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Chris Rock in a white jacket-black trouser, black bow tie at the 88th Academy Awards. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Chris Rock in a white jacket-black trouser, black bow tie at the 88th Academy Awards. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Saving the penguin?

This year, the men's tuxedo got stirred, not shaken; it remains suspended in half a makeover

James Bond has gone from the Vesper martini to Dom Pérignon to beer but his sartorial style remains unchanged. Does that make Mr Bond nearly as recognizable as Mr Claus? You know Santa—down the chimney, on the sleigh, ubiquitous in his red suit. Now, I know it’s not an ideal parallel, but then has Bond really evolved or is he much like Santa Claus—year after year?

“Meet me here at 7. Black tie," M says to Bond in Goldfinger. Clearly, 007 is recognized for what he wears while he saves the world. Tom Ford may have replaced the trusted tailor on the set but the uniform is still the same. The crisp, classic four-piece tuxedo. From Daniel Craig’s made-to-measure Brioni in Casino Royale, to his Spectre outing in Tom Ford. Remember Bond in an off-white evening jacket in Spectre, a throwback to his first off-white evening jacket in A View To A Kill? The “Windsor" model in the film, typified by its wide peaked lapels and strong shoulders, is a 1940s classic straight out of Casablanca. Skyfall saw our spy sporting a deep midnight-blue shawl-collar jacket with black satin lapels. Not more. Clearly, 007 likes his suits just stirred, not shaken.

Show me a man who doesn’t want to dress like Bond and I’ll show you a liar. Clearly, he is timeless. True, he’s the quintessential man in a (tight) suit. But does timeless mean unchangeable? Does classic mean homogeneous? Aren’t we defying the very essence of fashion, the kind that expresses an individual identity? This tuxedo’s style is stitched so tight, there is hardly room for change.

From tailcoat to tuxedo, you may think the black piece of panache would have come a long way. Fashion mirrors the society we live in. It expresses our needs, our desires, and is a metaphor of our times. So what does the sameness of the tuxedo tell you?

I remember the 2015 Met Gala having a few winners. Actor Robert Pattinson wore an edgy Dior Homme three-piece with a flat futuristic bow tie. Slick and very Batman. Basketball player Dwyane Wade came in a Versace blue tux with a custom red sash with Buccellati jewels that adorned his tie and jacket. Bejewelled, he showed how to adorn a traditional tux. And finally, singer-songwriter Miguel floored the red carpet in a Michael Kors red custom tux. Now that was a bold move.

Cut to Oscars 2016. Classic. Black. A handsome sea of penguins. Picturesque and predictable. Leonardo DiCaprio, the man of the moment, was in a classic, made-to-measure Armani tux. John Legend, Matt Damon, Ryan Gosling (nice twist with a white bow, Mr G) and Eddie Redmayne (albeit in black velvet) followed suit in classic black. Even Dev Patel, looking rakish and unfinished, kept to the crisp traditional look. What do I say?

There was one moment on the Oscars red carpet when Liev Schreiber confessed to being exhausted tying his own bow tie. Really, Mr Sabretooth? How disappointing. And how safe and easy. But it’s true. How often do you look at the four-piece and comment on it, like you do perhaps with the women’s gowns? Many penguins rocked the tux this year. But which one did you really notice? The irony of it all—penguins are meant to be witty, inscrutable and meticulous. Seriously?

One button, two button, three button, wide lapel or narrow one, the bow tie from wide to classic butterfly to slim, even “club" style. The details have changed over the years but the form has not. Unlike the feminine gown, which has seen mermaid, fishtail, flouncy, round ball, straight—who’s counting?

Then there was the small new crop in our black and white parade. Chris Rock with his #OscarsSoWhite gags (ironically) rocked a white Burberry tux. Mark Ruffalo in a blue Valentino—not navy, not midnight. Just blue. Former American footballer Michael Strahan decided to go three-piece, also in the most unexpected shades of blue, though this got more thumbs-downs than up. Think Austin Powers blue tux without the lace and frills. Radio and TV personality Ryan Seacrest gave black a run for its money with a grey one-button. But it was Jared Leto who surprised us all with a beautiful crimson-piped black Gucci blazer and red floral pin that made him look, well, more red than black. Bravo! Singer Pharrell Williams gave Lanvin a casual chic spin, trousers folded up and sockless (he has done a tux with shorts before). Kevin Hart gave us lots of sequins on his Dolce & Gabbana.

Why are designers complacent about the stag dress-up game? (Why not make) a tux with a cape, considering all men are superhero fans

2016 did show us a possible twist in the tale. But it hasn’t grown to the tipping point. The colour has changed but not the form. The traditional tailcoat became snappier as a shortened dinner jacket, but even that was a century ago. Canali gave us some hope with the bandhgala but it didn’t quite catch on. Why are our designers so complacent about the stag dress-up game? Has anyone thought of making a tux with a cape—considering all men are superhero fans? Will anyone give us a Gaga moment—or even an in-between? Or are the women going to have all the fun?

Follow Champagneboy Gaurav Bhatia @Champagneboy75

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