Two of the author’s favorite unexpected tuxedo choices, on Ryan Gosling and Colin Firth
Not to get all braggy but I’m going to The Oscars on Sunday. When you get invited to the Academy Awards, there are two thoughts that cross your mind. The first is, “Holy shit, I’m going to The Oscars!” The second is, “What am I going to wear?” (There’s also a third one, which is, “I hope I don’t get drunk and embarrass myself in front of Brad Pitt and George Clooney.” But maybe that’s just me.)
Obviously, the dress code is black tie. But wearing a tuxedo isn’t as simple as it sounds. I’ve been to a lot of award shows in Hollywood over the years and have seen some pretty sad tuxes. It’s surprisingly easy to go off the rails. So, what sort of advice do I adhere to?
Unfortunately, the first thing is that you’re going to have to spend some money and actually buy a tuxedo, unless a designer decides to lend you one. If you’re planning on wearing a rented tuxedo that several teenagers have probably had sex in on prom night, you don’t deserve to go The Oscars. You’re an adult. If these were medieval times, you’d already be dead. So, man up and add a tux to your wardrobe. Just find one you like and get it well-tailored to your own measurements.
Also: Go classic. I like to wear my tux with black, patent leather shoes (no sneakers!), a white formal shirt with studs and cuff links, a pocket square, and a bow tie. Avoid the long necktie. It had its red carpet moment a few years ago, but now it just makes your tuxedo look like a suit with shiny lapels.
The third thing is to make sure your tie is black. It just looks right. It’s the reason they wrote “black tie” on the invitation. We all want to put our own spin on what can sometimes be a pretty homogenous look, but kooky colored or patterned neckwear isn’t the way. It ungrounds the whole tux. It makes you look like your parents had to come up with something “fun” to make you dress up, like you’re a kid who got forced to go to a fancy restaurant.
If you’re looking to stand out — and I think you should — there are other ways to do it. Nobody said the tux itself had to be jet black. Colin Firth wore a beautiful Tom Ford patterned tuxedo jacket to the Costume Institute Gala last year. Ryan Gosling wore an amazing blue Salvatore Ferragamo tux to the premiere of Drive. In the 1970s, the late John Denver wore a light blue denim tuxedo to The Oscars. (Not that I recommend that now, but it was a fun choice back then — although, sadly, the tie was not black.) Even yours truly will be wearing a grey double-breasted Phineas Cole look to the ceremony (as well as wearing a white Ralph Lauren tuxedo jacket to do a pre-show interview on E!, at 11:15am PST, in case you wanted to watch). You can also have a little fun with your pocket silk. There’s no reason that it has to be white, as far as I’m concerned.
And whatever you wear, you have to own it. Make it yours. It’s like watching Jimi Hendrix play the guitar. He took control of it. He didn’t hunch over it and look intimidated, like your friend who just started taking lessons. He played it like it was an extension of his body. And that’s how you have to wear a tuxedo at The Oscars. You have to act like you were born in it. Straighten your tie and strut down the red carpet. Wink at Michelle Williams, and shake hands with Steven Spielberg, and give Meryl Streep a big hug.
Just make sure she doesn’t get make-up on your shoulder.
Paul Feig is a writer, producer, and director of television and film in Hollywood. He most recently directed Bridesmaids, which is nominated for two Academy Awards this year.