The Oscar Tux's New Twist: Bye, Black, Hello... Burgundy?!
Stylists everywhere are yelling "Cut!" on the classic penguin suit as awards-season red carpets pack in every color of the rainbow, metallics and, in the case of Matthew McConaughey, a velvet jacket that could make even Hugh Hefner jealous.
When Dallas Buyers Club's Matthew McConaughey picked up his award in January at the Palm Springs Film Festival in a metallic gold Saint Laurent dinner jacket instead of the standard-fare black tuxedo, it was the sartorial equivalent of a cannon blast.
In the glacially paced world of menswear, where progress usually is measured in quarter-inch differences in tie width and subtle variations on charcoal gray and midnight blue, McConaughey's choice made a powerful impression.
"I think that jacket was amazing on him because he's so classically handsome and manly," says his London-born stylist Simon Robins, who is working his first awards season in Hollywood (after stints at Russian Vogue and The Face). "When he put that on, it just made you think of the Rat Pack," he says.
And then in a one-two punch, McConaughey followed it up a week later to grab his Golden Globe in a vested bottle-green velvet Dolce & Gabbana with black lapels.
"The standard-issue tuxedo is no longer the only option out there, and designers are using different fabrics like jacquard and velvet, in jewel tones, midnight blues and even burgundy, to break up the traditional look," says Mr Porter style director Dan May.
While the anything-but-black tuxedo has been percolating for a while, it made an exceptionally strong showing at the Globes -- with Usher in oxblood Calvin Klein and Mark Ruffalo in textured brown-and-gray John Varvatos. The SAG Awards went colorful as well, with Aaron Paul donning a dark teal Burberry London tux jacket and Chiwetel Ejiofor in a bright blue selection from British menswear label Rake. (The 12 Years a Slave star also wore bright blue, by London's Mr. Start, to the BAFTA Awards.)
Not to be outdone by his Dallas co-star, adventurous Jared Leto paired a gold shawl-collar Saint Laurent jacket with Swarovski-crystal-studded Louis Leeman loafers for a daytime event, the Oscar Nominees Luncheon.
It all harks back to the no- holds-barred '70s-era formalwear seen onscreen in awards frontrunner American Hustle, in which even Christian Bale's shlubby Irving Rosenfeld triumphs in a blue stamped-velvet tuxedo. "The '70s were an exuberant and expansive time in menswear, and it's exciting to think that the gentlemen of today can be inspired by the spirit of that era and break a few rules," says the film's costume designer, Michael Wilkinson. He's struck by the confidence of men on the red carpet in expressing their personality, which extends from varied colors and textures to details like satin lapel bindings and the return of styles like three-piece tuxedos. "There's nothing sexier than a vest with evening wear for men," he says.
It all begs the question of whether there might be some truly audacious choices on the grandest red carpet of all.
"I think it would be great if someone wore a Tom Ford dinner jacket to the Oscars," says Robins, without revealing what his client might wear. "It would look super-chic." As with Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent, the '70s-obsessed Tom Ford is a fan of the high-octane jacket, featuring them every season, from blazing hot pink to orange brocade (seen in his just-released spring 2014 ads).
"Most of my guys don't want to wear a basic black tux," says top men's stylist Annie Psaltiras. "I think it's great that men feel safe pushing the envelope."
The same goes for industry figures who value personal style, like The Vow director Michael Sucsy, who wore dark green Tom Ford at HBO's Golden Globes afterparty. WME agent Andrew Weitz also made the scene at The Beverly Hilton that night, in a Dolce & Gabbana burgundy dinner jacket paired with a gray evening vest and trousers. "Because it's 2014, I think it's great to wear something extraordinary," says Weitz, who will leave the agency March 1 to start his own style consultancy, The Weitz Effect. "Just as long as it's classy and tasteful. It's great to be edgy, but you still want to look like a gentleman."
This story first appeared in the March 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.