It's not often that I write about evening wear, given it's near total lack of relevance to my own life. But in the past few weeks I've been using this photo, recently taken for the AAW Shop, for various purposes, and it's got me thinking.
To begin with, the tuxedo is a vintage one dating from the early 1960s, year round wool with satin faced shawl collar, two button cuffs and single pleated pants. It's by After Six, a name by now so synonymous with cheap rental monkey suits as to make one gag. Funny thing is, this suit reminds me that After Six might not have been so bad in the old days. I sometimes find old Joseph A. Bank stuff from the 60s that throws me for a similar loop. Sooner than we think, we'll likely be saying the same things about Brooks Brothers.
The tie is vintage 1960s Brooks Brothers. I'm not generally one to advocate anything other than a black bow with evening clothes, but I like the look of the tiny white pin dots here. It turns the formality down a half a notch, in a good way. But it's the shirt, a plain white pinpoint with with a spread collar, crisp and clean, but certainly not a formal shirt, that has me thinking.
My mannequin, Bill, always wears a white shirt, because it makes it easy to photograph any type of jacket or suit. His tie changes from time to time, but not his shirt. So when I had a tux to photograph, I was set. I chose this tie over my own black satin evening bow because it was narrow, more in keeping with the cut of the lapels. Though the shirt and tie may not be technically formal, I have to admit I like this look.
It reminds me of a time when evening clothes were worn frequently...in the evening, to dinner, or shows, or just house parties. It reminds of a time when men were comfortable in these clothes. It reminds of a time when these clothes were known as "semi-formal". It brings the tuxedo one step closer to any other suit and tie combination, while still maintaining all the aspects that make it a special outfit. It's black and white, clean and simple, a bit shiny here and there, and quiet counterpoint to showcase the ladies clothes. The shirt may not be pleated or closed with studs, but as long as it has French cuffs I think its fine. Polished, matte finish black oxfords, rather than patent pumps, would finish the job. This may seem like blasphemy, but think of all the photos you've seen of guys in tuxes with plaid pants or tartan jackets. Same idea, but I like this better. Save the tartan stuff strictly for Christmas and Bobby Burns parties.
In a tux like this, not-quite-all-the-way-formal, a guy could actually ride around town in a taxi, hitting bars, shows, restaurants and parties, in comfort and style. Just by softening up the details a bit, a tux actually becomes...wearable? It could be something a guy has and wears with some frequency, rather than some stiff ugly thing worn only to functions he'd rather not attend only to be returned the next morning.
Bring back the barely formal, regularly worn tuxedo. Who's with me?