Part of an ongoing series spotlighting the (in)ability of the men on the red carpet to capture the timeless elegance and sophisticated equivalence of black tie, whether through careful adherence to its conventions or skilful manipulation of them. (Readers unfamiliar with the standards of successful black tie may want to first check out A Field Guide to Tuxedos.)
The black tie seen at the recent GQ Men of the Year Awards in London was generally impressive. As always, the diverse guest list of celebs ranging from athletes to pop stars meant for numerous variations on the traditional kit. The difference this year was that the majority of experimentations fell well within the realm of tasteful formality.
Examples that demonstrate the tuxedo’s potential fulfilled, illustrating why black tie has been unequalled in its ability to transform a man and inspire an evening for over a century.
No wonder British model David Gandy always tops the list: he’s wearing Henry Poole & Co. (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Europe)
Colin Firth’s impeccable dinner suit appears to be a Tom Ford creation that the actor has sported in the past. (Rex Features)
British comedian David Walliams’ warm-weather kit may be meteorologically unwarranted but it is nonetheless flawlessly executed. (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Europe)
Admirable efforts. Excluded from the highest honours due to minor shortcomings but nonetheless very respectable examples for the average man to emulate.
Gerrard Butler’s custom BOSS midnight-blue suit is exquisite in detail but unfortunately falls short in the fit. (Rex Features)
The panache of Luke Evans’ iridescent blue jacket is offset by a distractingly tight fit and bared navel . . . (Rex Features)
. . . shortcomings shared by fellow English actor Douglas Booth, seen here in Bespoke BOSS. (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Europe)
English comedian and actor John Bishop is another would-be qualifier for top honours if not for the peek-a-boo shirt navel exaggerated in this case by ludicrously low-waisted trousers. (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Europe)
Another tasteful variation in midnight blue courtesy of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. The pink socks are a charming yet subtle nod to his wife’s rainment . . . but would be garishly out of context should he ever leave her side. (Jonathan Short/Invision/AP)
British model Oliver Cheshire. If not for the redundant and unflattering suit vest beneath, his exquisite Dolce & Gabbana dinner suit would put him in the Exceptional category. (Rex Features)
Ordinarily this plebian tuxedo wouldn’t merit special notice but for perennial black-tie bastardizer Samuel L. Jackson this is a huge improvement. (XPOS)
Tastefully off the mark. Thought-provoking variations not necessarily recommended for viewers at home. Most likely to be chosen “best dressed” by fashionistas who neglect to put the outfit in context.
The black-on-black look can never be truly impressive but Benedict Cumberbatch in Spencer Hart at least manages to make it respectable (although technically the waistcoat is midnight blue). (XPOS/AKM-GSI)
Somali-born British international track-and-field athlete Mo Farah also in a Spencer Hart ebony ensemble. Like Cumberbatch’s, it may appear to be a perfectly legitimate option when viewed on its own . . . (WENN)
. . . but is clearly lacking compared to the striking contrast offered by traditional outfits. While the men in the background appear as refined gentleman, Farah resembles a chauffeur. (WENN)
Musician and activist Bob Geldof. I never thought I’d see this perpetually disheveled man dressed in anything so respectable. (Rex Features)
Iggy Pop, another infamously underdressed rocker who seems to have taken on an air of mature sophistication. (Anthony Harvey/Getty Images Europe)
Johnny Depp being Johnny Depp. His outfit is much more appropriate for a nightclub than a swank black-tie affair. (Rex Features)
More insipid than inspired. Examples of bland execution that will hopefully motivate others to step up their game.
Game of Thrones actor Richard Madden in Hugo Boss. Two-button suit jacket, uninspired notched lapel, juvenile pre-tied bow tie: these are the reasons average guys and fashion critics alike think black tie is boring. (David M. Benett/Getty Images)
Good intentions, bad choices.
British Formula 1 Racing Car Driver Lewis Hamilton could have pulled off this flashy jacket if not for the sophomoric running shoes which take the whole outfit over the top. (Anthony Harvey/Getty
Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens “Prussian blue” Dior Homme tuxedo garnered a huge amount of attention from onlookers . . . which is exactly why it’s totally unsuitable as formal evening wear. (Getty Images)
Hall of Shame candidates. The most blatant bastardizations and sophomoric interpretations of formal convention, whether due to naïve ignorance or smug self-importance. The results denigrate both the wearer and the occasion.
Kanye West’s taste in formal attire is as classy as his taste in wives. (Rex Features)
Pharrell Williams is obviously much too cool to give a rat’s ass about the event’s black-tie dress code. (PA Photos)
Actor Jonah Hill continues his tradition of juvenile disregard for black-tie’s timeless fundamentals, once again coming across as an overage prom date. (WENN)
Jonah Hill with Bradley Cooper: a great example of the difference between dressing up and dressing well. Even with his open-necked shirt, Cooper still pays more deference to the evening’s elegance by respecting all the other rules of formal attire. (Rex Features)