed a few frills in adapting menswear to a women’s figure, but there’s still a right (or at least better) way to do anything.

    Reply
  10. Angela Spell

    Dear Blog Master Peter, I’m a devoted female follower, having fun learning from this blog in the interest of mastering the timeless elegance of classic Black Tie… which I look forward to practicing as a more knowledgeable consultant to dress the men in my life, as well as myself! So, I’d appreciate if you’d help me because I truly want to understand. Why is Ben Affleck not in your top dressed category?… And, what’s wrong with Harrison Ford’s presentation, sleeves too long / no shirt cuff showing?… Please advise, thank you, Sir.

    Reply
    1. Adam Williamson

      Just to give the obvious: flap pockets, two buttons, his build would look better with wider lapels (though at least he matched the lapel and bow tie size), left sleeve’s too long, pants are far too long. Not a bad effort, but not top-tier.

      Harrison Ford’s looks rather nice to me – the sleeves are a tad long, yeah, and the buttoning point on the jacket is a bit high and you can see his shirt behind it. But that’s pretty small beer. Right pant leg looks a bit messy but that’s probably just because of the pose.

      Reply
      1. Peter Marshall

        Angela, the reasons for Affleck’s exclusion are just as Adam noted. Harrison Ford was a much closer call as he can only be slighted for sleeves that are too long (even longer than some of the best dressed guys that I let get away for not showing shirt cuff) and an extra jacket button which is a relatively minor infraction. I also saw in other photos that he didn’t have a waist covering but for all I know neither did the men I listed as the best dressed (they just managed to hide it better). Like I said in my category description, these outfits may not be perfect but they’re still very worthy examples for the average man to emulate.

        You can use my description of the “Ultimate Ensemble” in A Field Guide to Tuxedos as a checklist of all the factors that are required to be considered the best dressed.

        Reply
        1. Adam Williamson

          At least in the photo you posted of Ford, I don’t see a second button? It just looks like a one button with a relatively high buttoning point. Don’t see one in http://www.justjared.com/2014/03/02/harrison-ford-calista-flockhart-oscars-2014-red-carpet/ either, where I think it’d show if there was one.

          Reply
          1. Peter Marshall

            You’re right – my mistake.

          2. Jovan

            I wish modern manufacturers would stop treating single button suits and dinner jackets as a two button with the bottom one removed. :-/ It really throws off the balance, especially with low rise trousers.

  11. Belfagor

    Looks like flat silk shoelaces are gaining popularity as well (and mostly with those at the top of the list). There’s something to be said for continuing the uniqueness of evening attire all the way down to the laces

    Reply
  12. omschiefslr

    Regarding Tom Ford’s Royal/midnight blue velvet DJ, he always tailors his clothes too tightly. What is worse for me is that while relaxed and standing straight up with the DJ buttoned his sleeves are way too short.

    I continue to have this debate with my tailor. He likes shirt cuffs to show 1/4 inch. I prefer 1/2 inch. The debate continues regarding whether cuff links should show beyond a properly tailored sleeve. My tailor says never.

    When the outstretched hand is offered for a shake, one may see the links in my opinion. When sitting and the arm is bent, I like the links to show.

    Back to Tom Ford. If he is sitting or offering his hand for a shake one would see beyond the cuff and partly up the arm. He is a great designer and tends to make himself look like Pee Wee Herman. I love the velvet DJ. I just wish it fit him better.

    Reply
    1. Jovan

      I actually agree. His clothes are pretty nice and have classic proportions in the lapels, button stance, gorge, etc. for a modern designer, if overpriced. (I realize they’re made by Zegna but their own equivalent offerings, quality wise, don’t cost enough to justify the huge markup.) I wish his jackets would stop pulling at the waist button. A lot of other guys wearing Tom Ford wear it better than he does, which is a bit embarrassing in all honesty. In particular Daniel Craig’s suits, in spite of the odd looking pagoda shoulders, were very nicely tailored in Quantum of Solace.

      Reply
  13. Mellie

    I love Jim Carrey’s blue jacket. It’s him. Black tie tuxedos are boring …. I like those that take risks.

    Reply
    1. Peter Marshall

      Then be sure to check out the Guide’s Hall of Shame. You’ll find plenty of risks there!

      Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>