Other websites and blogs will showcase and praise the men who made loud sartorial choices on the red carpet last night. I can’t help you with that. What I can do is applaud a handful of men who looked like handsome grownups.
There is a virus spreading in the world of men’s formalwear. The virus causes men or their stylists to be overcome with an uncontrollable urge to make a big splash and break away from what has proven to make men look their handsomest for more than a century. The symptoms can range from screaming jacket patterns or colors to other ill-advised attention-grabbing gimmicks designed to exercise an impulse to be different.
This phenomenon is most visible among celebrities, which is particularly interesting since they already command more attention in one evening than many people will ever get in their entire lives. And when a trophy show with a red carpet beckons, the virus is full blown.
For women, it’s different. Black tie affairs are designed to showcase them, not the men. Look at old Hollywood black tie photos or the bride and groom models on a male/female wedding cake: the woman is the star… on purpose. Men’s formalwear is designed to elegantly frame a man’s face and shape while offering the real spotlight to his female counterpart. This impulse for men to show off is – to me – a selfish gesture to muscle in for even more attention. Women, particularly in Hollywood, have it hard enough. Men should step aside and let the ladies shine brighter (and give them equal pay, please).
Generally, I don’t recommend looking to male celebrities for style cues. The stylist industry smothers its clients in designer fashion that tends to wear them as opposed to the man wearing the clothes. The effect is an inauthentic look that was was transparently chosen for them. They don’t dress themselves; they are dressed. And some of the worst offenses happen on the red carpet for black tie awards shows.
At the Emmys this past Sunday, there were some shining stars who got it right. My criteria for “getting it right” includes:
- A black or midnight blue dinner jacket (white or ivory jackets are for summer);
- A dinner jacket with peak lapels or a shawl collar;
- A balance in the size of the bow tie, the shirt collar and the jacket lapel;
- Just enough exposure of shirt cuff (about 1/2”);
- Tailoring that flatters the body without squeezing it;
- Black velvet or patent leather “pumps” (formal shoes);
- Restraint, confidence and an attitude that says “my personality and intelligence are enough.”
Not all my favorites hit every bullet perfectly. But each came pretty damn close and looked really good.
Exceptions to the rule…
Donald Glover, who made history with two trophies for his outstanding work on Atlanta, wore a purple Gucci tuxedo. To me, this was total Motown chic, making him look like one of the Temptations. You really have to be black to pull off a color stunt like this. Glover pulled it off beautifully.
Another exceptional favorite was Lena Waithe, who also made history with an Emmy win for her writing on an episode of Master of None. The win was a first for an openly gay black woman, who arguably gave the best acceptance speech of the evening.
Then there’s RuPaul. I mean, come on… It’s RuPaul. (But I would have suggested a different shirt and a bow tie here.)