Complete Guide to the Cummerbund

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Going full black tie is a big choice giv­en the infor­mal­i­ty of our mod­ern-day soci­ety. Many guys these days are opt­ing for suits rather than tuxe­dos and fore­go­ing that age-old tra­di­tion of don­ning a cum­mer­bund with their tux. Like a ves­ti­gial tail or Miley Cyrus twerk­ing on Robin Thicke at last year’s Video Music Awards, the cum­mer­bund has lim­it­ed mod­ern-day util­i­ty or rel­e­vance… but it can still make you look good and feel great.

Curate your come-hith­er-and-meet-my-cum­mer­bund look with the right tux, for a time­less and smash­ing com­bo. It’s slim­ming, it’s stream­lined and it com­pletes a very for­mal look for those skip­ping the vest. Hell, George Clooney wears one!

groom in blue tuxedo and groomsmen in black tuxedo

THE HISTORY REVEALED

We know you still call it a “cum­ber­bun,” but it’s actu­al­ly a cum­mer­bund. The ety­mol­o­gy and his­to­ry are quite inter­est­ing, a reveal­ing piece of fash­ion­ista bread­crumbs that cross con­ti­nents and bridge cul­tures.

Back in the 1850s British Mil­i­tary offi­cers sta­tioned in India were the zenith of high fash­ion. But the rules of the day required that they dress in full for­mal attire includ­ing a vest (which is hot as Hades in India’s sub-trop­i­cal climes), so they looked to the locals, who reg­u­lar­ly wore bright sash­es around their waists known as “kamar­bands.” Depend­ing on which wiki page you ref­er­ence, kamer­band might just mean loin band.

In true British Impe­r­i­al style, the mil­i­tary men took away the flare of the won­der­ful­ly dra­mat­ic kamar­bands, made them black, and adopt­ed them into their reg­u­lar din­ner wear attire. This fash­ion even­tu­al­ly made it back to Eng­land (along with tea, cur­ry and a bad case of VD), and a Vic­to­ri­an fash­ion trend was born.

groom in blue tuxedo and groomsmen in black tuxedos

HOW DO YOU WEAR a Cummerbund?

For starters, the pleats go up. This is a tra­di­tion dat­ing back to Vic­to­ri­an times, when it was said to be used as a crumb catch­er. Some Vic­to­ri­an dandies even kept their the­ater tick­ets in their cum­mer­bunds.

Giv­en you won’t show up to prom or your wed­ding with your pants sag­ging, you’ll be wear­ing this baby at your true waist (about three inch­es high­er than you nor­mal­ly wear your jeans). Style genies per­mit you to wear a cum­mer­bund with sus­penders. Accord­ing to some, it’s bet­ter paired with a sin­gle-breast­ed tuxe­do and should cov­er the bot­tom but­ton of your shirt and the waist of your pants and sus­penders, cre­at­ing a smooth look from tip to tail.

A cum­mer­bund should not be worn with a vest (rather in lieu of one) and is best worn with a match­ing bow tie (and per­haps match­ing lapels). If you’re short and stocky, a cum­mer­bund might not be right for you (opt instead for a vest com­bo to hold that gut in). You can choose to match your lady or go out on your own with any num­ber of col­ors and styles.

In the end, to cum­mer­bund or not to cum­mer­bund remains a ques­tion of hot debate in fash­ion cir­cles, inter­net chat rooms and Chip­pen­dale reunions. Our take… the amount of flair around your waist doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly have any direct cor­re­la­tion with the num­ber of flames on the wed­ding night, but we don’t think it could hurt you.

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