Have you ever been invited to a black tie event and didn’t know what to wear? Most accomplished men will be invited to a gala, dinner or charity ball at some point (if not multiple points) in their lives.
Black tie by the way, is generally the internationally accepted term for the dress code I’m referring to. Kenyan dress codes can get quite complicated nowadays. I was recently invited to a friend’s wedding in which the dress code was “black vogue'“. If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of that dress code before, it’s because it doesn’t exist. My friend, who had heard of black tie, thought it would be a good idea to throw on the word vogue somewhere in the mix, because it sounded good. His exact words were, “I want black tie, but fancier.”
A quick Google search of the term ‘black vogue’ in anticipation for images that would give you an idea of the dress code, brings up a black women’s right advocacy group instead. Frustrating, I know.
Having experience in mens evening wear, I knew what he had in mind even before he provided the simplistic one line explanation. Most guys however just attended in black suits. Full black looks, to a wedding!
Anyway, frustrations with ambiguous dress codes aside, I’d like to provide you with a tuxedo style guide for any gala or dinner you may need to attend in future. I’ll first set up three very vital foundational elements I call the three f’s; fabric, fit and finish.
Fabric is a vital part of every tuxedo. It’s the first and most important piece.
There’s a whole range of high quality fabrics out there. I won’t get into each specifically, that’s a post for another day. What’s important for the sake of today’s discussion however is that it’s impossible to tell fabric quality from a picture. It really is. You have to see the tuxedo first hand. Many a time, I’ve seen an item on Instagram and loved it, only to be thoroughly disappointed with the fabric once I had the tuxedo in my hand.
I call fit “The Ultimate Cheat Code”. What I mean by that is, if the fabric and the finish are off, your friends may not care as long as the fit is good and makes you look bolder. Since this is not the year 1998, most Kenyan men no longer wear baggy clothes. Some however, like them a bit too tight which often lead to a host of fit issues.
When a tuxedo is too tight, the owner looks uncomfortable. Discomfort in clothing is very difficult to hide, as evidenced by those ladies you see who wear a short dress only to consistently pull it down every time they take a step forward. A tuxedo is meant to showcase the elegance and sophistication of your personality, and there’s nothing sophisticated about a man who struts through an event in obvious discomfort caused by an issue he could’ve sorted long before he got there. In addition, tuxedos that are too tight don’t last too long due to the constant pressure on the seams. Yet depending on the fabric utilized and craftsmanship quality, a good tuxedo should span two generations.
A good finish is another thing that’s impossible to tell from a picture and yet another aspect that’s always notoriously missing from those tuxedos you see on Instagram. Always try before you buy.
Now that we’re on the same page with regards to the important elements in a black tie tuxedo, let’s get into the three purchase options for any man in Kenya looking to make a big impression at his next event in a tux.
You could rent a tux. It all depends on the impression you’re trying to make. If all you want to do is meet the dress code specifications and you feel that you will never need to wear a tuxedo ever again, then renting is a good option. The advantage is that it’s cheap. The disadvantage is that fit is usually a major issue. The fabric is also unlikely to be good since it was made cheaply to be rented out cheaply. In addition most rental tuxedos have been worn several times over so they tend not to look good.
If you have a good tailor and a source for high quality fabric you could tailor your tux. The advantage is the sky is the limit as long as everyone involved knows what they’re doing. Fabric, fit and finish can all be sorted if the stars align themselves in your favour. The disadvantage is Kenyan tailors are the worst, most of them anyway. You’re likely to lose time, money or both and still never get something worthy of the effort. This method of purchase is the most inconvenient by far.
3. Ready to wear
This is by far the most convenient method. Fabric and finish tend to be guaranteed under this method. And sorting out the fit a lot of the time involves basic tailoring such as taking in the waist a little.
Now that we have the basics covered, in my next article I’ll break down the various sources one can purchase some of the finest black tie tuxedos in the Kenya. Stay tuned for part two.
ARTICLE BY PAUL OLOO - email@example.com