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A Gentleman Celebrates the Tuxedo

The tuxedo is the great leveler


As a gentleman of three score plus years I came late to the frequent wearing of formal attire. The fact is there is a lot to like about tuxedo events. The inherent order and defined rules are comforting considering the contrast between the chaos outside and the order inside where mysterious canapés are being served on silver trays by cyborgs. This is from a guy whose choice of pants in the morning is dictated by the pair that already has the belt on.

My opinions have changed since my first rental of a tux for a high school prom where the only standard was to put me in something where I wouldn’t be laughed at; something with no bullet holes.


A cummerbund is for holding opera tickets

The Uniform. Decades ago, I bought a tuxedo with the works: cummerbund, clip-on bow tie, frilly white shirt, little black cufflinks, matching poke-through black shirt buttons.

Learning the complexities of how these all come together was a challenge.

How do you even keep a clip-on bow tie straight? There is no interest in learning how to tie a from-scratch version.

The folds in the cummerbund are to be on the open side, as explained to me, to hold opera tickets.

There are subtleties inherent in plugging in cufflinks and cufflink-like things into holes in the frilly shirt.  Studs? Slugs? Spuds?

Shoes now matter a lot. To wit, I was instructed that patent leather shoes, especially those with bows on top were verboten. Also forbidden were formal slippers…whatever those may be. Happily, shiny black leather loafers from Shoe Bargainza got the job done.


At Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump and Wayne Newton.

The Social Aspect. The reason I like tuxes is that they are a credential for accessing places, times, and scenes found only in classic films.

There is something appealing, leveling, and democratic (likely an appalling word to many of the attendees) in showing up at an event where there are a bunch of guys from all walks equally penguined.

The experience is a lot like living in an old movie where the gentlemen wore hats, well- fitted suits with broad ties, and smoked cigars in the club car of the luxury Twentieth Century Limited.

At one event, I found myself a guest at the big-deal Red Cross Ball held at Mar-a-Lago, along with one Donald Trump, wife Melania, Wayne Newton, William Shatner, and Shirley MacLaine.  The constantly flowing, quality booze enhanced the experience. Danke schoen.

Another formal event was a gathering of stern descendants of the Mayflower. My forebears came over on a boat called the Steerage.

The tuxedo is the great leveler

Sean Connery, the impeccably dressed James Bond


Witty in a tuxedo is OK.  Funny is not.

It was good that I was never, at any event, laughed at in my tuxedo and, in fact, blended in which made objectively witnessing the proceedings fly-on-the wall easier.

Let me note that it is bad form to have too good a time at these events. It is no longer the goal to make someone laugh so hard that orange soda bubbles out the nose.  Witty is OK; funny is not.

There is something appealing, leveling, and democratic (likely an appalling word to many of the attendees) in showing up at an event where there are a bunch of guys from all walks equally penguined.

Also, speaking into, poking at, or looking at cell phones is frowned upon; staring at cleavage is unwelcomed (per Seinfeld, like looking at the sun); exchanging business cards is done discretely; mentions of summering in Capri, Newport, East Hampton, Oz are conversation starters; similarly, you can’t go wrong noting winters at the place in Palm Beach.

Someone who casually mentions that he went to school in Cambridge in the first five minutes of conversation and/or having obviously dived a bit too deeply into the bubbly is to be avoided.


No ‘Walk of Shame’ for a man in a tux 

Five in the A.M. Women call it the walk of shame. Nonetheless, it is a fine conclusion to an evening to be walking home very early in the morning, black tie in pocket and generally disheveled. Unhappy folks are putting out the garbage, some are going through the garbage, dogs are doing what dogs do often, street vendors are organizing bagels. As in Guys and Dolls: “When the streets belong to the cops and the janitors with their mops.”

And you’re nodding to everyone and humming to yourself  “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

A New Tux. Next is to buy a new tuxedo.  One that’s not too extreme. Have it a bit fitted but not super fitted as appropriate for 30-something-year-olds with short tight jackets that make them look like Porky Pig.

The goal is to look less like Lugosi/Marx and more like Sinatra/Astaire.  I think I’ve figured it out.


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