Showing posts with label eveningwear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eveningwear. Show all posts

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Black Tie & Décolletage

   My reinvigorated formalwear rig recently received a public airing at a "Bow Ties and Cleavage Party" that indulged me in more ways than one. My J. Hoare/E. Tautz 1960s textured dinner jacket was perhaps the most iridescent piece on display that was not set in sculpted metal. Whether it also adorned a low cut front at any point is not for me to say

   (Fun fact: the term "décolletage" is often mistaken for "décotege" by anxious conservative Ghanaian mothers who secretly wish for their daughters to convert to Islam)

   It's necessary here that I caution against donning such garments away from club or home-based black tie evenings and formally minded social parties. This casual aspect of black tie should not be misinterpreted as being adaptable to any casual setting, nor should it be seen at business award ceremonies. And please try not to dress it down, no matter what fantasies Lapo Elkann and the word "sprezzatura" fill your mind with

   In my opinion, this sort of neutral toned flamboyance deserves nothing less than the full bore treatment, from my lapel pin to my dainty, opera pump-clad feet:

   Of course, I like sculpted metal also, but in the tradition of my clothing choices, I made it the preserve of  my shirt cuffs and my face:

   Not long afterwards, I was commissioned by an uncle over lunch to teach him the ways of the self-tying bow for an upcoming event. I hope that he was the best dressed man at the Kenny G concert and concomitant gala dinner he was to attend

   And like me, I'm certain he was grateful that only the excessive air conditioning of Ghanaian venues allowed for our appreciative show of Western eveningwear in a hot climate

Photographs by Barrak El-Mahmoud of Capture Your Memory Bank, Ghana

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Opera Pumped

   There are two spheres of thought regarding opera pumps: the punctilious one that holds it up as a whimsical and cherished avatar of formal tradition that proudly dates back to its 18th century antecedent, the court (dancing) shoe, and the anxious other that dismisses it as an feminising exemplar of menswear’s foppish Regency-era foibles that should have been laid to rest with Liberace and his wardrobe

   I’m a traditionalist with an appreciation for the ambiguous effect on the heterosexual psyche perpetrated by the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson, the cult of the bishounen and Jaye Davidson; one could discern my allegiance simply by learning that I possess a purple jacket, a set of bow ties, a number of pink garments and a mumu. Also, in some lost civilisations, the shorthand for “Dorky yet somewhat dashing” is “Barima”

   It’s also worth noting that duels, and therefore death through stab wounds, were something of a habit where fops were concerned. And as that era also happens to precede ours through the power of procreation, I, for one, am not going to be casting any generalised aspersions of a sexual sort

   If asked why my footwear has bows, I usually point to my neck and say, “One can never be too prepared”

   The defensive would feel the need to point out that bareknuckle boxers in the 19th century would don them to spend a few injurious rounds with one another, but this is hardly necessary. Opera pumps only truly stand out  within black and white tie ensembles when attention is drawn to them, and as it is most often women on pediwear-scrutiny duties, viewers tend to be appreciative on some level. Achieving such understatement with such fanciful detailing is a lesson worth heeding, I’d say

   You see, opera pumps also require a fine eye to go with that quiet-but-flashy sensibility. These days, tradition necessitates attitude (pride, not defiance) and that old classic masculinity, where in the past, they were merely mutual complements. The American sartorialists that I know or know of, living on a continent that regards dressing down as a catholicon of masculinity and relaxation, seem to bear a particular brunt for their tastes. All those menswear things that are relatively commonplace in Europe yet almost taboo in their areas tend to result in scrambles for acceptability: no wonder some of them come to regard the affected, peacocking neo-fops of Pitti Uomo as “cool”

   Modern sartorialists should not need affectation or trend hopping to be memorable. Refinement lifts us all up; common language flourishes when the foundations and details receive their due with pride. Without due consideration to why these things even exist, they will get away from us and – quelle surprise! – the terrorists win

   Yes, I’m for the pumps. I appreciate the sleekness; their appealingly aristocratic nature; the idiosyncrasies they impute to a man’s formal silhouette, the added kinetics they lend to my dancing. And they are now as good as deviant; that’s practically the only excuse I need

   If one is interested in stockists and cordwainers, this pictorial is for you. I love the iridescent shine of my Brooks Brothers/Peal & Co. patent model, as seen at top, but I’d be more than partial to the less conspicuous calfskin, particularly the Russian calf that Cleverley is known to offer

   For what it’s worth, I prefer the bows to be no more than lightly pinched:

Edward Green opera pumps rebranded as the Ralph Lauren Purple Label Orsett

 Brooks Brothers

 Moreschi Grant

 An unknown midcentury man in London; the woman's reaction behind him makes this ripe for comedy captioning

 Paolo of the Suitorial blog wears Allen Edmonds Ritz slip-ons. I also own them and neither of us are too fond of them, given their loafer-like last; they are nevertheless recommended as a less "challenging" variant

I think I also used to own that carpet