October 16, 2012

The Tuxedo Through American History Pt. 3

Back then, hats were almost a requisite in order to complete a formal wear outfit.

Before reading any further, I suggest reading the first and second parts of this series.

Within the first two parts of this series, we learned about the birth of the tuxedo in 1886 and the previously popular formal attire for men during those days, the waistcoat and the long tailcoat. From there, we discussed the tuxedo’s emergence as the clothing that the affluent wore on special occasions. After which, we delved into how the depression and World War II created a hiatus in wearing tuxedos until the mid to late 1940′s. After the war, the tuxedo lost its exclusiveness to the wealthy as it became accessible to the middle class. Finally, we finished with a peek into the counterculture of the 1960′s and its impact on the tuxedo.

In the 1970′s, the United States saw tuxedo styles that were never before seen. During the Disco Era, polyester became the fabric of the decade, bell bottom dress pants were the norm, heavily ruffled tuxedo shirts started to appear, and bow ties, which at this point were more popular than long ties, came in enormous sizes. As a matter of fact, this tuxedo style became so widely accepted, that they were worn every season, regardless of  the occasion and time of day. They appeared in weddings, proms, and other fancy functions. This marked an end to traditional rules of tuxedos – at least for a little while.

In the 1980′s, the Disco Era abruptly ended, which meant the demise of the disco-style tuxedo. People wondered what the new wave of tuxedos would be, although it was clear that tuxedo aficionados didn’t want to build upon the style of the previous decade. Therefore, gentlemen reverted back to a more classic and traditional look: black tuxedos with fancy tuxedo vests once again became stylish. Also, the bow ties simmered down to normal size and were matched with cummerbunds.

From the ’90′s til the present day, a longing to relive the tuxedo styles from previous decades became palpable and evident. Though this decade witnessed a decrease in the popularity of formal wear for men, tuxedos remained exceptionally fashionable. Currently, we still look to past decades to create new styles of tuxedos and to maintain its popular status.

In short, the tuxedo has grown to become the premier formal wear for men and has a decorated history. They were used to make cultural statements and distinguish the wealthy. Most people don’t realize what wearing a tuxedo entails in light of its lasting history. From its invention in 1886 to the present day we saw a plethora of styles that contributed to its current status. So, tuxedo lovers, next time you’re sporting that fancy tuxedo with a matching bow tie, pocket square and cummerbund, know that you’re wearing 125 years worth of history. Wear it, and wear it with pride.

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