Emancipation Of The Tuxedo Jacket
January 11, 2011 2 Comments
Together with its matching black bow ties, patent leather shoes and pleated white dress shirts – the dinner jacket, smoking jacket, or tuxedo jacket, has its roots planted firmly in the soil of British and American aristocracy. It can be traced back about 40 miles north of New York City, to a place ‘aquired’ from the Algonquin Native Americans called P’tauk-seet-tough.
Once in the hands of the colonizers, P’tauk-seet-tough was simplified to Tuxedo, and Tuxedo Park would go on to become a thriving hunting and fishing destination, as well as an elite residential colony settled by 19th century tobacco magnate Pierre Lorillard IV, his family, and those of his ilk.
One such wealthy resident of Tuxedo Park and friend to Pierre Lorillard IV, was named James Brown Potter. While on vacation in England in the summer of 1886, he was introduced to the Prince of Wales (who later became King Edward VII) and had asked the Prince for some advice on formal wear. The Prince would send Potter to his Saville Row tailor, Henry Poole & Co. It was there that Potter was fitted with a short black English-styled jacket and black tie similar to the formal tails with white tie that was worn in the United States on formal occasions. James took the design back home to Tuxedo Park, where his good friend Pierre modified it, named it, but ultimately chickened out of wearing it to the newly constructed Tuxedo Park’s Tuxedo Club Inaugural Autumn Ball of 1886.
Legend has it his bolder son Griswold Lorillard, along with several of his friends, did wear the short jacket to the ball. Due to the noble social status of the young men, the short jacket was instantly admired as a striking fashion statement. Pierre Lorillard’s short jacket, donned by his son Griswold, was quickly copied and when gentlemen wearing tuxedos were admitted to the Dress Circle of New York’s Metropolitan Opera in 1889, the success of this new fashion was confirmed. So the tuxedo, named after the town of its North American debut, thus went from fashionable trend to a timeless classic.
Fast forward 125 years later and to the bold youth and daring fashion designers who are now championing a sartorial rebellion of their own. As of recent, many have advocated the emancipation of the tuxedo jacket from the shackles and strict confines and formality of proms and wedding nights. The result, a contemporary, newly liberated Solo Tuxedo Jacket. James Bond be damned, Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Bottega Veneta, and DSquared2 have all presented the tuxedo jacket to newfangled bedmates the likes of dark blue denim jeans, black waxed jeans, T-shirts, and patterned dress shirts – one designer even paired it with dark jersey sweatpants and sneakers.
The contrast of the sharp black tuxedo jacket against a rugged or clean pair of jeans paired with black military-styled lace-up boots and a crisp white shirt adds a level of sophistication to a man’s look. Reserved for a night out on the town, an upscale event, a date, or even dinner at a nice restaurant – the solo tux jacket can inject a strong sense of personal alpha male style. The concept however, is not reserved solely for the boys. Big name designers such as Victoria’s Secret, Stella McCartney, and Jean Paul Gaultier have all introduced a female version of the solo tuxedo jacket in their ladies ready-to-wear lines.
So do you need to buy yourself an expensive tuxedo to pull this off? Not really. Many of the aforementioned designers are selling the Solo Tuxedo Jackets minus the matching pants and cummerbund. Other economic options include Topman and H&M, as well as vintage clothing stores that buy up and sell old tuxedo stock. When shopping for a solo tuxedo jacket, make sure the it’s black or midnight blue, single breasted, ventless, one or two-buttoned (preferably with fabric over the buttons). The lapels can either be peaked or shawl collared, but should always be made of silk, satin or grosgrain. For more information and photos of modern designer Solo Tux Jackets please check out my Facebook page.