The tuxedo isn’t quite an endangered species–there are plenty of tuxedos in existence–but like the typical American, the tuxedo isn’t getting out much. In the same way that the American sits on couches and accumulates excess body fat and loses muscle, the tuxedo hangs on hangars in closets, acquires blandness and loses its interesting features. We don’t read books anymore. Sure, we may be exposed to short blasts of information over the internet in the form of tweets, Wikipedia introductions, and blog articles, but we tend less and less to read long, substantial books. And let’s face it: how much can you really say in a Wikipedia article? My opponents might retort that at some point books become long, recursive, winding roads of information that accomplish their goals inefficiently, and that’s true. Usually I can’t remember the beginning of a book by the time I finish it. So I guess books really are just a waste of time.
Anyway, I’m about to forget that I’m trying to discuss tuxedos. We probably spend as much money on clothes today as we did a century ago, but we look much worse. The technology for making clothing has been getting better and better, and so our clothes would reflect improved methods in sewing. Instead, we invest in the brand equity of designer labels who churn out flimsy garments that are made to look shabby. I’m still not talking about the tuxedo, am I?
Yes, the average man should own a tuxedo. It’s not a complicated garment. Moreover, a tuxedo is likely to last a man his entire life. The style is slow to change, so a tuxedo bought today will probably not look out-of-place half a century from now. The way I imagine it, a man buys his tuxedo roughly around the time he finishes high school and begins college. By this time, most men have reached their maximum height. Perhaps they will gain weight as time goes on, but this can be allowed for in the seams after the initial tailoring. Furthermore, it is around this age that a man is expected to begin wearing black tie to semi-formal events, for a man of this age is becoming an adult and is striving for independence. And in my imagined world, the man keeps this tuxedo for the rest of his life (of course there is always the possibility that it gets destroyed in a fire, lost in a move, ruined by spills, or ripped to shreds by nymphomaniacal women, and in these cases the man would, yes, sadly, have to replace his tuxedo). Thus, a man’s age is reflected in his tuxedo. It isn’t unheard of for what we wear to reflect our age–many men wear their college or high school class rings, which are typically stamped with the graduation year. Thus, at a black-tie event today, one would expect to see old tuxedos on the tribal elders, new tuxedos on young men, and slightly old tuxedos on the middle-aged men. Naturally, there would be some older men with newer tuxedos. These men perhaps suffered one of the aforementioned tragedies or simply became tired of their old tuxedos. And there would be younger men with older tuxedos, or older men with superannuated tuxedos. These men perhaps have an affinity for older styles or are honoring a similarly-sized ancestor.
So the tuxedo is immune from the ephemeral tides of fashion. The tuxedo is as sound an investment as a US Treasury Bond (although not quite as fungible, hence why China does not invest in tuxedos).
There are some who contend that the tuxedo is too ostentatious, too bold for stoic, manly men. These men prefer to wear a subtle-colored suit. Perhaps they rise above their norm and wear a neck tie (probably not a self-tie bowtie, though). Regarding these men, I wonder what agent of insipidity whitewashed their personalities away. The tuxedo, resistant to the momentary urges of fashion endemic to women’s formalwear, is an icon of stasis and masculinity. Compare the tuxedo to the extravagant dress of the Renascence. The tuxedo is more Puritanical than it is ornamented. It is all black; it drapes over the body with simple, geometric lines; there are no poufs, frills, billows, or other emasculating features. The tuxedo’s laudable achievement is that it looks festive at all. The ancient Romans prided themselves that their toga was a simple garment*. We should pride ourselves that our tuxedo is a simple, yet practical, ergonomic garment.
*Of course, part of the Roman’s pride was that the toga could not be worn for fighting. Indeed, James Bond might have had a harder time wearing a toga. Caesar was, nevertheless, stabbed by toga-wearers, and war-unreadiness is not a trait we seek in our formalwear. We should not be ashamed of how practical our tuxedos are.
Some people have the opposite problem: they consider the tuxedo to be illiberal. It comes only in one color (two if you count midnight blue, two and a half if you count the white linen dinner jacket for summertime, and the midnight blue is somewhat out of place today since midnight blue was introduced only to counter the inadequacies of early incandescent lighting). My rebuttal is that the tuxedo’s uniformity is a good thing. On one hand, it suggests humility. No man thinks himself so special that he may deviate from this one standard. Moreover, black does not clash with any skin tone. Certainly individuality in clothing is allowable and even encouraged in informal settings; but gentlemen understand that the solemn color black is reserved for special occasions. Plain black suits are generally out of place in informal daywear. My plain black suit is only worn to funerals, which call for the solemnity of black without the tuxedo’s flair. In short, the tuxedo’s color palette is narrow because this narrow palette of colors is reserved for the kinds of special occasions to which tuxedos are worn.
Do you want to help me revive the tuxedo? The first step is simple: never watch the Academy Awards. The only winners you were even marginally interested in will be in the paper the next morning. You’ll be better off not looking at those communists and their drab travesties of tuxedos. The second step is to buy one. Don’t get a lame one. Don’t listen to the salespeople. They push the lame ones. You’ve read my posts on tuxedos. You know what you want. You might even try looking on ebay.
This next step is very important: convince your friends to buy tuxedos. This may be difficult. If you need help, I’ve always considered cannabis users to be the sages of peer pressure. Then, you and your friends should wear tuxedos to events. If you’re afraid, opera and symphony concerts are good starting places. Go to a restaurant beforehand. Walk around afterwards. Invite your friends to black-tie house parties on special holidays. There’s strength in numbers. In concluding this post and in trying to instigate the revival of the tuxedo, I’ll quote Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant”:
“You know if just one person does it, they may think he’s really sick, and they won’t take him. And if two people do it, in harmony, they’ll think they’re both faggots; and they won’t take either of them. And if three people do it, can you imagine three people walking in, singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out? They may think it’s an organization. And can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day, walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. And friends, they may think it’s a movement. And that’s what it is. The Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree movement. And all you gotta do to join is to sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar. With feelin’.”