Tanya Hanson: Thank you, Chief P’tauk-seet-tough

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“Tuxes don’t come in a size two,” the shop attendant said after observing the two-and-a half-year old ring-bearer. “But we can alter a size three.” He smiled at my little grandson. “We need to measure you. Can you fly?”

 

Instantly Carter’s little arms made wings, his hands full of the Matchbox cars he never leaves home without. After the attendant measured his chest, he yelled confidently in his baby way, “Again. Again.”

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 The male-bonding occasion of father, son and grandson getting fitted for my daughter Christi’s wedding went swimmingly, with me along as historian to record the event. If you know the Steve Martin version of Father of the Bride, you’ll understand why my son and husband joked about not finding navy blue Armanis as they examined racks of suits.

 

     Although the bride hoped her ring bearer would wear tiny Chuck Taylor sneakers with his tux (his daddy wore Chucks at his wedding five years ago), I don’t think Chucks stand a chance. When Carter tried on his tuxedo shoes, he said rapturously, “Oh, my shiny shoes,” and after they were off,  held them tight against his little chest.  

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     Well, whatever he wears on his feet, he’ll be adorable. But the whole excursion reminded me that I knew nothing about tuxedos.  Why does the tuxedo look the way it does? Who designed it? And most of all, just where does the name “tuxedo” come from?

 

    We owe the name to the Algonquin sachems, or chiefs, who in the 17th Century ruled vast areas of land in what is today the northeastern United States. Often they named regions after themselves. One region, 40 miles northwest of New York City, was named for Chief P’tauk-seet-tough, and meant “home of the bear.”

 

     carlsbad-june-fitting-tuxedos-tim-minda-danielles-dress-001In 1852, the land came into the possession of the Lorillards, a wealthy New York City tobacconist family. Thirty years later, Pierre Lorillard IV made the 13,000 acres of lush wooded wilderness into an exclusive hunting resort. Keeping the phonetics of the original name, the “Tuxedo” Club was formed for the wealthy social elite who sported there.

 

     Tuxedo Club member James Brown Potter traveled to London in 1885 and befriended the Prince of Wales. Foregoing standard eveningwear at a formal dinner, the Prince appeared in a tail-less “dinner jacket” lined in satin, essentially a version of the English riding/hunting jacket. Potter was smitten with the style and had his own made at Savile Row by the prince’s own tailor.   tuxedo-1

 

     At first ridiculed back home, Potter’s new duds quickly became the trend among Tuxedo Club members, and the name “tuxedo” began to stick. However, no one dared ignore traditional coattails at the Tuxedo Club’s first annual Autumn Ball in October 1886. 

 

      Even Potter left his beloved tux at home. However, Griswold Lorillard—grandson of Pierre IV—brought a group of friends to the ball, all mockingly dressed in standard evening jackets whose tails they’d slashed off, and scarlet lapels and waistcoats. Red was an unheard-of color for the upper crust.

 

      When criticized that they appeared ready for a fox hunt, Griswold retorted, “Yes, we are indeed hunting foxes,” and turned on his heel to hang out with a lovely young lady. Nonetheless, the young men so charmed the guests their style soon became the rage, rather than a fashion scandal. The waistcoats were the harbinger of today’s stylish vests.  After that ground-breaking Autumn Ball, the “tuxedo” and its variations segued into the elegant garment worn ever after by men, rich and poor, at formal occasions and celebrations.                                                                         

 

     In 1920, the Prince of Wales, the future Duke of Windsor, was the first man to wear a navy blue tuxedo, beating Steve Martin by seventy years! We fillies even have our own tuxedo mascot…Charlene Sands’ adorable Skittles!                                      

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     Share some tuxedo stories today! Your senior prom? A family member’s wedding, or your own? Tails?  Cummerbund? Vest and matching tie?  My brother-in-law wore an all-white tux at his wedding. A friend’s brother got married twenty years ago in one of lime green. Horrors! Come on!  Surely somebody can top that!   handsome-carter

 

               

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Tanya Hanson
A California beach girl, I love cowboys and happy-ever-afters. My firefighter hubby and I enjoy travel, our two little grandsons, country music, McDonald's iced coffee, and volunteering at the local horse rescue. I was thrilled last year to receive the CTRR Award at Coffeetime Romance for Sanctuary, my tribute to my cancer-survin' hubby!
Updated: July 8, 2009 — 2:10 am

18 Comments

  1. Tanya, you definitely taught me something new today! Thanks.

  2. Hi Tracey, thanks for stopping by. I was surprised at what I learned, too.

  3. Tanya – I’d never have guessed that the Tux got it’s name right here in America – thanks for such an interesting post. An the pics of your grandson are adorable!!

    1. Hi Winnie, I was surprised to find out the word’s origin, too. Another salute in a way to Native American culture. Oh, I can’t help being a proud gramma. He just brightens my day! Thanks for commenting! oxoxoxox

  4. Fun facts, Tanya!

    At our wedding, the best man, and smallest male in the wedding party, didn’t show. We grabbed the next person closest to his size, but alas, the poor guy still had high waters and sleeves that stopped five inches above his wrists.

    1. Hi Paty, oh, your image of the hapless best man made me laugh! When my dear friend Tina got married, she called about a week before the wedding to ask my hubby to fill in as a groomsman if needed: one guy, a dedicated Deadhead, was going to a Grateful Dead concert the night before and she couldn’t be sure he’d make it to the ten a.. wedding. He did though LOL. That’s a fun memory at this moment.

      Thanks for stopping by the junction today. I can’t wait to start Miners in Petticoats.

  5. Tanya, your grandson is the cutest thing! I know you’re so proud of him. Hope the wedding goes off without a hitch. My wedding was before the JP and we wore regular clothes. My husband hated dressing up. But when he did on occasion he looked so handsome. Well, he stole my breath all the time but even more so when he put on a suit and tie. *sigh*

  6. My cousin married into a very italian family and when she wanted to have her ring bearer in a kilt, cause of our scotish heritage, this caused quite a up roar with the other side of the family, espeically as the ring bearer was east indian.. It was quite a wedding party to say the least. The groom in white tails and the bestman, groomsman in black tuxes and the ring bearer in a kilt.. I love to look back on those pictures..

  7. Tanya – Carter is such a sweet little man now! How did that happen?

    A few weeks ago we went to our first gay wedding and the flower girl wore a little tuxedo and a tiara of flowers in her hair. That was a first for me too.

    I like tuxedos on a man, but best with a string tie. Sexy. Thanks for giving Skittles a heads up!

  8. Hi Linda, I agree with you…my hubby also is so handsome whenever he dresses up…which it, like, never! His tux is gonna rock!

    Kathleen, I love the ring bearer in a kilt! That sounds like a terrific wedding part. I’d love to see the pictures myself.

  9. Hi Charlene, well, I couldn’t resist including Skitties since she got blogged about herself recently 🙂 Yes, all of a sudden Carter is more boy than baby. It did happen quick.

    Thanks for stopping by today.

    One month from today, the wedding. Whew. Sorry, girls, but expect a few more wedding-themed blogs.

  10. Oh what cute pics! 😀

  11. Hi Tanya! Great post! My youngest son was three when my brother got married. He was too young to be the ring bearer (that prvilege went to his older brother), but he got a spiffy new suit. He wore it with fancy red cowboy boots. Now he’s 20 and wearing an Army uniform. The boots are a lot bigger!

  12. Hi Colleen…glad you liked the pix. He was such a little angel that day, I just couldn’t resist, besotted gramma that I am.

    Vicki, oh, I can just see that darlin’ boy of yours in those boots! Yeah, we’re not sure what Carter will actually DO that day but…with his parents and grandparents and auntie all processing, we’re hoping for the best. 🙂

    Thanks for stopping by today.

  13. What a cutie! He’s going to look so great at
    the wedding! Thanks for the tux information!

    Pat Cochran

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    What an interesting post. Who would have thought formal wear would have gotten its name from an Algonquin chief who had died 200 years or so earlier. The only story I have is from our my wedding. We were getting married in Upstate New York. The groom was coming in from northern Maine and the best man from Florida. They each went to a rental place for their measurements and had them called in to the rental place in N.Y. When they got their suits, they were way too big. Thank heaven my mother-in-law was a seamstress. I had sewn all my attendant gowns, so there was no problem there. We did have one little problem. My matron of honor had her baby only a few days before the wedding. Wasn’t sure what kind of adjustments I was going to have to make.

  15. Hi Pat, always good to hear from you. Thanks for the comliments!

    Pataricia…your story is a great one. I can only imagine how nuts I’d be if that was me. But I bet everything turned out lovely! Thanks for stopping by today.

  16. Mine was the brother with the lime green tux wedding and my husband was awesomely handsome wearing one!

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