Hall of Shame: Bad Plaid

(Michael Henninger/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

(Michael Henninger/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

So often the best arguments for traditional formal wear are the arguments against it.  This excerpt from a recent article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette could be a carbon copy of similar proclamations written since the 1960s, all featuring outfits that were quickly dispensed to history’s rubbish bin.

For far too long, formal dress for men has meant one thing: the penguin suit. No matter the fabric, cut or price, black suits and white shirts pretty much all look the same in evening light. While there will always be a place for the classic tuxedo . . . there is a growing trend toward self-expression and a less traditional approach to black-tie dressing.

The article goes on to say that Pittsburgh has its share of well-dressed men “who aren’t afraid to buck convention”. Some of the examples it presents are quite tasteful, others not so much.  Like her journalist predecessors before her, the writer may have been entranced by the luxury brand names behind the garments – like the Burrbery number below – but wiser observers are well aware that high price doesn’t always translate into good taste. No doubt such pearls of sartorial wisdom will continue until the end of time, or the end of the tuxedo, whichever comes first.

(John Heller/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

(John Heller/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)


  1. Jovan

    “Penguin suit”? Really? Is that the best they could do?

    They look as if they discovered tailored clothing for the first time… and have no idea what they are doing. Once one masters the basics they can safely and subtly bend the rules.

    1. wdwright77

      Jovan, see my reply re: penguin suit. I really dislike the term. I put up with it, but I don’t like the way it’s usually said. You’re right on your other point though about tailored clothing and bending the rules. The big idea though is to know the rules before bending them. And as you point out, Subtle changes are always best.

  2. Hal

    That Burberry check outift is hideous. I’m guessing that they haven’t heard of chavs in Pittsburgh, but this is the kind of look that nearly killed the brand.

  3. Carlos Zorrilla

    Oh my god! The seventies are still casting their hideous shadows until this day.

  4. Cajetan

    I honestly think that these are great outfits.

    It is good to see that the clowns’ profession is flourishing. Looking forward to my next visit to the circus.

  5. wdwright77

    First off, no man should refer to his tuxedo as a ‘Penguin Suit.” It besmirches the tuxedo as a whole and makes one wonder if the gent wearing it was fighting to not wear it. (That is never the case with me, as I love wearing any of my tuxedos)
    When I first saw the headline eon this edition of the Blog, I immediately thought of those tux jackets that were plaid, worn with black tuxedo trousers and a black bow tie and cummerbund. But then I looked at the photo that accompanied the article and I saw where the article was going. The red vest and the plaid vest look extremely out of place. While they may have been worn at a Holiday gathering, they would be out of place most any other time. As to self-expression, I think there are ways that you can extend the look of Black Tie providing you keep most of the outfit intact. This does include the velvet jacket during winter and the white DJ during the summer. But what should not be included are trousers and bow tie like the second photo-the khaki colored one-and above all, don’t lower the higher standard off the tuxedo by choosing to wear jeans with it, Skipping the wing collar is ok but skipping either a vest or cummerbund is not. As Peter has pointed out many times, the waist in Black Tie has to be covered to look right. I love the fact that the younger people are starting to dress up as a rebellious slap to our generation. However, I myself, never quit dressing up despite what friends may have said about it; most of the time though, I find a lot of my female friends playing with my accessories and running their fingers through my tux or handling my bow and to me that makes it all worthwhile.
    Yes, you need to have a great deal of events where a tux is required to afford buying one, but a gentleman does not wear someone else’s clothes after eighteen. Buying a tuxedo is the best investment clothing wise a man can buy. The immediate impact of wearing it and looking for reasons to wear it make it all worthwhile. Despite what many men seem to think, a tuxedo truly belongs in the closet, ready to go places when necessary and ready to make a man look his absolute best and feel his absolute best. But what doesn’t need to happen is to wear it the wrong way with the wrong accessories etc. As to the 70’s, having survived it myself, I like to think that getting rid of all of that 70’s formal wear was the BEST Thing I ever did and that does include the ivory with brown lapels and the powder blue tuxedos, all of the ruffled shirts (Although I wish I still had a narrow ruffled shirt trimmed in black) and most especially that gawd awful peach colored tux I bought because I wore it in a choir. And believe me, that last paragraph shows a lot of guts to admit I owned any of that era. Let’s just hope that today’s men do not stray from the tried and true BLACK tuxedo at all.

    1. Qwerty

      I would say that the black tuxedo could be replaced with a smoking jacket and black trousers, an off-white dinner jacket and midnight-blue or black trousers, or a midnight blue tuxedo. The rest of the comment I completely agree with, however.


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