Formal wear for men is supposed to be simple – black and white, figuratively and literally. I speak of the tuxedo, starched and butterfly-bowtied. The major debate? Whether it’s acceptable for that tie to be a “jazzy” colour (it’s not. Not even at Christmas).
Tux, tails, or something similar has been the after-dark uniform of every gentleman for more than a century. It still looks modern – clock the monochrome-clad dandies of Victorian paintings. They could be swanning about a soirée today.
However, there’s a caveat. The tuxedo may be a not-so-modern classic, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Namely, it doesn’t suit me. An ill-proportioned man (polite terminology for “short arse”) looks a mess in a tux. I have a perpetual fear of resembling a prepubescent usher from the provincial weddings of my youth. Either that, or a ventriloquist’s dummy, especially when pitching up next to similarly attired but much taller guests – particularly evident at the British Fashion Awards, which I attended last week.
The concern? That was merely the first in the month-long series of Yuletide events that firmly imply, or even formally demand, evening dress. For men, is there really no viable alternative to black tie at Black Tie events?
I ended up in a leopard pyjama-style jacket and tapestry overcoat, like a cross between Albert Steptoe and Hugh Heffner. Surrounded by dapper gents in black tie,
I stood out like a stubby sore thumb. But oddly, I was more comfortable than in a variation on the Penguin Suit. Maybe that says more about me than it does about most men’s evening habits, though.