The age of black tie being a stuffy, strict dress code has really disappeared recently. As tastes have lent themselves more towards the kitschy, quirky and alternative, the tuxedo has moved with it.
These days, unless the dress code is marked as formal or strict black tie – or the bride and groom specify – you can have a bit more fun with the Tuxedo. Perhaps it’s a vintage do, calling for velvets and paisleys, or something a little more modern and sharp, calling for slim fits and sharp lapels.
The Tuxedo has a long, illustrious history, stemming back to the 1860s and the fashionable Prince of Wales – later King Edward the 7th. He had a strong interest in clothes, and, being in such public eye, set some of the biggest trends in menswear.
No sooner had he swaggered up with those peak lapels and a deep, navy blue satin jacket – with, unusually for the time, no tails – than the entire country flocked to follow. And that’s right – it was dark blue, not black at all.
In time, this became known as the Dinner Jacket, something that the upperclasses wore in their leisure time over drinks. In America, it became the Tuxedo. Steadily, it became an icon of the sophisticated individual, with that familiar black jacket, satin lapels, white shirt and black bow tie becoming a quintessential look for a successful man-about-town.
However, it was the 50s and 60s where the look came into its own. Suddenly people were donning elaborate checks, velvets and paisleys, with contrasting lapels, frilly shirts, big bow ties and more, regardless of black tie restrictions. It was an age of sartorial rebellion!
This is something that, with the rise of quirkier weddings, is more fitting than ever. You can now suit up in all manner of checked and velvet tuxedo jackets. The only real constant in a tuxedo jacket is now having contrast lapels in satin or grosgrain, usually in black – which gives you a huge amount of flexibility.
For a kitschy style, suit up in a colourful, glamorous velvet. This is a real icon; velvet was rocked by all manner of celebrities during the silver age of Hollywood, from Vincent Price to Hugh Hefner, and perfectly fits the more alternative groom or best man.
If you want something even more unique, there are plenty of options. Floral textures, bright checks and even psychedelia. Try a touch of lurex for a glittery feel, or something with a paisley print to really set yourself beyond expectations.
You needn’t see black tie as something stuffy and restrictive. If done properly, it can be something truly unique – after all, it all started with one man setting out in satin to make a statement. Join the ranks of royalty, or get a Gatsby look; the dress code is an opportunity, not a restriction.
Of course, if you’re a guest, make sure you get the bride and groom’s permission first; nobody wants to be upstaged on their big day!