The tuxedo was a truly American invention, in that it embodied
a rebellion against the cultural standards of Europe. Invented
by Pierre Lorillard IV of New York for a specific, rather informal
occasion, the tuxedo became an essential item of mens formalwear,
in the US and abroad.
The Lorillards were tobacco magnates, and moved in the highest
social circles. They owned land in Tuxedo Park, New York, a
town about forty miles north of Manhattan. For that town's Autumn
Ball of 1886, Pierre Lorillard IV, the heir to the family fortune,
decided to wear something less formal than the black tie and
tails that had become the standard of men's formalwear in the
early 1800s in Britain. He designed several coats that were
black but without tails, shaped like the red jackets then worn
for fox hunts.
A tailor custom-made the coats, but on the night of the Ball
Lorillard did not go through with his plan. However, his more
impulsive son, Griswold, and many of his friends did wear the
revolutionary tuxedo jackets, adding to the ensemble scarlet tuxedo vests
in honor of the riding coats that had inspired the elder Lorillard.
The lofty social status of the young men wearing the outfit
soon resulted in its being imitated, rather than condemned.
The jacket named for the town of its debut has remained basically
the same. Tuxedo accessories have developed over time: the bow
tie did not become popular until the 1920s; the cummerbund was
later borrowed from the British, who had borrowed it from India.
Today, the sale and rental of tuxedos brings in more than half
a billion dollars per year in the US alone. Indeed, it is almost
impossible to imagine a wedding, high school prom, or any other
gala event without them. Pierre Lorillard's aberration has become
an industry standard.