Few of us get to sashay into a Savile Row atelier one day, parietal lobes awash with creative whimsy, and request a garment that will change sartorial history. But that’s what happened in 1865, when the future King Edward VII went into Henry Poole and asked his good friend the proprietor to make something less formal than tails to wear to a dinner at Sandringham in Norfolk. The resulting evening lounge jacket, cut from dark blue silk, captured the attention of a friend visiting the prince from the U.S., who had another one made and took it back to Tuxedo Park in Orange County, New York. “This,” he declared to friends who asked him what he was wearing, “is what the King wears in London.” The rest, as they say, is history.
The tux, and black-tie eveningwear as a whole, has evolved in the century and a half since that fateful appointment with Poole, but certain timeless aspects of its anatomy have proved worthy of natural selection: lapels, peak or notch, which contrast with the main fabric, for example, and a stripe along the outseam of the trousers. That said, there’s no such thing as a core ingredient anymore, the scope for experimentation is vast, and the reasons for dabbling go beyond difference for the sake of difference. The tux with shawl lapels, for example (see Sean Connery’s midnight-blue single-breasted number, trimmed with satin cuffs, in Dr. No) is a regular on the red carpets, as it makes for a slimmer silhouette.
Dunhill, Canali and Dolce & Gabbana are just three examples of perennial over-achievers when it comes to classic black tie — which, very often, especially during the summer months, is distinctly whiter than black, with exceptional contributions to the canon including: Tom Ford’s masterful use of silk; the harmonic beauty of a Thom Sweeney tailored jacket with a Brunello Cucinelli denim, pleat-front shirt; the nattier work of Favourbrook, a British clothing brand specialising in fine formalwear; and the fruits of Chester Barrie’s ongoing passion for black tie.