History of the Tuxedo – Part 2

Images courtesy of The Tuxedo Club.

Images courtesy of The Tuxedo Club.

In Part 1 of our 2 part series, we discussed the unusual origins of the word “tuxedo” which has become a familiar term relating to men’s formalwear. In Part 2 of the series, we will discuss the men at the heart of this origin story and how the tuxedo became part of formal fashion.

The Emergence of the Tuxedo Club

When we left off with the history of the tuxedo, we learned about Tuxedo Park and a country club established in New York for wealthy aristocrats by one of their own, Pierre Lorillard IV. From Tuxedo Park emerged a number of homes surrounding the country club, cementing the club as an important landmark for this community. Eventually, the society of Tuxedo Park developed an elite group of wealthy men that formed what was eventually known as the Tuxedo Club.

This club revolved around a social calendar that included formal events, like balls, and sporting events that allowed the men to enjoy leisure time in the community. The club even established a golf course, tennis courts and allowed for members to enjoy boating on the grounds.

Image courtesy of The Tuxedo Club.

Image courtesy of The Tuxedo Club.

The Rise of Fashion Rebellion

Before the tuxedo became a larger player in aristocratic circles in Gilded Age America, men who attended the country club would typically wear a formal white coat and tie. However, the way in which the tuxedo emerged is hard to discern because there are multiple tales about who exactly wore the first one to a formal event at the Tuxedo Club.

Some of the lore surrounding the tuxedo attributes Lorillard’s son Griswold to bringing the fashionable, new outfit to the first Autumn Ball of 1886, which later became an annual event. According to this story, Pierre Lorillard, his father, commissioned a modified “tail-less” black jacket to wear to the ball inspired by a dinner jacket designed by Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co., who was England’s Prince of Wales’ tailor at the time. In this version of the story, Pierre decided last minute not to wear this radical new fashion, but Griswold and his friends modeled their outfits on his and made a splash at the ball.

Another version of the tuxedo story, which comes straight from the Tuxedo Club itself, attributes the tuxedo to Tuxedo Club member James Brown Potter. The summer prior to the first Autumn Ball, Potter and his wife Cora, while visiting England, received an invite from the Prince of Wales to join him at Sandringham, his country estate, for the weekend. Mr. Potter was unsure of what to wear for the dinner, and after asking the Prince, was instructed to visit his tailor in London to get fitted for a short jacket, rather than a tailcoat, for dinner, as the Prince had personally adopted this style and had grown to like it. After Potter returned to the United States and showed other Tuxedo Club members this new fashion trend, they embraced it and had their own tailors copy his style.

Visit Jim’s Formal Wear’s blog next time for Part 3 of the history of the tuxedo, where we discuss how the formalwear spread beyond the Tuxedo Club.

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!

Award Season Stand Out’s

award_show_post_4

Already this year, millions of viewers have tuned in to popular award shows to see who would win which prestigious awards, and more importantly what they would be wearing when doing so.

The ladies have undoubtedly stepped up to the challenge of representing the new 2013 trends and some men have stood out as well, freshinging up the classic tuxedo look with strategic use of accessories and/or color. 

Robert Downey Jr. and Justin Timberlake represent perfect examples of using accessories to turn traditional wear into statement outfits. Downey Jr. presented at the Oscars in an Armani black-on-black jersey tuxedo with a polka-dot pocket square and Oliver Peoples XXV-RX glasses. For this reason, his clever wit was not the only thing that made him stand out in the crowd.

Similarly, at the Grammys Timberlake chose a Tom Ford black-on-black pinstripe suit accessorized with a black and white pocket square, a funky bow tie and saddle shoe inspired kicks. Thus, both were able to successfully achieve fresh, red carpet looks that maintained the desired classic aura.

In contrast to many of the male attendees at the Grammys who chose to stick with basic black and white looks, both Daniel Day-Lewis and Samuel L. Jackson stood out thanks to their use of color. Lewis selected a beautifully cut Domenico Vacca midnight blue tuxedo that both accentuated his slim figure and made a major red carpet statement. Therefore, when he was honored with the prestigious title of first male to be awarded Best Actor three times, he came across gracious, witty and extremely well put together.

Jackson chose an Armani velvet red blazer with matching gray suit pants. While the bow tie he accessorized the look with was not necessarily a stand out piece, his decision to wear a bold color should be applauded.

While there were fewer stand-out males, the majority of the female attendees of both the Grammys and Oscars wore statement pieces, hopefully setting a trend for the year. Not only have a myriad of different cuts and colors been represented but lengths and overall styling techniques have also shown diversity.

Perhaps one of the most memorable Grammy moments includes Rihanna and her custom Azzedine Alaia gown. The dramatic red and carefully designed sheer overlay easily won her the Best Dressed title. Furthermore, Jane Fonda made clear that age does not diminish one’s ability to look effortlessly chic in her yellow Versace gown at the Oscars.

Thanks to all of those celebrities, male and female, who are making great statements at award shows so far this year. It will be exciting to see what the rest of the year holds for red carpet fashion.