Whenever I review red-carpet formal wear I notice that fashion writers frequently fawn over outfits that stand out from the crowd. I’m often tempted to do the same until I put those outfits in the context of said crowd.
Tuxedos by nature are intended to be understated, partly to allow the women’s raiment to take center stage. Not surprisingly, celebrities who wear them on a regular basis sometimes want to shake things up. In the same vein, fashion reviewers faced with an endless parade of black suits month after month will naturally be drawn to tuxedos that offer a change from the norm. In their defense, when these variations incorporate a proper fit, quality workmanship and tasteful combinations they can indeed look stunning in the solo photos taken on the red carpet.
What gets overlooked is that beyond the red carpet the outfits do not exist in isolation but will instead spend the evening alongside hundreds, if not thousands, of traditional interpretations. Put in this context, the shortcomings of the unorthodox versions become very apparent to onlookers. I would imagine the self-satisfaction that the maverick celeb felt at home in front of his mirror is often replaced by a sinking feeling of not being up to par, if not during the event itself then sometime afterward when the paparazzi photos flood the Web. The reason I believe this is because of the many striking “before and after” photos that exist of celebs sporting a maverick outfit at one event then appearing in a much more classic interpretation at a later outing.
Here’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about:
BAFTA 2012: Actor and presenter Jeremey Irvine figures that as long as he’s wearing a tuxedo there’s no need to add a tie or even button his shirt. (This “informal formal” look tends to be adopted by at least one misguided maverick at entertainment awards ceremonies since it debuted in the 1990s.) Admittedly, when viewed in isolation his choice of attire does lend him an air of youth and virility . . .
. . . but when viewed next to properly attired fellow guests his look is distinctly disheveled. His unfinished ensemble suggests that either he was regrettably interrupted during the dressing process or is being deliberately contemptuous of his fellow guests that did put in the effort to dress properly.
BAFTA 2013: The following year Irvine appears at the same event in the same tuxedo but puts in the nominal effort required to button his shirt and don a tie. The difference from the year prior is dramatic: Irvine looks vastly more sophisticated, mature, and respectful of the special nature of the evening. (Also note that for someone with a relatively long neck like Irvine’s, the open shirt style exaggerates the effect while the buttoned collar minimizes it.)
Just to drive the point home, here’s Irvine again at the 2013 Cannes film festival.
Not only does a man look better in more traditional outfits but he’s also less likely to feel out of place. Don’t forget that one of the defining characteristics of a black-tie affair is the unique uniformity it brings to the men. Love it or hate it, it is not seen at any other type of civilian social occasion and thus makes the event genuinely special. Wearing unconventional formal attire to such an occasion excludes you from sharing that unique bond with all the other males in attendance. In other words, the evening becomes a lot more like any other evening.