Known as the dinner suit in the United Kingdom, the tuxedo in the US, and le smoking in France, no get-up possesses the ability to transform a man’s appearance and self-assurance quite like black tie. “In regular clothes, I’m a nobody,” said Dean Martin. “In a tuxedo, I’m a star.” Done right, this ensemble will turn any Joe Average into a strutting Fred Astaire, Humphrey Bogart or Frank Sinatra — a ‘million dollar trooper’, as Irving Berlin so memorably phrased it.
21. Eveningwear has its origins in bygone times when men would spend much of their day amongst horses, and a change of clothing was essential so as not to bring the scent of their equine companions to the dining table of an evening. (This is why tuxedos should always be side-vented or ventless, as a centre vent suggests horsey pursuits.)
20. The tuxedo, as we know it, was born when wealthy tobacco heir Griswold Lorillard and several of his friends shocked polite society by sporting a ‘tail-less’ dinner jacket (something along the lines of a military dress jacket) at a ball in 1886, which took place at the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park, New York — the formalwear innovation taking on that venue’s name.
19. Or perhaps not. Conflicting sources assert that the tux came about when an American named James Potter-Brown attended a soiree where he spotted the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) wearing a tail-less evening coat, shaped like a smoking jacket, which he favoured for less formal occasions at his Sandringham Estate. Potter-Brown asked after the Prince’s tailor — Henry Poole & Co. of Savile Row — where he promptly bespoke a similar garment, which he wore at the Tuxedo Club. Fellow members followed suit.
18. Yes, you do need a tuxedo. Buy one. (Never rent — “You can always tell the guys who rent from the guys who own,” says G. Bruce Boyer). It’ll be one of the greatest investments you ever make.