V.com weekend vote: Should men have to wear tuxedos for symphony concerts?

April 8, 2011, 10:19 PM ·

Should men have to wear tuxedos for symphony concerts?

Black tie

If I had to vote completely on how good the guys look in those tuxes, I'd have to say, yes, make this mandatory forever. But, I have to confess, I feel a little guilty that my male colleagues have to play the violin through all those layers, plus a bow tie, when I can show up to a concert wearing a glorified nightgown and heels. In fact, I don't even have to wear the heels.

What do you think?


April 9, 2011 at 04:00 AM ·

I don't mind wearing a tux. What I do mind is when some people not wearing tuxes look like they walked in off the street.

April 9, 2011 at 04:27 AM ·

I feel the pain when I watch them sweat, especially in summer time, and believe or not, this feeling can sometime be distracting. If they can play, I don't care if they wear T-shirt.

April 9, 2011 at 09:14 AM ·

I voted NO.

I should know -- I've been there.  As a player, I'm thinking of this from the standpoint of practicality and functionality.  I can see having the orchestra settle on some kind of uniform color scheme for players; but leave out the jackets and ties.  Symphonic playing is intense, hot, and gritty enough without these encumbrances.

More chamber groups and soloists seem to be catching on to this these days -- notice the outfits Josh Bell wears, for instance.  Symphony organizations, regrettably, seem slower to get with the trend toward greater practicality and less encumbrance.  I've already harped on the principal reasons I don't do orchestra playing anymore, but the stuffy formal outfits are yet one more reason.

The situation makes me think of David trying to wear Saul's armor -- and then ditching it -- 1. Sam. 17:38-40: "I cannot go with these."

April 9, 2011 at 11:11 AM ·

This is a topic that has frustrated me for 20 years at least. People who vote yes to this must not know how distracting uncomfortable it is physically and mentally it is to concentrate on executing difficult passages when the violin is rolloing back and forth over the bow tie, and how hard it is to feel where the violin is when its cushioned by all the layers including the vest. Looking good is important for a concert, but being able to play well is more important. So lets find a practical way to look good!

April 9, 2011 at 11:35 AM ·

A bow tie pushes the instrument farther away by about a sixth of an inch making it harder to hold and harder to play in tune,  I take it off surreptitiously.

April 9, 2011 at 11:34 AM ·

In response to Barton Samuel Rotberg, I would observe that 'vests' (which I take to mean what we call waistcoats in England) are usually optional over here.  More generally, I support this motion in principle, but in practice believe that men should be allowed to play in white shirts, black bow ties and black trousers during the summer.  For those who oppose this motion, I would note that the university orchestras here in Manchester, England have the men in black shirts, black trousers and no ties.  But before other readers vote against the motion, will they please give good form a thought.

April 9, 2011 at 11:48 AM ·

Perhaps but do you know that soloists often have modified tux and shirts with no collar or small ones?  We can see this on videos.

I'm convinced that some really hate it but, from what I see, some seem to like it as well.   I can just think of Vengorov who is often seen with huge collar coat performing. 

But to force everyone to wear it if they don't want?  No... that's mean!  Everyone should have a tux and non tux option. 


Personally, each year I put on a Mozart costume at Halloween ; - )    As a girl, I would never dress that way in real life but I have to admit that it's quite comfortable on Halloween day.  It keeps one warm and the shoulder pads in the coat offer incredible support for the violin (especially if one has a long neck).  It shorten your neck of a few inches which is quite fun...

When we think about it, the glamour concert style is ironic...

women are always cold and have longer necks and they are... not very dressed

Men are always hot and they are dressed with 2 to 3 layers 

: ) 


April 9, 2011 at 12:16 PM ·

If we think of old masters (when the SR didn't exist)  I would say that some probably were very happy to be able to hide sponges, towels and stuff under or on their coat.  (so many did...)  

Or just to use the collar as extra padding (with no SR)

But with shoulder rests things might be different???  


April 9, 2011 at 11:58 AM ·

 I have always been amazed that men can play at all wearing ties, bow-ties and fold-down collars, let along padded, tailored jackets.  Tuxes and tails make the men look really good, but there are other ways of doing that, too.  Our conductor does not own a jacket with lapels or a bow tie, as far as I can tell - usually wears lapel-less jackets with some sort of standing collar and a flat crossed tie-thing - would present a lot less bulk for a violinist to deal with.  And our audiences are not stuffy - I bet they'd be just fine with natty black shirts for all but the most formal events.  

April 9, 2011 at 12:46 PM ·

I voted "yes" because I love the feeling of elegance the orchestra projects from the stage. But as a player, I have been on both sides of this issue. A bass player, I might add, so no string player works harder just struggling to keep that big instrument from falling over. But in fact, in the heat (pardon the pun) of the performance, I was oblivious to what I was wearing. I've worn tux and tails, and in those concerts we in the bass section vied with one another to see who could find the most outrageous ruffled shirt.

In the 70s, when I was playing a lot, we often wore mock turtleneck shirts (no tie), dark trousers, and an informal jacket. Sometimes the turtleneck was white, and sometimes black. In warmer weather, we left the jackets in the green room. The women wore either turtlenecks or blouses, and the female cellists wore a type of very loose slacks that were both practical and comfortable. I don't recall what they were called, but when the woman was standing, it looked like she was wearing a long black dress.

The overall impression of the ensemble was quite good. I really don't think orchestras should show up for concerts in jeans and tie-dyes. The rock musicians have already carried that idea as far as it can go and farther.

April 9, 2011 at 01:02 PM ·

I'm not a guy, but I agree with Mr. Hastings. I think that they don't have to wear a tuxedo, but can dress nicely, but maybe not with clothes that are too showy like flower patterns or something with yellow green and light blue!

April 9, 2011 at 02:39 PM ·

 They're hot, stuffy, uncomfortable, the shoulder pads mess with the placement of the violin.  I hate them.

April 9, 2011 at 02:56 PM ·

The guys in my orchestra wear black suits and long ties.  They look fine, and the long ties don't interfere with violins and violas as much as bow ties do.

My personal pet peeve is tails in the afternoon.  If I remember the rules, one just does not don tails before 6 pm.  If one is wearing formal wear, must not one follow all the accompanying rules?  Then there's the issue of shoes.  Black Rockports with a tux (or worse yet, tails) are just BAD, guys.

April 9, 2011 at 04:16 PM ·

It may be helpful for string players to buy a dinner jacket  that is relatively light in weight, without much shoulder padding and one or two sizes too large to allow for movement -- that's what I did.  BTW, I have not had trouble with a bow tie.  If I did, I would just buy the least bulky one I could find.  Three cheers for Lisa Van Sickle for her observation on not wearing evening dress except in the evening.  Plain dark suitsand long ties might be useful there.

April 9, 2011 at 05:15 PM ·

Wearing a tux....no.  I dreaded doing summer concerts, especially ones that were outside.  Having a shirt buttoned up all the way, bow tie strangling you, sweating....very uncomfortable.  I think you should be in the color scheme as the rest of the group and look very polished and put together.  Now if your doing a solo recital...gonna be indoors standing up....I'm all for wearing something nicer, if you want. 

April 9, 2011 at 05:35 PM ·

I bought one a few months ago, to use in the community orchestra I play in. So, to avoid glaring cognitive dissonance, I voted yes.

April 10, 2011 at 06:34 AM ·

 I don't mind wearing a tux, but if I had my way I'd change it so we all dressed like members of the Barynya ensemble. See the uniform of the guy on the far left with the balalaika? That is style. I want to wear a uniform just like his. 

April 10, 2011 at 09:52 AM ·

 Yes, I think it "is" time we had some equality here regarding this subject. If women can, as was stated, just 'show up' wearing a 'glorified nightgown' (re: "negligee" from the Latin: neglegere, in, "neglected to get dressed"), then men also should have the right to parade on stage with trousers and, say, just a tux jacket but no shirt, so as to show off 'their' manly charms [sic], albeit hairy charms !!!   {:~))

April 10, 2011 at 02:04 PM ·

I voted NO. The community orchestra I play in requires it for the men; however, for the last two concerts I wore all black (no jacket or tie) and no one said anything. I nearly passed out from the heat in one concert last year (it was indoors too). If anyone says anything next time, they can find another player of my level (which they really can't which is why I think no one has said anything).

April 10, 2011 at 02:40 PM ·

I wanted to click both options here!  There's nothing smarter than a stage of guys wearing tuxedos or tails, but on the other hand, sometimes practicality has to take priority - heat of summer etc.  I've nothing against orchestras that decide on all black shirts/trousers for the guys, or other more modern combinations, but sometimes a bit of tradition is rather nice.

However, I've got to say that a lot of male musicians do themselves no justice whatsoever by choosing evening wear which is appallingly badly fitted!   Do you guys EVER try anything on before you buy them!!??   So many times I've wanted to say:   "You need a tux 4 sizes bigger than the one you've somehow managed to squeeze your whale-like body into."   Also, it is a simple enough task to take the shoulder pads out of a jacket in order to make it more comfortable to play in (and that's from someone who got thrown out of the embroidery/sewing class at high school...) and there are plenty places where you can get small alterations done to make an outfit more comfortable - more than worth the money if it relates to your "working clothes".  

On the other hand, we ladies are not totally guiltfree either.    My mother always used to say "cleavage or legs, but never both at the same time" and that's a good one to remember if you feel the need to wear a split skirt with a low cut top!    One can usually tell straight away how strict the female dress code is for an orchestra the moment the ladies walk on-stage!  

April 10, 2011 at 03:18 PM ·

It seems that one form of concert dress that would satisfy the conditions that have been posted here would be Star Fleet uniforms, minus the com badge.

April 10, 2011 at 04:00 PM ·

Most male players I know find it ridiculous and uncomfortable.  I think they look sharp and modern in just a black dress shirt and pants with a belt (the more svelte you are, the better it looks -- just sayin'!).  But I must say, one of the best-looking groups I've seen lately was the school's wind ensemble -- someone told them to wear a solid, tasteful, bright-color shirt.  It was a great change of scenery.

April 10, 2011 at 04:02 PM ·

Asher, you should forward your chest idea to David Burgess...

I'm sure he would happilly help you to start your orchestra project...if they accept to use Sawzalls of course.



April 11, 2011 at 08:16 AM ·

 Even beyond the fact that they're just horrible to play in, I voted no because I think it actually has an impact on symphony-audience connection these days.  Our conductor told us (and I have no other source to back this up, but he seems to know his stuff most of the time :p) that originally the musicians dressed more casually than the audience and the audience would often yell/shout and talk with the musicians at points.  It wasn't rude back then, it was normal.  And then a trend started of musicians dressing nicer and halls having total silence, and now it seems like there's very little if any connection between the audience and the orchestra.  What with fewer and fewer people listening to classical music/going to orchestra concerts (not to kill the mood here!), I think some sort of connection would be pretty important.  In my experience, people are much more likely to interact with a quartet who are dressed casually and interacting with the audience than a silent quartet in formal wear.  It's unfortunate, but it seems like we should be doing anything we can to get people personally invested in their experience at the symphony/classical concerts in general.  Not to say that we should be wearing jeans and wife beaters or anything... though that would be reaalllyyy comfy.

April 11, 2011 at 01:31 PM ·

That bugs me less than where some orchestras (still) stand on the dress code for the women. In our local (but internationally known) band, the women have to wear skirts or dresses for evening performances.

April 12, 2011 at 08:01 PM ·

Is it necessary to wear a tux for my wedding?


April 13, 2011 at 08:59 PM ·

Not unless you're getting married in the evening.

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