The Tuxedo: A Short History

The Tuxedo: A Short History

Today, the modern tuxedo is typically considered to be the pinnacle of formal wear. Despite this, it actually began as an attempt to design a more simple style of formal wear that would serve primarily as an outfit for dining with others in a more casual setting. What was essentially born from this endeavor was what we today know as the classic American “tuxedo,” and the British “dinner jacket.” While this tradition originated among the wealthy aristocracy, as society progressed it soon became relatively standard for formal celebrations, weddings, and dances.

The Beginnings of the Tuxedo

It is believed that the traditional tuxedo originated in the mid-19th century as a special request by the Prince of Wales. The design, created by Savile Row tailors Henry Poole & Co., featured a “smoking jacket” that was midnight blue. The design was intended to be formal wear that could be used for casual occasions such as an informal dinner or smoking pipes. Throughout the preceding decades, this fashionable design would become incredibly popular as a type of formal wear that could be worn more often than the traditional tailcoat.

The Journey to America

From here, the design made its way from Europe to America after two decades. Although the exact path of the tuxedo’s spread across the United States is not as well known, it quickly became extremely popular. During this time, the standard tuxedo was typically made up of the typical black coat with peaked lapels, white undershirt with a standing collar, black bow tie, and black trousers. The American English term “tuxedo” is due to the popularity that grew from its earliest appearances at Tuxedo Park in New York, a high-class club where social gatherings would often take place. Although “tuxedo” was not the originally intended name for this type of ensemble, the recognition that grew out of its first American public appearance, which ultimately led to its popularity, produced a name that would stick. Even though this new design of formal wear began in Great Britain, the title of “tuxedo” gained more recognition due to the rising demand in the United States. Much of the growing popularity was due to the “tailless” aspect of the jacket, lending its use to more occasions than the traditional tailcoat. Even though the new design underwent initial criticism for being too “informal,” the new tuxedo overcame such obstacles to become the foremost formal attire across Western nations, especially the United States. Within the United States, the tuxedo went through periods of decreasing popularity, specifically throughout World War One and Two; however, its resurgence after the wars made the tuxedo the most popular formal wear across America. Despite the incredible desire for the original midnight blue tuxedo, the black ensemble became the standard style.

The American Tuxedo

One of the main points of contention throughout the scenes in which tuxedos would show up was the lapels and the color. However, over time, people began to accept more formidable colors and designs, including maroon, white, and light blue, while still keeping the same classic tuxedo design. After this time, despite the fact that the basic design of the tuxedo went through periodical changes, the same basic idea of a type of formal ensemble that could be worn during times that did not require such a formal prerequisite persisted. When it comes to the tuxedo, no other dress ensemble can match it. Today, it has become one of the most recognizable symbols of a high-class event, and should be saved for every special occasion. While the design has slightly changed over the years, specifically in regards to the lapels, collar, and color, the basic tuxedo creation has remained the same. Even though it was introduced over 150 years ago, it still remains as the top tier of formal wear, regardless of the occasion.

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