OSCAR Wilde once noted it was a form of dress so sophisticated that, while wearing it, “even a stockbroker could gain a reputation for being civilised”.
He was a fan.
So too Fred Astaire, who declared it the finest thing a gentleman could don. Before him, pretty much the entire aristocracy of Regency England would have agreed.
Now white tie dress – a 19th-century mode of attire today considered so posh it makes black tie look like something you’d wear down Wetherspoon’s – may be set to make a sartorial comeback.
Or at least it will if a bloke from, um, Dodworth, Barnsley gets his way.
Paul Nizinskyj has launched The White Tie Club in a bid to reclaim the outfit from being the preserve of Royal banquets, state dinners and Downton Abbey scenes – and get such a suit in every chap’s wardrobe.
The society already has some 500 members from across Britain fully signed up in support.
“White tie, top hat and tails is such an incredible form of dress,” says the 27-year-old journalist of Lambert Fold.
“These days most people never get a chance to wear it because it has been consigned to high state events and ambassador receptions.
“But before the war, black tie was actually considered informal and people would have worn white tie to attend balls and parties.
“It’s a real shame that the casualisation of society has meant it has gone out of fashion.”
As such, he’s set up his group in July with two simple aims.
One: to arrange dinners and events where people can wear the formal attire in the company of others.
And two: promote white tie in an attempt to give it a prominent place in society once more.
“I’m into my clothes and my history,” says the Sheffield Hallam University art graduate. “I realised one day that I’d never been to a white tie event and the chances are I’m probably never going to be invited to dine with the Queen or anything.
“So my general approach to life is if you want something, make it happen for yourself. Hence the society.
“It’s a chance for like-minded people to get together, get dressed elegantly and enjoy each other’s companies.”
The first gathering – a meal at London’s prestigious East India Club – was a success with 20 people attending.
To prove their historic eccentricity stretches beyond clothing, the diners made a toast to Admiral Horatio Nelson.
A second event in the capital (chosen because it’s “a central place for everyone to get to”) is to be held next month.
And Paul insists such a get-up isn’t the preserve of the posh.
He picked up his own tail coat in a Wombwell charity shop for £25.
“This society is about the exact opposite of exclusivity,” he says.
“It’s about trying to get more people wearing this amazing form of dress.”
He thinks for a second.
“Having said that,” he notes. “There’s no-one wears white tie quite as well as Prince Philip. He sets the standards the club aspires to.”
View The White Tie Club website at www.whitetieclub.wordpress.com
Get it white first time
THE next time you’re invited to a white tie event, remember the following rules:
Wear a top hat. There is no sight more distressing than an Englishman in a baseball cap. But a top hat? The epitome of elegance.
It doesn’t have to cost the earth. Paul got his tail coat from a charity shop in Wombwell. Twenty-five quid. Done.
Braces not belt. They both keep your trousers up but braces have an air of sophistication a band of leather buckled round your waist just can’t achieve.
Don’t wear it like Cameron. “He gets his measurements all wrong,” says Paul. “His waistcoat tends to be exposed which is a definite no.”