Friday, September 28, 2012

Em & Emmy

(The second annual "Best Dressed Man at the Emmys" award)
Chapter 86
It's time for the Emmys, and that means it's time for the Dress Like A Grown-up! critical eye to be cast once again on the Men of Fashion and Influence in tinseltown!

It's been awhile since we've played this game, so for the benefit of our newer followers, let's go over the groundrules.

There are several large Hollywoody awards presentations throughout the year, and each of them has its own shade of formality and elegance. Using the standards that each one sets for itself, we look at what people are wearing, for good or for ill.

We don't care what the women are wearing. Every other blog in the universe is covering all the gowns and dresses, fawning and drooling all over themselves and playing who-wore-it-best games. Not here! We're concerned solely with the gents' evening wear. 

We don't care who made the dinner suits and tuxedos. Cut, finish, style, and panache trumps a label and a designer's ego everytime. So we'll look purely at the execution: the cut, design, style, and wearability.

We don't care how famous these blokes are or what they won. The Emmy awards are nothing but a mutual back-slapping party for television actors, whose sole contribution to society is to be able to repeat words that other people had written for them. It is at best a show of bread and circuses to distract the somnambulent public from much more important and life-changing issues that loom darkly just over the horizon.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive view, as images of male attendees are relatively few and far between, and are covered not at all for their fashion choices. I watch the whole painful affair, so you don't have to: I take notes and pay attention to folk in the audience as well as on stage; and hopefully, some of them get enough lens-time to accommodate our analysis afterward.

We'll look at men on the Red Carpet, just as they arrive for the show. Ideally, this will show the men at their best and freshest of the evening. I will present some examples for our excoriation or exultation, as needed. If necessary, I will alter the contrast and brightness of the images to give a clearer view of the details of the article in question, and we'll conclude with my choice of the Best Dressed Man at the Emmys.

In centuries past, the host of an event set the tone for the standard of formality. Let's test this by looking at Jimmy Kimmel, the host of the evening.
Jimmy is dressed in a dinner suit with details that push it further into the casual spectrum than average. Notice the immaculate tailoring, the pagoda shoulders and roped sleeveheads, the roll of the silk lapels, the amount of waist suppression, and the length of the skirts. All very classic, and very well done. It is worn unbuttoned, with a waistcoat, exactly as it should be.

Now look at the details, that would be more at home with a business suit than a tuxedo: two buttons on the jacket, flapped pockets, and notch lapels that are a touch too insubstantial for a dinner suit. Notice, too, that his five-button waistcoat has a medium crossover, which is a further casual touch. Dinner suit waistcoats should have a lower crossover, three or four close-set buttons, that show more shirtfront. His shirt has an attached fold collar, which is perfectly acceptable for a dinner suit, and the bow tie is elegant. You may not realize this, but Kimmel is walking a razor's edge. The perfect cut of the coat is the only thing that makes this deviation into a business suit acceptable: any less, and it would be "just a black suit," and not a tuxedo. A lesser cut would demand more strict adherence to true evening wear in the details, to achieve the same level of casualness.

Men exist to make women look better at events like this, so it's important that both sides of the gender equation have a certain amount of equivalency. The womens' full-length evening gowns are enough to verify that this is indeed a semi-formal (or undress or black tie) event. The standard for semi-formal evening wear is of course the dinner suit, also called the tuxedo. And Kimmel's tuxedo sets the evening's tone within the dinner suit's spectrum. It's a shame that we have to work backwards to suss out what men need to be wearing like this nowadays -- it used to be that women gauged what they needed to wear, off of the tone that the men set for the event.

This is what happens when the equation is unequal. This is not an interchange of coequals, rather, it is a mother taking her kid to the first day of kindergarten. Nicole Kidman does herself no favors by taking the dominant role and leading Keith Urban forward by the hand, but neither does Urban do his albino amazonian dominatrix any favors by trailing meekly behind with stooped shoulders and pensive expression. His suit reflects that weakness. The small collar and long tie, the cuffs down to his knuckles, the skinny pants that crumple awkwardly over his high-laced boots, all conspire to push him strongly into the background, which rather than emphasizing Kidman, serves to diminishes her.

Compare this to Alec Baldwin, who makes a different grievous error. Apparently he has just come from Hilaria Thomas' prom. Matching your tie to her dress, Alec? Really? This sort of splash-o-color really never works with formal wear. The ill-fitting suit and a long tie just make you look like an insurance salesman. You still have a lot to learn from Jack Donaghy, apparently.

Ben Falcone comes a step closer, but demonstrates yet another error. If your wife, the Breadwinner McCarthy, is willing to go to great lengths and expense to get dresses especially made to fit her, why the hell can't you even hem your own damn pants? It's bad enough that she's married to an Edward Gorey illustration -- you really should take a little effort to make sure you augment her appearance. She's putting in the effort to look incredible; you need to back her up and harmonize with her efforts. I'll give you props for the link-front closure, the black boutonnière, and the bow tie. Well done. But next time, do us all a favor, wear a jacket that fits both your chest and your arms. Wider peak lapels wouldn't hurt. Leave the link in your pocket, hike your pants up, and wear a cummerbund. Melissa will thank you. As will we all. 

Ricky Gervais copies his Golden Globes ensemble from earlier this year, right down to the tacky you-can't-see-me shades and open-collar black shirt. At least the jacket isn't maroon this time. But formalwear, this isn't. Silk lapels on a hacking jacket do not make a Tuxedo. An Englishman should know better.

Oh, Carson, where to start? Are you attending or working as a parking valet? I don't know how you left the house thinking this looked acceptable, so I'll just start you off simple: dinner suits don't have belts.

David Benioff: ditto. It's a rare opportunity for you to be featured on this side of the lens: stop screwing it up. Unless you're trying to be some sort of ironic hipster. In which case, you're still doing it wrong.

Michael Hall has come from a funeral, apparently. An odd choice for a fun occasion. Just 'cuz it's black doesn't mean it's formal!

Kevin Costner, you are responsible for an outbreak of facepalms all over the world right now. Just wanted to let you know.

In every awards show, we're faced with a Man in Black Brigade: guys who really don't get black tie at all, and the nearest they can figure is to wear a black suit with a black long tie. Befuddling, considering what these people do for a living. 
Matthew Perry, Adam Driver, Alex Karpovsky, I can understand. But what is Tom Hanks doing in this lineup? Can this be the same man who was the best dressed at the Oscars earlier this year?

Every year, every awards show, Steve Buschemi comes close but misses the target, and I ridicule him mercilessly. But he's gotten much better. Perhaps he reads Dress Like A Grownup! for hints...but his jacket fits well this time, without his usual gap at the back of the collar. His trousers are still a tad long, pooling instead of breaking cleanly. He's still afraid of the bow tie, though. C'mon, Stevey, go for it. With a bow, this outfit would look really good on you. You're tall, you're thin, you're made to wear stuff like this. Don't fear the bow.

Not even children are immune from bad decisions. This is particularly tragic, because it's not their fault. They're young, they're stupid, and they have highly-paid consultants to make sure they're appropriately dressed. So what happened to Rico Rodriguez? He played an annoyingly large role in the awards this week, so one would think he would be dressed adequately. Nope.

This begs the question: should boys even be dressed in proper evening wear? My answer is NO. Dinner suits are grown-up clothes, and are not for children. That being said, this three-piece suit is a good one, dark grey and quite nice. The primary problem is the tailoring -- it's just far too long in the sleeves and legs. I don't even have a problem with the wingtip spectator shoes: hey, he's a kid, why not? It's cute. An adult couldn't get away with it, though. The black shirt/white tie combo is simply a terrible idea. A simple white shirt and a dark patterned bow tie, worn with the jacket open, would be just the way to go. Rico would look like a mature young man, instead of a small pudgy clown.

This is another example of too-cute-by-half misdressing. Shoes are nice, trousers a bit long, but the wee tux is too precious for a bairn. And the blue body with black sleeves makes Nolan Gould look a bit like a hobbit footman in an oversized service waistcoat.

This is what happens when otherwise well-intentioned people attempt to do things right, but don't understand the basics. Pocket-hockey-playing Evan Peters is giving it the old college try. Shiny shoes, trouser legs better than most, bow tie, even a pocket square. His waistband is what fails him, for he is ignorant of the fact that his shirt should never show below the button-point of his jacket. His hipster low-rise pants show a shocking eight inches of The White Triangle of Doom below the button. Next time, Evan -- taller pants, a low-button jacket, a cummerbund, a waistcoat, anything

Same error, Reid Scott. Another member of the pocket-hockey team, his difficulty is exacerbated by the use of a belt. Braces yes; belt no. Another simple rule.

Let's leave the pocket-hockey players, and look at some errors in fit next. Eric Stonestreet is a barrel-chested fellow, and his ill-fitting jacket is both too long in the sleeves, and too tight in the chest. This awkward off-balance train wreck is the unhappy result. It would be no trouble at all for a bespoke tailor to make a dinner jacket with broad shoulders, an athletic shape, and strong lapels that would make Eric look every inch a movie star, instead of an out-of-breath maitre d'. Why does he not? Who knows.

Now let's look at the opposite predicament. Max Greenfield is wearing a tuxedo that, in theory, fits. Everything is at least hemmed and cut to length. No, the problem here is the minisuit styling. The button-point is at his sternum, the skirts at his hips, the lapels twee and insubstantial. Max is a tall enough fellow, but this just makes him look taller and more gangly and out of proportion than he already is. The lesson here is that sometimes, fashion sucks and needs to be ignored. A true Tuxedo in classic proportions is what is called for here.

We've mentioned Peter Dinklage before, and this would seem to be the same suit he wore for the Golden Globes this year. As before, the challenge is cutting a dinner suit to fit his unique physiogomy, without drawing attention to it, as well as being an unmistakably adult suit. For a bespoke tailor, this would present no greater problem than fitting any other man.

This suit's casual characteristics would be more suited for a youth, like Nolan Gould. The excess length in the arms and legs make him appear shorter than he is, and the thin lapels don't harmonize with the shape of his chest. The long tie also shortens his shirtfront visually.

'Twere me, I would recommend a slightly taller shirtcollar with a narrower spread, a proper bow tie, and a dinner suit with generous peaked silk lapels, single-button, with a low-crossover waistcoat, all cut and tailored to within a sixteenth of an inch. That would solve all problems of "scale" that we see here.

We'll finish off with the best of the evening. First, the "worst of the best," was Andy Cohen. Andy looks smashing. It's a great dinner suit, everything fits him, is tailored well, and hits the right classic notes. It is right in line with the tone set by Host Kimmel, by playing the details ever so slightly casual: balmoral shoes, buttons that aren't silk-covered, a lapel that is ever so slightly narrowed, a dashing tie with a bit of velvet contrast, and pleated shirtfronts. And then he has to go blow the whole thing with a blue shirt. Why, Andy, why? A blue boutonniere, a blue pocket square, is all the color you ever needed to introduce. I'm so disappointed in you. Shame, for being so very, very close.

Jimmy Fallon has a long track record of doing black-tie very well, and this was no exception. He was in a very traditionally tailored dinner suit, cut well with an impeccable fit. His trousers fall with no break at all. His tie is rakishly slightly askew. So many of the clueless men who were there that night could learn how to do the basics by simply following his example.

Jim Parsons played it the same as last year's Emmys, with a midnight-blue velvet dinner jacket. It's not the same jacket though: this one is cut better, has flapped pockets, and the lapels are much improved over last year in their shape and breadth. He's sticking with a look that works for him, and he's pulling it off well, and improving over time. Good marks for the lad.

Jon Hamm has learned something from his years on Mad Men, not least of which is how to dress well. Note the proper trousers with the satin outside stripe, and the heavier cashmere that gives everything a nice drape and fall. He's wearing a two-button jacket, which we'll credit to the Tone of the Host...although I'd rather have seen this in a one-button style.

Hamm almost takes the evening for best-dressed, except for three minor --very minor-- details. At this level of perfection, it behooves one to be picky. First, the lapels are quite shiny. The silk would have worked better if it were slightly more matte. Second, the bow tie is wrong for the shape of Hamm's head: the shape of the knot and the rounded ends of the leaves are too small and weak for Jon's jaw and high forehead. I would have gone with a stronger tie, with broad square leaves and a larger knot. And the third is that he does not unfasten his jacket the entire evening. 

Which is especially tragic, because when he does, at the after-party, we find that he has been wearing a waistcoat the entire time! A low-cross four button, no less. It's too bad we didn't see this throughout the evening. It would have made him a lock for best-dressed.

 But he must give up that accolade to Damian Lewis, who hit all the notes, was completely correct, and hit it out of the park. Damian's tuxedo fit, was expertly cut and trimmed, and worn correctly. He was the sole attendee who wore a cummerbund, which was a perfect complement to his draped, shawl-collar dinner jacket. His bow tie was the perfect size and shape. Even the white pocket square was sublime. But, the characteristic that puts him over the top, is the easy, casual insouciance that he exudes. He makes his wife Helen McCrory look better just by virtue of his proximity to her. He's calm, confident, and completely at ease in his clothes, not an awkward boy being led around, buttoned up with his hands crammed in his pockets.

Let's look a little closer at the details. His shirt collar is a deep, broad spread, that matches his bow tie, which has an atypical four inch leaf, which suits him. His shawl lapels are shaped just as they should be, with a beautiful belly and curve, and very matte in sheen. The Edwardian turn-back cuffs are a nice retro nod. His shirtfront is narrowly pleated, which is a good match for the casual nature of the shawl collar. The cummerbund hides the waistband of the trousers, and sits at the jacket's button point. Pop quiz: you get 10 brownie points if you can find what he's doing wrong to accommodate the fit of the jacket. (Roll over and highlight the bars below to see the answer.)
Hint: Look at his shirt buttons. 
Answer: The cummerbund is sitting very low on Damian's waist. Notice his shirt has a blank space where his fourth shirt stud would be. The shirt was designed for either a waistcoat crossover or cummerbund to sit where that fourth button is. So, faced with a choice between a proper cummerbund placement that would appear too high, or a low-rise cummerbund that shows the missing shirt button, he opted for the latter.

But whatever you may think of the "error," (Did you figure it out without peeking?) because of the combination of the use of classic style, traditional details, adherence to the Tone of the Host, proper grooming, and old-school attitude, it gives me no end of joy to announce that 
you, Damian Lewis, win the award for the 
Second Annual Dress Like A Grownup! 


  1. I just want to say a big THANK YOU!

    Ever since I've stumbled upon your blog, I haven't been able to stop reading. There are so few blogs out there that is so filled with substance.

    I know there aren't many people who comment around here, so I just want you to know that your thoughts are greatly appreciated. I've learned so much from you and unfortunately, the level of detail at which you look at things has rubbed off on me, and now, half my wardrobe needs to be sent to my tailor, haha.

  2. Absolutely spot-on comment from 'anonymous'.

  3. A bit harsh at times, but delightfully entertaining all the way through.