It’s hard to say what breaking Hollywood is like. So few of us have done it. So many are still waiting tables, sighing wistfully as they look out of a diner window onto the ghostly neons of Santa Monica Boulevard. Or something. But for those that have made it, it looks like fun. Or at least it did.
Because, while we think of Arlene Dahl and Sidney Poitier and Humphrey Bogart to be the gatekeepers of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were, for a time, its fun new gen: the MTV revival of a big screen classic with all the hallmarks of A Big Actor (all-American jawline, rapier-like red carpet vox pops and considerable talent), but just without the usual pretence. Where stars of yore so liked to ruminate on the craaaaaft and awkwardly clutch at cufflinks in mid-air for the paparazzi, Affleck and Damon threw their arms around one another like losing five-a-siders that are just happy to be in the pub, and they cheered when collecting Oscars. They even seemed to enjoy it!
And they did all of that in what is seen to be one of the most conservative, most constrictive menswear staples of all: the tuxedo. Once the only option for the sort of events in which speeches kick off with a Latin proverb about the beliefs of men, there are dozens of essential tick boxes: satin lapels, a sliver to the seam of a trouser, bow tie, ruffled shirt and so on and so forth. There isn’t much wriggle room. And, when in the stuff that only comes out once a year (if that), it’s easy to feel like another dour penguin in a room full of dour penguin suits.
But the occasion should not be sullied. It should be enjoyed. This is a tuxedo. This is the Oscars. And there, in the guffawing silliness of Affleck and Damon, there’s a solid reminder that events at which tuxedos are mandatory are events which should be exciting. These days, the pushback against the old ways are palpable, and legion. It looked like traditional black tie was to give way completely under the presence of draped Dior origami suits (Nicholas Hoult) and the unyielding sparkle of Givenchy favourite, the late, great Chadwick Boseman. But the tuxedo endures.
Affleck and Damon are now veterans of Hollywood, their regular red carpet appearances replaced by intrusive drive-by shots of LA coffee runs and the awkward clamouring for house keys because a bag for life was refused at the 7-Eleven. They’re dads now. The excitement for The Biz has probably, and understandably, waned. Back in 1998 though, when Affleck and Damon collected an Academy Award for their still-revered work on Good Will Hunting, Hollywood seemed fun, and there was nothing more exciting than feeling a swarm butterflies in the belly of a stiff, starchy dress shirt under the cardinal, unfamiliar dinner jacket of a very important tux.
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