Invented as recently as 1886, the tuxedo quickly became the staple in elegant menswear, an embodiment of the glamorous lifestyle of those that wore it. The proprietors of said garment have always represented the upper echelons of society. In Hollywood alone, who can forget the resplendent images of Humphrey Bogart or Jack Nicholson having the time of their lives? More recently, the likes of Angelina Jolie and Ellen Degeneres have imbued it with a contemporary edge, using the archetypal male silhouette to make political, as well as style, statements.
White tuxedos on men have always been a maverick addition to the aesthetic of award shows. Perhaps it is the jarring juxtaposition of the white and red (carpet), or the way in which they sap colour not only from the wearer, but also those around them. Whatever the reason, unlike in day-to-day life, where an all-white outfit reeks of laid-back chic and summer vibes (even at the height of winter), white tuxedos on men have always seemed, well, a little tacky.
They are a hazardous mate to louche social events; a precocious Instagram star who dances perpetually on the brink of over-extending himself. Worn too smugly, and you’re transformed into someone charmless. Worn without the correct level of aplomb and you look like you tried to rent something last minute and this was all they had. And, of course, beware of dark liquids or foods that threaten to transform your good press into a spot on the Daily Mail‘s wall of shame.
So does the fact that Andrew Garfield, Eddie Redmayne and Noel Clark decided to don white tuxedo jackets at the Baftas mean that the boys have finally figured out how to nail this complex sartorial conundrum?
If the AW17 catwalks were anything to go by, then no. Peacocking is certainly in, but menswear catwalk trends are inviting a bolder experimentation with style than a basic all-black to monochrome shake up. The white tuxedo feels like a desperate attempt to make a stand, without the creativity to think outside of the box. Indeed, when menswear fashion is experiencing a revolution, one can’t help but feel that the red carpet events are lagging behind. It seems strange that with the world watching, male talent are still scared of going much further than a different-coloured suit jacket. It’s an outdated way of approaching formal occasions, and speaks volumes about a wider crisis around award ceremonies, and their relevance to contemporary culture. The recent controversy surrounding the Grammys was just one example of how the awards themselves, as well as the carpet that leads to them, are failing to reflect and celebrate the diversity of talent *cough–Beyoncé should have won best album–cough*, and who can forget the shambolic nature of the Oscar nominations last year.
The red carpet should be a place where men can showcase the spectrum of exciting new design shown by emerging and established designers alike. Women have free reign over looks, and it seems strange that men aren’t granted the same liberty. When three men turn up in the same outfit it seems increasingly clear that awards aren’t as relevant and cool as they once were. Perhaps this is a cry for help. Someone get Garfield something orange, pronto.