A Tailcoat’s Tail

Posted on November 21, 2013


I was walking home from work last week, daydreaming of a white tie photo shoot for my site when I happened upon the real thing: a young man nonchalantly smoking outside of a downtown hotel attired in full dress.  Of course, I had to ask what the occasion was.  The friendly fellow, Brandon Smith, informed that he was attending a retail industry awards ceremony at the hotel and was wearing his father’s tailcoat for the occasion.  Then he told me who his father was and the story unfolded like a Hollywood movie.  Or more accurately, a Broadway musical.

In 1995 Brandon was 15 and living in Calgary when his ailing mother informed him that his father was actually teen heartthrob Rex Smith.  He was at first sceptical until he saw the cover of one of Rex’s early albums and staring back at him was “my face with ‘70s hair.”  As fortune would have it, Rex was then starring in the Canadian version of musical Sunset Boulevard and when its Vancouver premiere was announced in 1996 Brandon decided to meet the man in person.

Rex Smith and Diahann Carroll

Rex Smith and Diahann Carroll on the poster for the musical’s Canadian production.

Brandon bought tickets to the show then afterwards joined other audience members having their pictures taken with Rex in his costume as part of a charity fundraiser.  Brandon waited his turn then asked Rex if they could speak privately at which point he told him his story.  As it turned out, his father embraced the news and the two men have subsequently developed a close relationship.  (See Brandon and Rex recount the story in a TV interview.)

Flash forward to 2010 and Rex presents Brandon with a sentimental gift: the full-dress costume that he was wearing the very first time they met.  As further testament to the men’s physical similarity, the outfit fit Brandon like a glove (sleeve length aside).

Father and son bear a striking similarity.  (Brandon is shown with his wife.)

Father and son (seen with his wife) bear a striking resemblance.

Brandon now owns a group of high-end lingerie shops that have been the recipient of a number of clothing industry awards.  It is mostly at these black-tie ceremonies (like the one he was attending that evening) that he tends to sport his white tie and tails.  There are a couple of sartorial shortcuts attesting to its theatrical origins – specifically a Velcro-front waistcoat, pre-tied bow tie and black-tie shirt – but the suit’s tailoring is quite impressive.  Presumably in keeping with the 1950 setting of the musical, the shoulders and lapels are dramatically wide and the fitted waist quite high.  The visual result is a distinct impression of a broad chest, small waist and long legs – a perfect example of how vintage tailoring would essentially sculpt a man’s silhouette into the ideal physique.  Quite a different approach than the currently fashionable suit styles that conform to the wearer’s figure as tightly as possible.

Thanks very much to Brandon for sharing his story and his pictures with me.

Posted in: White Tie