“In a tuxedo I’m a star. In regular clothes, I’m a nobody.”
– Dean Martin
Like a worldly and complex gentleman himself, the tuxedo has evolved through many phases in its life to become the luxurious piece of custom formalwear it is today. From it’s aristocratic debut at the Autumn Ball in Tuxedo Park, New York in the late 1800’s, to the addition of crisp white bellbottoms circa 1970 (think John Travolta), to the slim cut that populates the contemporary red carpet today, the tuxedo has had many moments, both subtle and outrageous.
Follow along while the Michael Andrews Bespoke team outlines its rise to notoriety.
What we call the tuxedo today likely got its North American moniker in the 1890’s, where it became a favourite among the glitterati attending Autumn Ball in Tuxedo Park, a small enclave in southeast New York, populated by many socialites and prosperous American families. By some accounts, it was originally adopted by a younger crowd, considered a rebellious alternative to the more formal British-style evening wear, but eventually came to be accepted by the mainstream upperclassmen as well. At this time, the tuxedo was typically black with a shawl collar, two or no buttons, and paired with a crisp white shirt and trousers.
How that version of the tuxedo trickled its way into the rest of the country’s wardrobe is somewhat contentious, with a rabbit hole of conflicting theories, but somehow, by the early 20th century, the tuxedo had gained even more popularity for formal events. A peaked lapel had become more common, as did the use of a single button and black accessories.
Following a brief hiatus in popularity during World War One, formal dress once again came back into vogue for the 1930’s and with it a youthful sense of style disruption. During this time we began to see midnight blue, along with grey, make an appearance. Midnight blue, in fact, started to rival the traditional black and for a brief time outweighed the amount of black tuxedo wool being produced in mills entirely. The double-breasted style became popular as well during this period, long-considered too casual for formal evening events.
The formal tux continued its evolution into the 1940’s, where Humphrey Bogart made his notoriously crisp and breezy white version a mainstay. Particularly in warmer seasons or climates, a white tuxedo jacket paired with black trousers became a stylish staple in many a gentleman’s wardrobe.
The 1960’s and 1970’s saw some modern twists on formalwear, introducing new materials like polyester, more intricate patterns and colours and a shorter, more fitted jacket altogether. The 1970’s in particular saw some outrageously bold styles, led by a stylish counterculture that longed for more freedom in formalwear. These included oversized bowties, bright colours, even ruffles. Of course, who could forget John Travolta’s iconic white bellbottomed version?
But by the 1980’s, Saturday Night Fever was all but forgotten and tux-goers started to adopt a more conservative look, which lingered into the 90’s and early 2000’s. Dark colours, slim cuts and minimal accessories were once again the go-to for black tie.
At Michael Andrews Bespoke, we see the tuxedo entering somewhat of a golden age. Many of the sartorially-inclined gentlemen today are recognizing the value of custom formalwear, with some period dramas such as Mad Men inspiring a return to the classic styles of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Midnight blue has made a comeback, as well as the desire for neater, crisper styles.
Sharp, suave and undeniably transforming, the tuxedo is a must for the modern gentleman’s closet. Its evolution has been documented by icons across both the silver screen and the literary page, and our team has a keen eye for the subtle trend changes that make the world of men’s style so dynamic.
We’ll even let you know if ruffles come back into vogue.