Tuxedo History: A Brief Synopsis of Men's Formalwear

At A Better Deal Tuxedo, we are passionate about men’s fashion. With more than 40 years in the formalwear supply business, we enjoy helping men look impeccable and keep abreast of evolving trends. The tuxedo has been the pinnacle of men’s fashion for more than 100 years, and remains the definitive choice for occasions that call for formal dress. Read on for some interesting tuxedo history and contact our La Jolla store for a personal appointment to rent or purchase your next tuxedo.

The Birth of the Tuxedo

Inspired by late 19th century British fashion, the “tuxedo” was born in New York. In London, Henry Poole & Co. had created a short, tailless smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales to wear as a traditional “white tie” alternative. This started a trend which caught the attention of Pierre Lorillard, a wealthy American.

The Lorillards were an influential, New York family who owned Tuxedo Park, a holiday resort and exclusive residential enclave. The social scene there included a Tuxedo Club, and in 1866, they held their first autumn ball. Members of the Lorillard family and inner circle sported the new British jacket design at the Tuxedo Club ball and other social occasions. The name “tuxedo” caught on for this revolutionary replacement for traditional tails.

Through the Decades

The popularity of the tuxedo has waxed and waned over the years, with some eras enthusiastically celebrating formal attire and others known for decidedly casual clothing.

By the roaring '20s, the tuxedo had become mainstream in the social scene, with evolving details. Midnight blue was introduced as a variation to black, and a white waistcoat (vest) was considered most formal. Double-breasted jackets, introduced at the turn of the century, gained popularity at this time. In the 1930s, mass production of tuxedos began, as well as the option to rent formal men’s attire. Despite the Depression, this decade saw increased emphasis on menswear finery among the wealthy.

The 1940s and '50s saw a decline of interest in traditional men's formalwear. Dressy suits gained favor for social occasions. In tuxedos, wide lapels were popular, and the satin stripe was introduced to replace braiding down the trouser leg. The casual trend accelerated throughout the 60’s and early 70’s, as clothing became increasingly self-expressive. Synthetic fabrics and bright colors and patterns were popular for tuxedos, accented by shirts embellished with embroidery and ruffles. Vests were less in favor, and trousers were introduced with an attached satin waistline.

The late 1970s brought a renewed interest in classic formalwear that lasted through the early 1990s. The yuppies' penchant for opulence and luxury brought a return of 1930s-style tuxedo standards. Color was limited to waistcoats and cummerbunds, and lapels grew narrower. Traditional black tie tuxedos with all the refined details were worn for many social occasions, even dressy dinners.

Then, the tide turned again as the millennium approached. The standards in the late 1990s and 2000s were creative black tie or dressed-down formalwear. Tuxedos became more suit-like, with flap pockets, notched lapels, and long ties. Cashmere turtlenecks were sometimes worn as a substitute for dress shirts. The black or midnight blue suit became a popular alternative to a tuxedo.

Today, a man can look appropriate in a dressy designer suit, a tuxedo accented with color, or classic black tie. For formal occasions, tuxedos in a plethora of styles and cuts are available. At A Better Deal Tuxedo, we offer a wide selection of tuxedos, suits and accessories, along with professional guidance to help you make an unquestionably fashionable appearance.

Contact Us Today

A Better Deal Tuxedo is a one-stop shop for your formalwear needs, offering the convenience and affordability of a chain store with the personal attention of a family-owned business. Contact us for your personal shopping appointment.