This past holiday season we broke out the black tie as usual, for what's become basically an annual airing. This got us musing on subjects sartorial
and formal attire in particular; then Michael Williams
, author of the genius men's style blog A Continuous Lean
, pointed us to a page on Ralph Lauren
's website for his Rugby line citing the brilliant 1990 movie Metropolitan
by Whit Stillman as inspiration. Describing the film (scene pictured above) as "a pitch-perfect examination of our two favorite things: urbane style and preppy angst," Lauren's site declares
it can also be viewed as a textbook on how to wear black tie (are you listening, Barack Obama
as a frame of reference, the Rugby writers list a set of rules for stylish evening attire. As Stillman
's a good friend of ours, we asked him for his views on the tribute. Actually, he told us, "When we were preparing Metropolitan
there was a great two page Ralph Lauren ad running in magazines that we clipped and showed around to illustrate the style the film would aspire to." So, in a way, Stillman
notes, "Ralph Lauren
influenced the film before it might have inspired Rugby."
And while he says that both the Rubgy
site and its commenters "did a good job discussing the film," Stillman takes issue with their 2nd rule for sporting black tie, which states: "You don't need to wear a cummerbund with a tuxedo
- that's a personal choice. If you lose the cummerbund, wear suspenders (never a belt), and don't forget that they need not be black; in fact, they probably shouldn't be." Stillman insists that, in fact, "either a cummerbund or waistcoat is required, and suspenders should be worn with either, as with no belt the laws of gravity must be resisted." There you have it, straight from the master (and we fully concur).
We neither of us have any quarrel with Rugby's rule #5, however, which states the following: "You should look sharp in your tux, but there will come a point in the night when jackets are off, ties are undone and anything goes (as evidenced in the movie). If, while wearing your tux, you're invited to dance a rumba: you do. If you're asked to play strip poker: you do. And if you're forced into a fistfight with a count of dubious provenance: by all means, do. Just try not to get any blood on your sweet threads, ok?"
Meanwhile, it seems that Ralph and Rugby aren't the only ones channeling Whit; the hit TV show Gossip Girl
also seems to be taking some cues
. Of course, with such an influential film any really comprehensive list of appropriators would have be an extremely long one.