What a difference a year makes. Men at the 2022 Oscars may have made headlines for all the wrong reasons – The Slap still echoes around Hollywood’s Dolby Theater – but men’s fashion was quite extraordinary, from the thin burgundy velvet of Andrew Garfield’s suit to Timothée Chalamet in the glittering sleeveless shirt by Louis Vuitton.
But this year the return to tradition and form was the theme for the best dressed men who made their presence felt alongside the sumptuous suits.
The classic black tie in the shape of a tuxedo was the dress code of the evening for Hollywood stars. Nothing shocking there – black tie is the dress code after all – but it hasn’t been taken so literally in years, as bold pops of colour, shimmery coats instead of jackets and a more shifty approach spoke to the more experimental realms of fashion male.
The horses of fashion weren’t so scary this year; Best Actor nominee Austin Butler in a razor-sharp black tuxedo from Saint Laurent, Paul Mescal in a monochromatic soft-fit version from Gucci, Michael B. Jordan in a stately black tuxedo from Louis Vuitton and Andrew Garfield – he of the occasional red carpet shows – in a classic black Fendi suit.
This isn’t to say that all tuxedos are created equal; Mescal’s cut is inspired by the 70s, with a luxurious crimson bodice for a sense of retro charm, while Butler’s pointed shoulders highlight his slim proportions and Jordan has added a sprinkle of jewels on the lapel.
But in general there has been a return to secure and stable men’s formalwear. Even the most extravagant suits were somehow understated and stuck to that familiar monochromatic tuxedo color palette; Lenny Kravitz in lush Saint Laurent silks was the most extravagant of the evening, and while Pedro Pascal in minimalist Zegna with a funnel-neck shirt or Batman star Paul Dano in Dolce & Gabbana embroidered with a pink shirt could have gone slightly out of bounds, they weren’t exactly a rule break.
And that’s perfectly OK. There is an overwhelming movement in fashion right now towards understated austerity, perhaps in reaction to world events. Yes, it’s fun to see the likes of whip-hipped Chalamet push the envelope in a renegade suit (he famously wore a Prada techno-fabric jumpsuit and Cartier jewelry a few years ago) but there’s a strong argument to be made for the power of the classic tuxedo in all its broad shawl collar sculpture and tailored architecture.
Colin Farrell’s standard black affair doesn’t make a statement, but it looks damn good (yes, it helps when you look like Colin Farrell of course). Likewise Idris Elba, wearing a dark blue silk Gucci piece – one of the rare forays into colour, next to Samuel L Jackson in a shimmering silver Giorgio Armani tuxedo jacket and black trousers.
It’s also – whisper it – a masculine way of evening dressing when much of formal wear has been questioned. It’s also mature and sophisticated; note the presence of various older statesmen looking debonair after season after season of Gen-Z hijackings: Elba at 50 and Jackson at 74 were two of the sharpest looking men of the night. Peacocks and a joyful sense of dress have their place in men’s fashion, but sometimes there’s nothing like the refined majesty of a great tuxedo.