When I moved to college, I was told that we'd have several black tie events. Coming to college I'd only owned one business shirt, let alone a suit, and let alone a tuxedo, so be told that in 2 short weeks I'd need to be able to deck myself out in finery was quite a shock to the system. So, having just recently worked out how to use EFTPOS (I was afraid I'd swipe the card the wrong way and look like an idiot...or something), I went to the city in search of a tux.
I found a menswear shop that had a large banner saying some big discount sale happening plastered over the front of the store, so I hopped right in. The first thing that I said to the salesman was that I needed a tuxedo, and so he proceeded, like any salesman would given the opportunity, to sell me something that was anything but a tuxedo. At the time I was thrilled to bits with it -- my first suit! -- but after consulting my most informed friend on these matters I was told that it was in fact a business suit. A good business suit, but a business suit nonetheless. Back to the drawing board.
Like any good scientist, I researched the topic. I quickly entered a world of shawl vs peaked vs notched, winged vs turn down, and satin faced vs self faced. I found that the tuxedo looks deceptively similar to the business suit -- but in fact there are several critical factors that separate the two, even down to whether the trousers have hems or not. I searched for and wide on the subject: on current styles, on styles that I liked, on styles that are definitely out of fashion. I researched etiquettes, standards and optionals. I profess now to be a slight expert on the black tie event in general, and especially on the correct components of a man's tuxedo. I thoroughly enjoyed learning all that I could on the matter, because it's a part of life that I haven't ever been a part of before. Woe betide any salesman that tried to sell me a self-faced jacket lapel now.
Armed with this fresh knowledge, and a topped up bank account, I skipped the cheap discount suit shops and went to David Jones (ok, so it's no Armani store -- it's the best thing my budget can do though). I didn't even bother looking at the suits before finding a salesperson. I asked for a tuxedo and credit to them they did show me an actual tuxedo, but the lapels were highly peaked and while I know that that may be in fashion now, and perhaps more formal, I think a more timeless look is the shawl. Over the next few hours I went from David Jones to Myer and back and forth (luckily in melbourne they are just across the street from each other), and gradually constructed my suit. There was a very limited selection of pleated wing-collared shirts, but they did have one in my exact size. The shoes were particularly hard to get -- I knew exactly what I wanted, but neither of the stores seemed to have something similar. In the end Myer had an almost exact match in their storeroom, but they were damn expensive. I do love them though.
I've worn my tux twice already and the third occasion is just next week. Wearing it, and knowing that you've spared no expense to put together such a correct set of pieces that you could wear it to a dinner with the Queen, makes me feel like a million dollars. For someone who is still really not out of his tshirt and shorts phase buying such a formal piece was a true eye-opener. One of my friends (that same classy friend that informed me about my suit) recently showed me this particular site, the website of Brooks Brothers. I've use to never be able to understand how women could spend so much on clothing, but I'm ashamed to say that I do now. If I could buy everything that Brooks Brothers sells for men, I would in a heartbeat. I would blow every paycheck I get on their clothing. I realise the value of good clothing now. So much in female fashion may be about buying a label, but I don't believe the same can be said about the clothing that Brooks Brothers sells, and perhaps most mens clothing in general. They're not cheap, but the quality of the clothes reflects that. To wear nice clothes is a luxury that I haven't pursued before. I wouldn't say that I'm intoxicated by it, because I still wear my tshirt, shorts and thongs to uni every day. But when you go to Myer and feel the difference between a $20 polo shirt and a $50 polo shirt for instance, I will almost always now go for the latter.
Why am I writing about this? I'm not sure, I guess I find it an interesting story. It's probably a bit of a personal journey for me, going from slightly ignorant, to a point of self-awareness and probably materialism. Is it materialist though? I would care if someone burnt my tux to a crisp, but I think that that's more because I don't have a job at the moment so all my money doesn't come back. If I had a good paying job, and someone to look after other than myself, I think that my priorities would be vastly different. Hmm, perhaps this isn't the end of this personal journey.