License to Thrill Part I – Cloth

Mr James Bond is introduced to us in 1962’s Dr No. in a tasty two piece shawl collar dinner suit (tuxedo to us in the USA).

Dinner suits done right are probably one of the most effective pieces of equipment in any well dressed man’s arsenal.  As with everything, the key is understanding what you are trying to achieve.  And that the devil is in the detail.

There are some basic decisions to make when having a tuxedo made.

Words by: DUNCAN QUINN

And one of the most basic is whether or not you are going to stick to the ideal of what is generally perceived as a tuxedo.  Notice I didn’t say the ideal of a traditional tuxedo.  You see, strictly speaking back in the day they were mostly a very dark shade of blue.  Not the black that is prevalent today.  Even in the world of style the tides of time can slowly prevail to change a classic look into a newer, fresher version of itself.

Most people seem to think a tuxedo has to be a one button jacket with a peak lapel with satin or grosgrain used for the facing (the lapel) and a matching pair of trousers with a matching satin or grosgrain stripe*.  That is of course assuming you are not wearing a white jacket and black trousers which would be just fine.

As with everything we do at Duncan Quinn we like to have a very good idea of what people should be doing and what social mores people should be adhering to.  Then we love to throw that all out the window and decide what is the absolute best thing for each individual client for the situation they need the item of clothing for.  As with everything there is always an exception that proves every rule.  You don’t need to be the exception every time, but there are times when it works in your favor to be the exception.

Lebron James wearing a lightweight
wool tuxedo by duncan quinn

So back to bespoke tuxedos.  Aside from the cut of the pattern and the method of construction the choice of cloth for a suit is probably the next most important thing.  Its pretty fundamental.  So while you’re pondering this tuxedo that will probably only be worn for special events think long and hard as to whether you want to choose the cloth most people do – ‘barathea’ or something else.  Barathea is historically what has been used to make dinner attire.  Its a great wool cloth which as with everything comes in varying levels of greatness depending upon the yarn it was made from, the mill than milled it and the finishing processes that were used.  The problem is really that a lesser version of what you are considering is what you may find in the cheap rent-a-tux mass produced by the thousands.  And do you really want your tuxedo to bear any resemblance to that whatsoever?  Probably not.

This is where we get into the land of understanding the basic concepts of a tuxedo, and then playing with them.  To make something that looks like a tux, and yet isn’t a tux.  Like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

A tuxedo is basically a suit with two contrasting textures used to provide a formalizing effect.  It is normally black but historically was blue and sometimes is a white jacket with black pants.  That doesn’t mean you can’t make a grey one, or a brown one.  But just be prepared for people to comment on the fact that, as you knew when you were considering having it made, its a little unusual.

We like to play with both texture and color to achieve the wolf-in-sheep’s clothing effect so often make tuxedos using the same cloth in different shades, as well as making tuxedos in unexpected colors where we have to have the silk for the satin or grosgrain woven for us just for that suit.  This makes for something a little more decadent, interesting and enigmatic.  After all, you are playing the game, but not completely abiding by the rules…

*Satin and grosgrain are both silk. One is woven so it is flat and shiny, the other is ribbed like the twill in a tie.

Words by DUNCAN QUINN