The Oscars: Simple DOs and DON’Ts for blokes

| March 4, 2011

Who looks better – the guy on the right, or the left?

It’s a no-brainer, surely?

But what about measuring old George against these dashing young fellows?

I would say that George wins this one hands down, too. But why is that?

Well, think about it: George looks like he’s spent time, money and effort to achieve the classic effect of masculine elegance. The contrast between the black and the white is an exercise in tasteful simplicity, and the taut fit of the tailored jacket accents the masculine perception of his physique, avoiding the sense that he’s like a schoolboy raiding his father’s wardrobe for a grown-up jacket – any kind of jacket, so long as it looks like a man’s suit.

The other blokes? Handsome fellas, sure, but the only effect they manage to pull off is that of looking like a waiter on a cruise ship. It’s hard to put your finger on why that is, at first, but the tie is important, as are the style of the lapels on the jacket.

Wearing a long tie puts one in mind of an everyday suit, or of the standard guy who, behaving as it he is still in school, begrudgingly conforms to sartorial conventions just ‘enough’ to get away with it, at the same time hoping to preserve an air of individuality by establishing a rather careless attitude to those same conventions. And the boring, mundane air of the clothing is absolutely confirmed, in Casey Affleck’s case – and certainly in Gary Busey’s – by the choice of lapel: they are both wearing the notch lapel, the very same kind that you will have on your work suit. Which is, not so strangely, exactly the type of suit Gary Busey is wearing to achieve that rather underwhelming and thoroughly disheartening effect.

So, what’s the big deal about lapels, anyway? Funnily enough, this seems to be something George cares about, as he has been known in the past to sport a notch lapel on his dinner jacket. Putting aside speculation that maybe he, too, is not immune to nervousness about what other guys would think if he appeared to care too much about dressing properly for dinner, we can note that this picture (see link) provides confirmation of the very effect I’ve just been talking about. That’s right – not even ‘gorgeous George’ can avoid looking disappointing – like an out of place undertaker, even – when he breaks the timeless rules of black-tie.

And, that’s the point: black-tie is part of a tradition of men separating themselves from the style, the feel and the visual effect of the everyday. Which means that the collar of the jacket is not, and cannot be, like a standard suit. It must reflect its origins in a type of smoking jacket by sporting a shawl lapel, or else a peak lapel, which it shares with its forerunner in formal wear, the tail coat – still seen today on gentlemen wearing white-tie dress.

And the tie? If you’ve made the effort to kit yourself out in a classic jacket, one which deliberately distances itself from everyday wear, why would you go and ruin it all by wearing an everyday kind of tie?