The Origin of the Cummerbund

The Origin of the Cummerbund

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 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 cum-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!

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 – referenced in modern-day by Miley’s VMA outfit.

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.

How do you wear it?

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 (we believe it’s spelled theatre) 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 for 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 amount of flames on the wedding night, but we don’t think it could hurt you.