History of the Tuxedo – Part 1

The tuxedo is the most recognized formalwear for men in modern fashion, but its origins are not as commonly known to people as the style of the outfit. In this three part series, we will discuss where the tuxedo came from, its evolution over time and the tuxedo we are familiar with today.

Left to Right: a 1931 Tuxedo advertisement, a classic tuxedo

Left to Right: a 1931 Tuxedo advertisement, a classic tuxedo

Origins of the Word

The word “tuxedo” has deeply American roots and originally did not have to do with formalwear. The word P’tauk-seet-tough, which shares its phonetics with the word we use today, was an Algonquin word given to land in New York by the Algonquin Indian tribe.

The word that evolved into “tuxedo” has been attributed both to an Indian chief with the name P’tauk-seet-tough and to the meaning “home of the bear.” In some circles, the word  tucsedo came from the Lenape language of the Delaware Indians. The word we know today as “tuxedo” in its current spelling may have been translated by the Dutch when they were granted the land we know today as southern New York State in the 1700′s. Regardless of its true origins – Lenape, Algonquin or Dutch – it is a certainty that the word “tuxedo” truly evolved from multiple cultures as history brought people from Europe into America.

The Rise of Tuxedo Park and the Tuxedo Club

Fast forward to the 1800′s, and Tuxedo, New York, a town in the same land the Indians had claimed before, grew in population. The Gilded Age was approaching, and American tobacco manufacturer Pierre Lorillard IV developed the idea behind the Tuxedo Club in 1886.

Tuxedo Park Founder Pierre Lorillard IV

Tuxedo Park Founder Pierre Lorillard IV

This planned community was a country club that southwest of Tuxedo Park, a village associated with the larger town of Tuxedo. Lorillard had inherited 13,000 acres around Tuxedo Lake, and with help from other wealthy New Yorkers, he developed the prestigious club that became the birthplace of the formal outfit we know as the tuxedo.

Top: the Tuxedo Club in 1920, Bottom: the Autumn Ball at the Tuxedo Club, 1959

Top: the Tuxedo Club in 1920, Bottom: the Autumn Ball at the Tuxedo Club, 1959

Coming soon… Part 2 and Part 3 on the origins of the tuxedo from Jim’s Formal Wear!

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