Why are men such a let-down at the Oscars?

Steven Spielberg is super-wealthy. But did he have to show off about it by wearing elements from all his posh outfits at the same time?

There he was at the 67th Annual Academy Awards wearing a lilac straight tie intended perhaps for some Los Angeles wedding-in-the-back-garden type do, the wing-collared shirt meant for a traditional dinner jacket, a questionable waistcoat that went with neither of the above, plus a lounge lizard's low-slung satin-lapelled tuxedo jacket which was clearly part of another outfit altogether.

"Oscar" dressing has smartened up in recent years as far as female Hollywood stars are concerned. These days, the sartorial disasters are in menswear, as actors and the designers who supply them attempt to jazz up what is meant by "Black Tie".

Think of John Travolta and Tom Hanks, who were in turns overdone and underdone on Monday night. Travolta turned up in a rag-tag mix of his own making which included a horribly misused Agns b jacket, Hugo Boss waistcoat, Armani shirt and according to LA agent trousers which were "indeterminate". Hanks (in Valentino) looked as if he had forgotten something. As David Letterman (looking acceptable in a classic, angular Forties-style dinner jacket by Giorgio Armani) asked Hanks, "Would it kill you to have worn a tie?"

"Black tie" means you should wear a tie and it should be black and tied in a bow. The effect is that a man looks elegant, refined and understated. For that is the point. Black tie is meant to be a quiet foil to the exuberant dresses of the women in the room.

Of course, Hollywood is a warm place. A wing collar and bow tie doubtless get a bit scratchy over an interminable evening. But the chaps should put up with it. A tight collar is nothing in the discomfort stakes compared with a corsetted bodice with 30 metres of gunmetal silk satin attached to it. But did you see the stunning Sigourney Weaver in Christian Lacroix couture looking as if she was complaining?

The day after the Oscars, the world's heavyweight designers sent out faxes boasting of whom they had dressed. In some cases, they should have kept mum. So "Nul Points" too for Giorgio Armani for Bob Zemeckis, director of Forrest Gump, whose cummerbund rode so high over his trousers it looked like the top of a satin skirt. Richard Tyler scores booby-prize points for having both Spielberg and Tim Robbins, the latter in a lurex midnight- blue bar room tux and slimy black shirt on his list.

It was left to the old guard to demonstrate how formal wear should be worn. Enter Paul Newman, who looked impeccable in a dinner jacket that called attention to the man rather than the clothes. Ditto Tommy Lee Jones, whose handmade tux was a perfect, flattering fit.

Back in the heyday of Hollywood style, actors wore clothes that flattered them, thanks to the skills of Savile Row. Cary Grant and Fred Astaire, two of the best-dressed men ever, were both customers of "the Row", and they always looked perfect - despite the fact that Astaire was slight and Grant had rounded shoulders. Both "problems" were ironed out by skilful tailoring. Perhaps John Travolta, should take a trip down Savile Row when he comes to London for the Bafta awards.

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