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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.

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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