Apr 6, 2017

Loosening the Tie: the Formalities of Menswear at Trinity Ball

Womenswear looks at Trinity Ball have changed in recent years. It's time for men to break a few rules.

Conor DavageMen's Style Editor
Conor Davage for The University Times

If last year’s Vice article is anything to go by, men’s formal attire for the Trinity Ball is in need of a long overdue revamp. The photo essay, aptly titled “Tuxedos and Grime: A Piss Up at Trinity Ball, Europe’s Biggest Private Party”, chronicled the night through a series of images captured on a film camera. The outcome, as indicated by the title, was awash with the black-and-white tuxes characteristic of Trinity students. It is not the case that young men are not interested in tailoring, despite the fact that they are seen as a generation that chooses comfort in runners and jeans over a well-fitted suit. It’s also not that these men simply do not care for the occasion – obviously, all of them had gone to a lot of trouble to rent out a tux for the night. Some even put in the additional effort of adding a splash of colour with a pocket square and tie, which I take to represent a desire for individuality. It’s time we release men from the holds of a tuxedo and allow the dress code to loosen.

For the traditionalists out there, this does not mean to end to the tuxedo – there is still a time and a place for them – but, for the moment we should embrace a new direction for the ball’s dress code, as started by its female attendees. The tux, like the floor-length gown, is incredibly formal and somewhat outdated. The evening attire of the female students and staff has been adapting to the changing dynamic and practicality of the ball in recent years. At my first Trinity Ball in 2014, it was more common to see floor-length gowns graze the cobblestones of Front Square. Since then, girls have embraced the practicality of cocktail dresses or even playsuits, as a more dressed-down alternative.

By substituting a bowtie for a tie-free collar or a shirt for a turtleneck or sweater, we keep the masculine shape of the tailoring, and stay true to form


Thanks to recent innovation in the menswear industries and as a byproduct of the injection of unprecedented interest that the area is benefiting from, we are enjoying a moment in men’s style that is characterised by options and choice. One of the fashion houses at the forefront of this is Gucci, where pussy bows have seemed to appeal to both sexes for seasons on end, as a much-desired alternative to some clothing options which had grown tired. Although this has yet to permeate the walls of campus, I make the case that we should open our newly restored oak front gates to it. Dior Homme, for AW17, showcased a tailoring-heavy collection which took inspiration from the rave generation, and had models donning mixed tailoring of pinstripe or double-breasted jackets, paired with turtlenecks, sweaters and charcoal ties. If this doesn’t scream new-wave Trinity Ball attire, I don’t know what does.

Now, obviously I am not for one moment suggesting that any student has the funds to support a Dior habit, but they offer a source of inspiration for those that want to try something new. For the formalwear shoot in the most recent issue of The University Times Magazine, there are no bowties – or any ties at all, for that matter. Suit jackets are styled with knitted polo shirts and layered with turtlenecks and overcoats. It demonstrates all of the ways formalwear can be worn, dressed down for not only a more casual look, but a more fashionable and individual style.

While we are replete with choice for men’s formalwear options, these are very much based on a framework of traditional rules of dress that make the process less daunting to the wearer. In the city, shops like Magee and Dorian Black on South Anne St offer the traditional framework for the suit jacket and trousers that can be styled with items from high-street stores like Penneys and River Island for a more personalised outfit. By substituting a bowtie for a tie-free collar or a shirt for a turtleneck or sweater, we keep the masculine shape of the tailoring, and stay true to form.

Just remember that the same rules apply. For example, never fasten the second button of a suit jacket. This not only shows the the wearer knows the proper etiquette, but it also gives the jacket a more relaxed shape.

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