The tuxedo has long been the suit of choice for men attending formal occasions. Following the casual styles of the '60s and '70s, which led to wild colors and patterns in men's formal wear, the tuxedo made a return to classic black in the late '80s. The 1990s put its own touches on formal looks, introducing new elements, such as the vest.
In the '90s, more men wore the classic, three-button dinner jacket with tuxedos. Until then, the three-button was usually appropriate only for dressy business occasions, not formal events. This was the time of "creative black tie," and men mixed and matched tuxedo elements to create looks they liked. They wore long, three-quarter-length coats known as "Prince Edward" or frock coats that came to mid-thigh and had notched lapels. The Nehru jacket also caught on in the '90s, revived from the 1960s, and was called the Mandarin collar jacket. It buttoned all the way up, with no lapels, and had a banded collar that buttoned.
The Mandarin collar jacket may have come into vogue to go with one of the most popular shirt styles of the '90s, the banded collar shirt. This shirt had no collar and buttoned in the center in the same manner as the jacket. With this look, men wore no necktie at all. The shirt's button was often black, to honor the tuxedo's classic black-and-white palette. In contrast to that palette, black shirts also came into style in the '90s. Men wore monochrome tuxes of all black, usually with a long Windsor tie.
Vests, Matching Sets and Metallics
The vest was perhaps the 1990s' largest single contribution to men's formal wear and is still in vogue today. Vests appeared in the '90s as an alternative to the cummerbund. When men began wearing vests, they often wore matching sets, meaning a vest, bow tie and pocket square, all in a matching accent color. Some critics claimed the bright colors went against the classic look of black and white with just one item of accent color. Metallic colors also came into style, and men wore Windsor ties in metallic shades of silver or gold.
The creative black-tie movement in the '90s also meant that men needed not wear tuxedos to formal events if they chose not to. Some men wore tuxedo jackets with suit pants. Others wore black suits and ties, also known as "funeral suits." The general rule of thumb when men wore suits to formal events was that it be well tailored and all black, with a long black Windsor tie, not a bow tie. This style has become more trendy after the new millennium, though. Far more men wore tuxedos than suits for formal events in the '90s.