Finding prom tux is no snap, even with suspenders

May 27, 2000|By Rob Kasper

THE OTHER DAY I attempted to help my older son rent a tuxedo.

Like many father-son interactions, it did not go as I had planned.

We disagreed on the color. I favored something dark and classic, like the one at home, hanging in the kid's closet. I knew that tuxedo well. It used to be mine. I bought it a couple of years ago, when I was under the illusion that my social life was on an upswing. I wore it a few times, to a fancy cigar dinner or two. But as our two kids got older I found that my evenings were filling up not with invitations to glittering black-tie soirees but with obligations to attend kids' soggy sweat-sock sporting events.

About two years ago, when the older kid joined the ranks of a tuxedo-clad choral group at high school, there was a changing of the garb. The tuxedo was taken to a tailor, who made certain parts of the garment smaller and other parts of the garment larger. The refitted tuxedo moved from my closet to my son's.

Transferring ownership of the tuxedo was a formal acknowledgment that the kid's social life was going full throttle while mine was merely puttering along. This was not a revelation. Evidence had been building. After a few Saturday nights when your kid goes out the door for the night just as you go to bed, it becomes apparent who the good-time guy of the household really is.

When the tuxedo moved to the kid's wardrobe, it not only got out more, but it also began appearing in exotic places. It became an international traveler, showing up in London for the spring tour of the high school choral group. Even in Baltimore it led a more interesting life, showing up, for example, outside the Sip & Bite restaurant in Fells Point during an early morning serenade of Channel 13's Don Scott and Marty Bass. Springtime in London and breakfast at the Sip & Bite, you don't get more bon vivant than that.

This month, when it came time for the kid to get duded up for the school prom, I thought he would want to wear his frequent companion, his classic, black, personally tailored tux.

The kid thought otherwise. Rather than wearing the same old threads to the prom, he wanted to sport something with some verve, some excitement. He wanted a green tuxedo. I was thinking Cary Grant. The kid was thinking leprechaun.

He told me this as we were barreling along the expressway, headed to a tuxedo rental shop five days before the prom.

Rather than relying on common sense ("You will look like a Popsicle!") or the usual father argument ("Not if I'm paying") to derail the quest for the green tuxedo, I counted on market forces to do the job.

I figured that chances were slight that a shop would carry jackets in that hue. Moreover, I figured, chances of landing a green tuxedo grow even smaller when you show up at a shop in the height of tuxedo rental season a mere five days before you want to put the jacket on your back. Sometimes the best course of action a parent can take is to shut up and smile. The last-minute quest for the green tuxedo seemed like one of those times.

Sure enough, the proprietor of the formal wear shop said he had no green tuxedos. But he did have a supply of navy blue vests and bow ties. The kid said navy blue sounded a little tame, but it would have to do.

So last Saturday night, the kid went out the door dressed in his classic, black, well-traveled tuxedo and a sedate blue vest and bow tie.

He came back at dawn, having attended the now customary post-prom, early morning party where the kids shed their formal garb and shoot baskets.

The rented blue bow tie did not make it home. It lost its way somewhere in the post-prom proceedings. It was not alone. A series of day-after phone calls among prom-goers revealed that a number of bow ties and a cell phone had wandered away from the party-goers.

Eventually the bow tie was located and returned to the tux shop, along with the vest, a few hours before extra rental fees would have kicked in.

In the wee hours of the morning, a chaperone, a mother of another prom-goer, had spotted a couple of stray bow ties and had scooped them up. I was grateful for her vigilance -- and impressed that unlike me, she could stay awake past midnight.

I had to admit though, that if the bow tie had been bright green, it probably would have been much harder for the kid to lose.

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