DON’T BLACK-TIE US DOWN
We recently attended (and won, merci) the PRCA Dare Awards. Dress code: Black Tie. Or as I like to call it, black-I-would-rather-die-tie.
Don’t get me wrong, this has nothing to do specifically with this event. Far from it. It’s just that every ‘formal’ event is wrapped in the tradition of black tie and whilst I personally love both tradition and dressing-up, black tie really sucks. It blows for loads of reasons and whilst I don’t want to get all Edward Enninful on your ass about it, it sucks even harder for men. Us men are being victimised, y’all (honestly, please take that in the way it’s intended, I am not advocating an International Men’s Day or joining a men’s rights group FFS).
Perhaps I am stuck in the horrid Moss Bros hangover of ill-fitting suits and fabrics that crackle to the touch (read: hair stands on end independently), but there is really NO opportunity to show personality. Sure, pop on a tie with a hint of sparkle (yawn). Throw caution to the wind with a shawl collar (seriously, are we still awake?), perhaps your distant cousin is Scottish, sure, throw on a kilt you crazy Scot you, or act like you have one day to live and jam in a pocket square, you nasty ho.
I think you get my point. Stick to black tie and you end up looking like an extra from Happy Feet. You look like Colin from Happy Feet. Remember him? No, nobody does, because he was in black tie and was eating dry-ass chicken at a table for 12 in the background.
Read the fashion bibles like Vogue, GQ or Mr Porter and there are genuine guides on how to actively NOT stand out. Perish the thought. Don’t wear an upturn on your trousers, you beast. No belts (is nothing sacred?) and only wear patent shoes, you fucking fashion animal.
The word on the black-tie fashion street is blend don’t bend. Don’t stand out or stray away from tradition.
We work in a creatively colourful industry but our dress code is black and white. So why then, are we putting people in this damn uniform? Why, at usually the very biggest chance of the year for most to SHINE, both as a glam night out and to recognise creative work, do we suggest people all look the same? Everyone got the style guide e-mail, so, when not ticking the box is applauded in our work, why do we all conform so much when it comes to dress code? (read that last sentence like you are Carrie Bradshaw at a PC and it really works).
This is perhaps the reason, or in part, why we decided that from now on, we will no longer stick on that boring black tie at events. As an agency. At all. We will make our own dress code.
Our first agency foray was at The Dare Awards. Chosen Category: feathers. Not an easy category to find I hasten to add. One designer, three weeks and eleven bespoke outfits made, we bounded into the awards like a set of clucking hens (or massive cocks, depending on your view point) to what can only be described as a mixed crowd. Sadly not in the literal sense (CLANG, diversity comment-shot that you weren’t even expecting, BOOM!).
Some people loved the creativity and congratulated us for the fact that we had broken away from tradition. Others, well, were downright shady. Comments of “we didn’t get the memo it was fancy dress” were delivered with cut-glass-bitchyness and a snigger. Really queen? Really? You do realise that Mean Girls came out in 2004, don’t you? Like that film is over ten years old and it was not written about you.
Whatever the response, at least we got one. And in the words of the world-famous author of FAME, the musical, ‘You’re going to remember our name.’ And it’s a hell of a lot more than can be said for most of the room.
Don’t get me wrong: this isn’t a move to dress down. Quite the opposite. I’ve always believed that you can never be too overdressed but you sure as shit can be under. I found this out the hard way at the beginning of my career when roughly 70 per cent of my miniscule wage was spent on emergency outfits from Topman an hour before a client meeting. I learnt to turn it out.
Give me a three-piece suit with a tie, pin, pocket square and some fresh brogues and I am HAPPY. Like high-kicking-it-down-the-Moulin-Rouge-with-Nikki-K-happy. My dress down doesn’t exist. Casual: no comprende. I feel more comfortable dressed up to the nines. And because I feel comfortable like this, because it is me, I know that I am more likely to feel sharper, present myself better, have more fun, get more respect, demand more respect. The list goes on.
Truth be known, I don’t care what people wear. Dress as a glitter unicorn if you want, but make sure you are the best fucking unicorn you can be. Make the effort, because trust me, it will be rewarded. When people turn up at an event, at a meeting, at an office, you can tell who wants to be there simply by the effort they make. Some have dress down days, sure, but they should be days, not careers. Don’t even get me started on flip flops. Are we on a beach though? Do you want a piña colada though? Going to use P20 so you don’t get burnt in the office though?
The PRCA Dare Awards marked the start of our own Talker Tailor Trouble Maker non-tradition. But it isn’t our last and we encourage as many agencies, awards and events to join us. Creativity has to pour out of our industry. It has to spill over our multi-coloured trousers and burst out of our non-winged collar shirts. Embrace it. We write this today because it is Carnival this weekend and what a weekend of colour, creativity, culture and joy. That’s a ceremony I can get on board with.
And next, it’s the PR Week Awards. The Trouble Makers, and maybe a few ‘Golden’ unicorns, are coming for you, so prepare your most bitchy comments and highest praise because these PR people are taking dressing-up to a whole new level.