#1191 On dressing down for occasions

A tuxedoed James Dean – Photo: GQ

Cathrin Schaer has written an article about how New Zealanders are loathe to dress up for the latest issue of Fashion Quarterly. Truth be told I haven’t read it – the copy of FQ I thought was at my house has disappeared in a poof of smoke and trickery – but I’m going to assume it’s a good piece seeing as Cathrin Schaer is awesome in all respects. The reason I mention this is because the Working Style Best Dressed Businessman Awards, of which I am a judge, takes place this Thursday night. And I have to present an award. In front of 600 people. Wearing a tuxedo.

Like every good New Zealander, I will stop at nothing to get out of wearing a suit. A blazer and mismatched pants, sure, I’ll do that any day of the week. But a whole suit just freaks me out. It’s the pants. They’re always too high waisted or too baggy or too unstructured. I was a jeans wearing guy for many years before transitioning to beige pants (and, recently a new pair of charcoal pants in the same fit). Jeans have shape and rigidity. They hide all manners of bodily misfortunes just by the sheer nature of their being. When you’re wearing jeans you don’t have to worry about the break or the rise or the cuff or the seat. My beige pants are the same. Made from cotton drill, they’re like the non-jeans equivalent of jeans. Casual, reliable, sturdy keepers-of-shape.

And don’t get me started on the shoes. Leather shoes are the bane of my existence. I can’t get used to seeing my feet in them. And being the vain creature of habit that I am, I find it remarkably difficult to leave the house wearing something that I’m not used to. Or that I don’t feel comfortable in.

But I digress.

My first ever tuxedo is being altered right now. I’ll pick it up this afternoon. It’s black with satin peak lapels and satin striped pants from Working Style – a gentleman’s suit. I’d much sooner wear a blazer and beige pants, but this is an event that calls for an effort to be made. There’s no choice in the matter.

Somebody once told me that Italian men take their sons to the tailor for Saturday outings, but New Zealand men take their sons to the rugby. Italian men look like they were born to wear suits. New Zealand men often look out of their league. I played rugby for seven years as a youngster in Christchurch. I’ve seen my Dad in a suit twice. See my problem?

The men we’ve chosen as the Best Dressed awards recipients aren’t just guys who wear good suits, they’re guys who wear good suits well. There’s a marked difference in the two. And they’re guys who don’t look out of place dressing up. They own their black ties (so to speak).

Eva Marie Saint summed it up well, talking about Cary Grant:

“It’s sort of a mystery. Other men wear suits. But with other men, there’s the man and then there’s the suit on him. That didn’t happen to Cary Grant. Style was like a skin.”

Wish me luck for Thursday. I’ll be the guy making an attempt at all of the above.


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  1. says

    Isaac I think that there is a happy medium for everyone out there! Suits only wear you when you are not comfortable… I know that is obvious but given todays breadth of fashion there are so many options to the traditional tux!

    Take for example you comments with regards to the trousers; Todays designers actually have a multitude of options in Cotton & Silk or a “Shark Skin” in full suits. they don’t even have to be black! I have seen such examples in Z Zegna and Dior Homme over the years, not to mention the Lavin Collection. I understand that these items aren’t in everyones price range, but these types of looks can be taken as inspiration.

    Also with the multitude of online retailers from Europe like Browns Fashion, Luisa Via Roma & Yoox you will find some absolute steals from there sales.

    As for shoes… Well lets take you beloved chuck taylors. They are avaiable in a full black leather, which while they are not completely traditional are much more polished than many “dress” shoes I have seen.

    I hardly ever where a suit to work (it is hard for me not to pull on a pair of jeans everyday for the exact same reasons you describe) and I always have an interesting interpretation of “Black Tie”, but I have found what works for me and I think it shows in the way I dress.

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