Tuxedo 101 According to the World's Symphony Conductors

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Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

Tuxedo 101 According to the World's Symphony Conductors

Few men on earth understand the tuxedo like a symphony conductor. The conductor basically lives in the tuxedo. It’s his uniform, his performance gear, his most important wardrobe staple. He needs responsive attire that complements and inspires intense reactions from his audience.

In other words, he’s gotta look good to sound good. Here’s how they do it:
 

ON VARIETY:

“[Fashion choice] reflects who I am: my age, my generation, my sense of style are always expressed. … Different attire may better suit different concert experiences. Perhaps Saturday night is date night, and so tails and formalwear is very appropriate. But a midday Family Concert is more casual, and for a concert in the community we may want an even more informal look.” - Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Philadelphia Orchestra conductor

 

ON COLOR CHOICE:

"Wearing red makes you perform more. … Wearing blue, you can be quiet, and not perform. … . Maybe doing all these performances in my work, in real life I want to be quieter." - Michael Tilson Thomas, San Francisco Symphony conductor (SFGate)

“I’m pretty conservative when it comes to color – and accessories with colorful pocket squares.” - Alan Gilbert, New York City Symphony conductor (Financial Times)

“We all made a decision together for our PopUP concert last fall to wear brightly colored tops. The audience was delighted that they could pick out their favorite performers more easily. It was a big success.” - Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra (Symphony Magazine)

 

ON FORM VS. FUNCTION:

“Tuxedoes with tails are comfortable - they're less conflicting and have more room for the arms. … You're not dealing with white ties, a vest, cummerbunds." - Michael Tilson Thomas (SFGate)

 

ON ALTERNATIVE OPTIONS:

“[“Performal” tuxedo t-shirts] don’t cling to skin; you don’t feel soaking wet and clammy an hour into a Mahler symphony or an opera.” - Abilene Philharmonic conductor David Itkin

“One of my go-to looks is jeans and a blazer. While I do have bespoke jackets that are more constructed, I also love an unstructured tailored jacket.” - Alan Gilbert (Financial Times)

 

ON SHIRTS:

“For my shirts, I enjoy a softer, Neapolitan shoulder. I have my initials monogrammed beneath my left rib cage but on my concert shirts, they’re out of the way on the left elbow.” - Alan Gilbert 

 

THE DETAILS

“[I wear] a Chinese collar and buttons fastened from the waist to the neck, but with custom designed tails to resemble a traditional frock from behind.” - John Axelrod, Royal Symphony Orchestra of Seville (W Magazine)

 

ON HOW TO LOOK WHEN MAKING A PROFOUND STATEMENT:

"Dressed in the most stylish tuxedo I could find, I walked onto the stage while the orchestra was warming up and simply made a short statement criticizing Gergiev's support of the law...I was immediately pounced upon by security and eventually left of my own volition." - Valery Gergiev, principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra (NPR)