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Recalling The Once-Fashionable Canadian Tuxedo

The Canadian Tuxedo is now nothing more than a frayed memory (which might not be a bad thing), but at one point it was a real fashion trend.

The all-denim, cowboy classic has seen its ups and downs, been photographed in places near and far, and been worn proudly by Hollywood stars and society elites who, apparently, experienced a temporary loss of fashion sense – or vision.

Photo: CBC.ca

A Stitch In Time

In 1951, Bing Crosby was the man: His ubiquitous musical hits included “White Christmas,” “ I Found A Million Dollar Baby (In A Five And Ten Cent Store,“ and “Out Of Nowhere.” He was also the toast of Hollywood after winning a Best Actor Oscar for his role in Going My Way in 1944.

When the Mayor of Vancouver awarded the celebrated singer the key to the city, Crosby arrived at a Vancouver hotel decked out in an all-denim cowboy classic outfit known as the Canadian Tuxedo. Although his duds were meant to convey his comfortable cool, the hotel concierge, who didn’t recognize the crooner, refused him entrance, saying “[He] looked like a bum.”

Fortunately, a bellboy recognized Crosby and he was admitted into the hotel, but the concierge was the recipient of significant backlash. “Almost all of Bing’s fans wrote me wanting to know how dared I refuse him a room and how come I didn’t recognize the most famous singer in the world?'”

Photo: Pinterest.com

Levi Strauss Takes Action That Suits The Moment

The Levi Strauss company, denim manufacturer extraordinaire, learned of Crosby’s ordeal and decided to tackle the issue head-on by creating an ensemble that would flaunt the fashionable attributes of denim duds, and put hotel concierges on notice. Using the same material from their classic and beloved 501 jeans, Levi Strauss fashioned Crosby his very own “Canadian Tuxedo.” On the inside of the jacket, a label read: “Notice To All Hotel Men: A perfectly appropriate fabric and anyone wearing it should be allowed entrance into the finest hotels.”

The Canadian Tuxedo become increasingly popular during the ‘70s and ‘80s, and denim became de rigueur among headlining celebrities of the day. The introduction of the acid  wash look resulted in even more converts to the Canadian Tuxedo, from Tupac to Drew Barrymore. Double denim was singularly the ‘it’ look of the day.

Photo: Popcrave.com

Sew Long, Double Denim

What goes up must come down, and what’s in must eventually go out. So it was for the Canadian Tuxedo, the demise of which can be traced to the night of the 2001 American Music Awards. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake, celebrated at the time as a power couple exuding confidence, cool, and nonconforming style, arrived at the awards decked out in double (maybe even triple) denim. Even their accessories were denim:  Spears carried a denim purse with a certain made-at-home quality, and Timberlake swaggered under a dungaree cowboy hat that was more gauche than gaucho.

After that denim debacle, the Canadian Tuxedo seemed to take its place among other retired fashion enigmas such as fanny packs, culottes, male jumpsuits, shoulder pads, MC Hammer pants, and Members Only jackets.

But as the saying goes, everything old is new again: In 2014, Levi Strauss put out a limited run of 200 of Crosby’s denim delight jacket. Mercifully, the duds didn’t seem to catch on.