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Published: Sunday, 4/10/2005

What's he going to wear?

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Scott High School senior Anthony Walker chose a shawl tuxedo with a vest that coordinates with the color of his date's dress. Scott High School senior Anthony Walker chose a shawl tuxedo with a vest that coordinates with the color of his date's dress.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

It's prom time, and that means time to pick out a tux, guys.

Sort of.

"They guys don't have a choice," said Jeff Nowicki, manager of the President Tuxedo store in Westfield Shoppingtown Franklin Park. "[They get] whatever the girls tell the guys to get."

There are all kinds of choices these days when it comes to men's formal wear, but some of the most important ones aren't always made by the men. Just ask Ted Heintschel about whose opinion mattered most in choosing his tux.

"Hers," the young man said recently, nodding his noggin toward his prom date, Mary Reed.

"No it wasn't," the Notre Dame Academy senior protested quietly.

"She has a pink dress," explained Mr. Heintschel, a senior at St. John's Jesuit High School.

So he "chose" a pink vest and necktie to complement his white tuxedo, a hot item this year, especially after singers Usher and Kanye West showed up at the Grammy Awards in February decked out in white.

Jeff Nowicki, left, manager of President Tuxedo fits a white tuxedo with pink vest for St. John's Jesuit High School senior Ted Heintschel. Jeff Nowicki, left, manager of President Tuxedo fits a white tuxedo with pink vest for St. John's Jesuit High School senior Ted Heintschel.
LISA DUTTON / BLADE Enlarge

A survey conducted last year by TeenProm magazine indicated that 85 percent of its (predominantly female) readers were very or somewhat involved in the selection of their date's formal wear. Seventy percent said their date coordinated their accessories, meaning if she wore a red dress, he wore a red bow tie.

Still, the level of this kind of cooperation depends on various factors, according to Jane Fort, the magazine's editor-in-chief.

"If you're going with someone that you know very well, then it's something that you guys can plan together. If you're going with your crush you never talked to before, I'm not sure you should be telling him to go buy a powder blue tux," she said.

Speaking of which, those powder blue classics like the one that appeared in the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber (along with a dapper orange tux) can be hard to come by these days.

"Kids come in looking for those orange and blue tuxedos," Mr. Nowicki said. "They're impossible to find."

Maybe that's for the best.

After all, most guys will shell out more than chump change on their prom look. The TeenProm survey said most women went to the prom with guys who spent an average of $194 on their outfit, including tux, shoes, and accessories.

Local rental stores quoted prices ranging from $50 to $135 for a tux, which sometimes included shoes and accessories. Consign-It Clothiers for Men & Women in Sylvania Township sells tuxedos that range in price from $37 to $130, not including shoes, shirt, or accessories.

Pastels and bright colors are big this year, with more than 80 colors available for vests. And "vest" is the key word, by the way. Cummerbunds - waistbands worn in place of a vest; remember them? - are way out.

"We try to push them, but ..." Mr. Nowicki said, trailing off with a smile.

Alesia Aromas, store manager of After Hours Formalwear in Franklin Park, said, "The brighter the vest the better. Turquoise is a big hit, and tangerine orange. They're just the hottest commodity right now. The girls' dresses tend to be more colorful than they have been in the last several years."

There are lots of hip, modern jacket styles for guys to choose from, too, but that's of lesser importance.

"As soon as their picture's taken, that coat's on a chair," Mr. Nowicki said.

For those still unsure about what to do, there's always the safe, traditional tux.

"I think that a classic two, three-button jacket is probably one of the best ways to go so you don't end up laughing at yourself in 10 years," said Mrs. Aromas. "But these boys have their own imagination and want to be unique in their own way."

Ms. Fort has other suggestions for them.

"I sort of like it if it's loud, just putting a T-shirt on instead of a [tuxedo] shirt," she said. "Something that's a little different, [like wearing] sneakers - to put your own personality on it."

Contact Ryan E. Smith at: ryansmith@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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