The State of Black Tie: Your Observations

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by mafoofan, Nov 22, 2011.

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  1. crdb

    crdb Senior member

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    My apologies! I had in fact kept your post open in a separate tab precisely to avoid misinterpreting your words, and still, somehow, "translated" you on the way.

    My point still somehow stand even if I think we are coming from the same place. The last thing I want to think about when looking at a black tie-clad chap is "dramatic". Ideally, it would leave me with a quiet feeling of satisfaction and taste without knowing really why, without consciously "noticing" that the man is well dressed. I think white tie is dramatic, although it is virtually impossible these days to see it done well because of the expense required for the full bespoke set (a recent exception was Gil Shaham whose proportions at least - I was too far to see the details - were correct, in contrast with the conductor who had a good foot of white gap between the tails and the trousers).

    It isn't necessarily what I am after, certainly it looks better suited to large cold British halls most of the year (Britain has a very nice 2 week long summer). But I like the cohesiveness of the idea. Even without looking at the photo again, I know that every corner is rounded, that the straight lines have been curved a little (bellied lapels, for example), that the sleeve will integrate noiselessly into the shoulder, yet that the whole thing stands strong underneath and will not look like a hastily thrown on jumper.

    On the contrary I think there is an entire world to manipulate, precisely because of the constraints. I cannot remember what model said of Helmut Newton that he was her favourite photographer, because his tyrant approach forced her to give her best work; the idea that constraining an artist results in greater creativity certainly has legs. I see it repeated in every art form. The Japanese Noh theatre, ikebana, sukiya-zukuri to name three art forms all have their roots in great constraint and reach their peak accordingly.

    When wearing a lounge suit the question is about colours, proportions, matching. There are a great many big pieces to think about. When wearing black tie, these decisions have been taken for you. Then, it becomes about how to play with proportions, angles and subtle changes of light to present an integrated and pleasant idea. How large is your bow tie? How wide? How much work to smooth out the asymmetry in the hand tied knot? How about the collar? How does the space between the studs integrate with the other proportions? etc. ad infinitum.

    I like Heinrich Neuhaus' idea of a performance being about the composer, the instrument and the pianist. In a similar vein the black tie ensemble is about the ideas of its designer, the execution thereof (cloth, cut, etc.) and the person wearing it. Laurence Olivier in Sleuth wears a velvet burgundy DB smoking jacket with dark lapel facings, and yet the strong personality of his character and the context make it almost invisible. The idea is correct with many a rental, but the execution with fusing off a suit pattern leaves much to be desired. Great must be the person to make something of it then (and perhaps the piano analogy reaches its limits there, as the idea quality to instrument quality ratio takes greater importance than with fashion). Meanwhile I would guess a Kiton or d'Avenza dinner jacket will be a thing of beauty on the inside, great execution, but with two buttons the core idea is flawed. I guess what I am looking for is good ideas and execution at the same time, and it seems these can only be found in bespoke or vintage.
     


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