Hark, men’s fashion is exuding a renewed optimism, with jarring silhouettes and inspired tailoring shaking up tradition. The cummerbund is a case in point. When Stuckey & Murray reinvented the tuxedo’s cummerbund to take on a more detachable utility, I applauded its progressiveness. Since then, I’ve seen the cummerbund take on dizzying new heights in men’s wear courtesy of Marc by Marc Jacobs and Burberry Prorsum.
Conventional use of the cummerbund has been largely confined to formal appearances alongside a dinner jacket. However, Jacobs and Bailey switched formality for exuberance in the form of expressive patterned cummberbunds that would leave Alan Flusser sweating in his boots.
Aligning himself with the fresh resurgence of paisley, Jacobs juxtaposed Marc by Marc Jacobs’ slightly threadbare meets luxe aesthetic with the sprightly pattern atop cummerbunds and let’s just say the mélange had me at hello. It seemed that the marriage was fated as the psychedelic teardrop motif seen in paisley lent credence to Jacob’s utility of such a formal element in menswear. In short, the ensemble didn’t feel estranged, with Jacobs’ leaving me comforted at the idea of a cummerbund being removed from its semi?formal surroundings.
Bailey’s AW09 Burberry Prorsum line followed suit with the same conventional contortion of the cummerbund. Bailey sifted back in time to reinvent tradition with tradition as the Fair Isle knit made a sophisticated entry on the back of the cummerbund. The sartorial pairing couldn’t have been better as the inclusion of the timeless Fair Isle pattern was a jarring delivery of newness—job well done Mr. Bailey.
In retrospect, what Bailey and Jacobs’ have accomplished here is a literal undoing of the accepted functionality of the cummerbund. Heralded as largely semi?formal in utility, these two designers have deconstructed the cummerbund to a level of everyday use. However, in both cases, fashion is never forfeited. Jacobs’ paisley rendition would charm the most ardent Etro patrons while Bailey’s folksy knit cummerbund evokes a fashionable Old English savoir faire that doesn’t miss a sartorial beat.