October 15, 2012

The Tuxedo Through American History Pt. 2

Ryan Gosling reliving the counterculture era by wearing colored tuxedos (via barefoot-duchess.blogspot.com)

In my previous article, I discussed the birth and evolution of the tuxedo to the 1930′s and what men’s formal attire was popular prior to that time. We also found out who made the tuxedo and from where it was made, as well as its informal alternate options.

After reading part one, you have probably become somewhat conversant in the tuxedo’s importance in American society. However, there are many more facts that have to be addressed.

During the years of the Second Great War, formal wear such as tuxedos were, for the most part, discarded. A possibility of why this happened can be attributed to the millions of male enlistees, leaving women to take the jobs that their husbands would normally hold. Also, during the depression, many Americans couldn’t even afford necessities like food and water, let alone things like fancy parties and tuxedos. However, it was around 1945 when the war was over, that tuxedos re-emerged as a formal wear fashion trend.

With the tuxedo’s comeback, more and more American men started to buy and wear them. By the prosperous period of the 1950′s, the tuxedo’s exclusivity to wealthy male individuals became far and gone, and those of the middle class variety also had one in their closets. Though the tuxedo did regain its status as the attire for special occasions, its accessibility to middle class men lost its prestige and grandeur in the eyes of the affluent. What made matters worse for the wealthy population was that middle class men would often wear tux’s to less formal events, which threatened a re-write when and where to have it on. Fortunately for them, tuxedos had and still have remained the best option for a formal gathering.

In the 1960′s, a dramatic shift was made, defining a culture of the younger generation. With the birth and growth of the counter-culture movement, the tuxedo became a function of protest against the social norms of the day. Instead of conservative formal wear such as a black tuxedo or a navy blue tuxedo, bright colors like yellow and orange tuxedos became popular. The patterns were outrageous, unprecedented, and helped shape the course of tuxedo styles we have today. Even the bow ties came in bigger sizes. At first, these tuxedos were only meant to be worn during the summer, but as the decade rolled along they had become so widely accepted that they were  being worn for all special occasions; weddings, proms, fancy dances, etc. Movies of those days also helped create this drift away from the conservative American style of the 1950′s.

For the last part of this series, I will talk about the seventies which used the 1960′s period as a base to sprout tuxedos the likes of which we had never seen, and we will navigate all the way to present day. Stay tuned.

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