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“I don’t think I’ve worn a tuxedo since my college formal, and it was rented,” says Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jonathan Herman, 42. This awards cycle is a season of firsts for the scribe, whose version of the script got the Universal production greenlighted after it spent years in turnaround. Not only is it his first Academy Award nom, it also is the first time Herman is attending the ceremony. And now, standing in the Ermenegildo Zegna boutique in Beverly Hills — he had bought a Zegna suit “at Nordstrom by my house” for the Compton premiere in the fall — Herman is about to pick out the first tux he’s ever owned.
Joining him is The Weitz Effect’s Andrew Weitz, a former talent agent (and brother to WME’s Richard Weitz) who, as one of Hollywood top men’s style consultants, now tends to the wardrobes of some of the biggest power players in town. Weitz and Herman head to the VIP fitting room on the third level, which is decked out with silk carpet, sofas, cocktails to order and racks of selections.
Herman tries on tuxedos under the watchful eye of Weitz, who suggests they start with a black tux and a midnight blue tux, both in a slim cut with peak lapels, as well as a black tuxedo in a fuller cut with a shawl collar “because Jonathan is tall and has enough stature to carry it off.” Herman puts on the shawl collar, which gets nixed by Weitz: “A shawl collar is classy, but for the Oscars and his first tux, we want the most classic style, which is the peak lapel.”
As the try-ons progress, Weitz takes pictures of each tuxedo on Herman: “It’s important for Jonathan to see how each tux looks in photographs, since that is an important part of the evening. The midnight blue pops,” Weitz concludes, and the slimmer-cut model is the most flattering, even on Herman’s solid frame: “It sits on the shoulder 10 times better. The pants are tapered, so you don’t have to do much more.”
The tuxedo that Herman and Weitz settle on is an Ermenegildo Zegna Torino slim-fit in midnight blue wool and silk ($3,695). That shade has had a big resurgence in recent years. “I watched the awards shows and thought, ‘That’s what I want,’ ” says Herman. A man carrying a little more girth, says Weitz, might be more comfortable starting with a classic-fit tuxedo and then having it slimmed down with alterations, as those models have a more pronounced shoulder pad to create a crisp line across the top of the jacket and more room in the armholes for comfort.
After the first round of alterations, the screenwriter and the style pro circle back to several small but important details. The jacket sleeves need to be brought up a quarter-inch more in order to show Weitz’s recommended quarter- to a half-inch of shirt cuff. (After first considering a pleat-front shirt, they select a cleaner style with a pique-bib front and a traditional semispread collar, $495.) The shirt comes with mother-of-pearl studs and cuff links, but Herman will swap them out for hardware featuring precious stones, which will “jazz it up a little.”
The trousers still are a bit too long — taking up just an eighth of an inch will result in a crisp, unbroken line on the side with a slight “break” in the front. “The hem of the pant should be right on the tongue of the shoe in front. Any more of a break, and it will look bunchy as he walks and in photographs,” notes Weitz.
They choose a simple lace-up formal shoe in patent leather ($695) — which works best with a slimmer trouser — instead of a traditional slip-on with grosgrain-ribbon trim, “which can read a little more mature.” For a less formal event, a black luxury sneaker has been a trendy footwear option among creatives like Herman. Braces and cummerbunds are rarely seen these days, the former not really needed with slim fits. Observes Weitz: “If you’re an older guy, it looks like you’re stuck in the past.”
Herman wants to put his hands in the stitched-shut jacket pockets, but Weitz advises not cutting the stitching to maintain a smooth look. He also advises Herman to use a slim card case (Zegna has one in calfskin, $150) for his driver’s license, credit card, show ticket and one bill, and tuck it into the inside breast pocket. Herman’s phone will go into a special pocket along the lower inside part of the jacket. And that’s it.
One of the lapels is buckling slightly on the right side, notes Weitz: “Probably it’s on his dominant side, so that side of the chest is bigger than the other.” A tailor does an interior alteration called a “draw bridle” for the jacket to lie flat. Herman mentions that the shirt collar is a bit tight; Weitz suggests they move the button a quarter-inch rather than going up a size and have the shirt lose its streamlined fit.
Herman’s bow tie choice is a face-flattering moderate width in silk ($145) instead of a trendy narrow version that works better with skinny or long necks. A medium width is flattering to most men, says Weitz, who adds that if you have a thick neck, you need a wider collar. And if you’re a bigger guy in stature, “like a Tom Brady,” then you can carry the dashing oversize bow tie that is a signature of designers like Tom Ford. Weitz doesn’t care for the trend of men wearing long ties with tuxedos, especially to awards shows: “It’s too ‘90s, early 2000s.”
Though Zegna offers both standard untied and pre-tied bow ties, Weitz requests the custom option in which it’s hand-tied at the store and stitched down by the house tailor to lock in size and shape, eliminating last-minute fuss on the big day. Whether your tie is pre-tied or not, Weitz advises “fluffing it up” before wearing so it doesn’t look flat. Finally, Weitz gives Herman a rundown on pocket squares for his chest pocket. “If it’s silk, you can wear it pouffy,” he said. But a white linen square always is folded “like a piece of paper” with the edges of the resulting square loosely lining up. Adds Weitz, “It’s not a requirement, but I happen to like it.”
Herman takes stock of himself in the mirror, saying he feels psyched “big time” for the awards, which he is attending with his partner Jason Wise: “I’m usually pretty casual, but I kind of want to wear it everywhere.”
This story first appeared in the March 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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