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What lapel is right for a tuxedo – round or peaked? Add to ...

The question

Can I still wear my 40-year old mint-condition shawl collar tuxedo jacket, or should I wear only my newer peaked lapel tux? Both are single breasted and fit me well.

The answer

One of the great pleasures of the classic black-tie ensemble is that it is almost immune from yearly changes in fashion. This is why it’s a worthwhile investment to actually buy one. The standard penguin suit has not changed in its basic lines since the 1920s. The shawl collar – the round one – was fashionable then and it still is. It’s actually my favourite style of dinner jacket. It looks very Bond.

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Peak lapels are probably more common on new jackets right now. But a guy who can still wear the jacket who wore to his high-school graduation has a cool of his own. There is even an upper-class fetish with wearing very old clothes and watches, as there is with carrying one’s grandfather’s shotgun to a pheasant shoot: It bespeaks a pride in family history.

The one lapel style that I would not recommend for dinner jackets is the notch lapel (that’s the one usually found on standard business suits). It’s not fancy enough for dress-up.

One other thing to bear in mind with formal wear: The recent practice of trying to tone down the fanciness of the dinner jacket by wearing long straight ties instead of bow ties is a colossal failure. The bow tie is festive; the black suit and straight tie is funereal. Variations on the bow tie make you look like an undertaker.

Novelist Russell Smith’s memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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