SAG Awards: Chris Colfer and the smartest tuxedo ever

I haven’t written about menswear here since the great customized pinstripe discussion from almost a year ago, but I can’t stop thinking about what a clever choice Vivienne Westwood’s harlequin-evoking tuxedo was for Chris Colfer at the SAG Awards last night (look, the SAG awards are a snoozer, but clothes are fun and since I get to vote in them I do feel faintly obligated to watch).

Aside from the fact that the man knows how to wear a suit and seeing him going a little more daring in that regard was delightful, the more I’ve pondered the various origins of what we think of as the harlequin, the more taken I am with this choice. A trickster, an acrobat, and a being that runs around with a bunch of demons chasing damned souls to hell is some pretty powerful stuff. It’s also some pretty clever and wry stuff when the person sartorially referencing this bit of theatrical history is a young performer and writer who just happens to be gay in what is still a homophobic culture.

Making it all even more delicious is the fact that the Vivienne Westwood suit’s harlequin details only extend from the shoulders to mid-chest, so what we’re looking at isn’t the full garb of the harlequin, but merely the mantle. All clothes are about playing a role, of course, especially clothes worn for the camera at an awards ceremony, but this particular tuxedo, on anyone, is explicitly so.

I haven’t the faintest idea if anyone in Colfer’s camp thought consciously about the motif of the suit, although I imagine all those people are certainly smart enough for it to be a possibility.

Regardless, I can’t stop being tickled by what I read immediately as a playful and intellectual skewering of a weird business and its intersection with an often cowardly culture. Reception is only within an artist’s control to a profoundly limited degree, and I love seeing that celebrated and played with, even if my experience of such is well outside its original intent.

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