"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Weddings: Smart Dress 2.0

Toby Roworth

Nov 4, 2013

Since I hit my 20s, summer tends to bring with it weddings of friends. However, weddings also bring the expectations of a suit.
I have a fairly nice suit. This is a problem.
A nice suit doesn't have many pockets. My usual trousers have many pockets. The pockets the nice suit does have are sewn together, so the suit stays nice - it's almost like they knew I was going to try and stick my everyday carry in there, and dashed those hope before I even got the suit.
So I'm always left with a dilemna - how much stuff can I take to a wedding without feeling naked and helpless? Do I need a tape measure? How useful will the Zeus Tables be? Is a jacked-up lighter really necessary, or even safe?
And then there's another problem - tie.
Finding a suitable tie can be quite tricky. I've often worn a plain black tie I picked up from a charity shop for a first-year project, but it's pretty boring, especially as I end up with a black tie on a black shirt under a black suit.
Of course "bow ties are cool". Not quite cool enough though - any old bow tie won't do. I insist on tieing a bow tie myself, asit may be the last hope for gentlemanliness - if a lady (warning, mini rant coming up) is going to spend hours and hours and hours and hours getting her hair, dress, make up, shoes etc just right, then I'm fairly sure a bloke can find fifteen minutes to make the effort to tie his own bow-tie (maybe twenty if he needs to Google the instructions again). Men of Britain - I ask that you make this tiny little effort, instead of being pathetic and using a clip-on (mini rant over). But that still wasn't quite special enough for Dingle's wedding.
Dingle is almost as much of an institution at Brunel University as IKB himself. Between his degree, PhD and other bits he's been at Brunel for a couple of decades, or nearabouts. There are still rumours flying around that his next job will be as a lecturer, as a temporary position before he takes over as vice-chancellor. Engineer and PAist, his wedding needed something a little more special in the tie department...
EL wire is a magical material, that emits light when a fairly high voltage is applied. Think Tron, and you've got it. What if I could surround the bow-tie with EL wire to make it glow...
A trip to http://www.elwirecraft.co.uk/ got me sorted with some wire and an inverter, ready to be sewn to a bow tie kindly donated by the theatre lighting legend that is David Abra. A night with a needle and thread (my arch enemies) left me with a brutally improved bow tie, which could light up and flash at three different speeds.

However, the reception taught me the importance of holistic design. My aim was for my friends to get a quick laugh out of the bow tie. This happened. What I hadn't expected was for random people I'd never met to start talking to me, referring to me as "Flashing Bow Tie Guy" like a celebrity and taking photos of me. "Other people", especially "random other people", aren't really my scene. Lesson 1: Ostentations neckwear may not be for me after all!
And so back to the first problem. A school of design thinking says that problems are best solved by first stripping them back to the bare essentials, and this is what I did with my suit at a recent wedding reception I was doing sound for.
The rig was in a garden, so wearing a suit was out of the question. It made sense to wear the standard WBHB uniform of black polo shirt and many-pocketed trousers. But come the evening, I needed to look at least slightly presentable, so I threw on my black tie and suit jacket, finding that a tie works as well on a polo shirt as a real shirt.

The best thing was how many people commented on how smart I looked - it seems people don't actually look down at what's in your pockets when they're surprised to see you in your "day in court" outfit. Lesson 2: A suit jacket covers more than than it seems.