Byline: Romy de Courtay

There was a time when dressing a male nominee, presenter or celebrity for the Academy Awards was a pretty boring process: Throw him into a tux and bow tie, squeeze dress shoes on his feet and send him forth into the night, with a glamorous date at his side who’s sure to outshine him.
Those days are gone. Hollywood’s leading men are making a sartorial effort to stand out and be counted. First and foremost, they are opting for color in a tonal assortment that matches the shirt and tie to the suit and makes for a longer and leaner line. Most of the color is in the shirt and tie, with hues of greens, blues, silvers and neutral tones leading the pack.
Jim Carrey did not get Academy attention for his Andy Kaufman, but his work with color is another story. At the 1997 Academy Awards, Carrey ambled down the red carpet in a black tuxedo with a burgundy shirt, tie and pochette. At this year’s Golden Globes, he wore a navy Versace suit with a long jacket and purplish-blue boutonniere over a navy shirt and tie. Fashion-forward setter Tom Cruise — never one to follow convention — wore brown to the Oscars a couple of years ago, and a gray Prada suit with matching shirt and tie to this year’s Golden Globes, traditionally a black-tie event. At last year’s Golden Globes, Woody Harrelson made his own statement in a white hemp tuxedo by Giorgio Armani.
It’s escalated to the point that predicting what male celebrities were planning to wear to this year’s Academy Awards was tricky business, what with their publicists and agents keeping a tight lid on their clients’ style choices. Trends pointed toward classic tuxedos by the dozen, plus a smattering of three-piece tuxedos and longer jackets, acting as a harbinger of things to come at the awards shows of the new millennium.
One thing was for sure: “The penguin look is kind of finished,” said celebrity stylist Phillip Bloch. Younger actors in particular are trying to differentiate themselves from their more conservative peers by wearing a more modern version of the tuxedo.
“If Jim Carrey had gone to the Academy Awards, I would have liked to have dressed him in Hugo Boss’s beautiful three-piece black silk faille tuxedo,” said Bloch. Instead, behind-the-scenes powerhouses like “Election” screenwriter Jim Taylor and “The Matrix” film editor Zach Staenberg were planning to wear it, either with a black bow tie or necktie.
Director Michael Mann (“The Insider”) chose a one-button Hugo Boss tuxedo with a white wing-collar shirt and bow tie. Hugo Boss also sent tuxedos to Antonio Banderas, Val Kilmer and “American Beauty” screenwriter Alan Ball.
Italian design house Ermenegildo Zegna saw a lot of requests for contrasting textures other than the traditional wool and satin, as well as for longer jackets and straight neckties. “The Sixth Sense” director M. Night Shyamalan was expected to wear a three-button Zegna Soft tuxedo with an off-white turtleneck, for a slightly retro look. Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, producers of the multinominated “American Beauty,” selected, respectively, a three-button Napoli tuxedo in super-120 wool with a white formal shirt and bow tie and a one-button shawl-collar Napoli tuxedo with a pleated white shirt and black bow tie.
And while every designer under the sun was vying to dress Denzel Washington, nominated for his role in “The Hurricane,” the actor was leaning toward a ribbed Zegna Soft tuxedo with shawl collar and spread-collar tuxedo shirt with a formal black gros-grain silk necktie.
The tux is not the only chance to step out. Days before the Oscars, Washington was still deciding between the elegant yet comfortable Stubbs & Wooton black velvet slippers with an embroidered crest that he wore to the SAGs and Golden Globes; Zegna’s black dress shoes; and Tod’s black patent leather or velvet dress loafers adorned with a plain vamp, modified square toe and signature pebbles (which the Italian shoe designer also sent to Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson).
This was, finally, shaping up as the year for comfort in Oscar shoes. Nominees Jude Law and Michael Caine, as well as Oscar presenter Peter Coyote, were contemplating London-based Jimmy Choo’s square- or round-toe loafers or lace-ups in black kid leather or pony. “Guys feel really comfortable in them,” said publicist Marilyn Heston. “They’re sturdy English-style construction.” Jim Carrey, David Duchovny, Dylan McDermott and Ray Liotta wore versions thereof to the Golden Globes and SAGs, and “it” boy of the moment Christian Bale is a fan — but then again, he wasn’t going to the Oscars.
Jimmy Choo also flew in several pairs of size-15 (yes, 15) shoes for “The Green Mile” actor and nominee Michael Clarke Duncan, who was expected to wrap his oversize frame in a Zegna or custom-made Rochester Big & Tall tuxedo. But the 6-foot-5-inch Duncan was actively courted by Hush Puppies, who sent him a custom-made pair of the tuxedo shoes that Kevin Spacey and Nicholas Cage wore in 1996. Billy Crystal, Tom Hanks and John Travolta also received updated versions of the original black patent leather and suede styles.
On the subject of extremes, 59-inch-tall Haley Joel Osment of “The Sixth Sense” was slated to wear a custom-made three-button Richard Tyler tuxedo with ultra-thin piping along the legs and pockets, over a custom-made white straight-collar shirt with modified French cuffs by Slane & Slane, and a wide black tie with a Windsor knot. His stylist, Stacy Young, was vacillating between shoes by Ralph Lauren and various kids’ designers to fit Osment’s size-3 feet. For accessories to complement the nominee’s pint-sized aluminum Bulgari watch, Young was mulling over simple cufflinks and studs by either Asprey & Garrard, Frances Klein, Bulgari or Los Angeles-based Slane & Slane Jewelers.
The grown-ups were eyeing trinkets, too. “Requests for diamond studs have gone from one or two carats last year, to three or four,” said Carol Brodie-Gelles, director of communications for Harry Winston. At the Golden Globes, Jim Carrey wore Harry Winston mother-of-pearl-and-diamond cufflinks and studs, while Kevin Spacey sported ruby and diamond cufflinks and studs set in gold. For the Academy Awards, Harry Winston was once again courting Spacey, while Slane & Slane sent cufflinks and studs to Jude Law. Some men are devotees to certain designers. “I’m begging Prada to dress me,” said director Sam Mendes, who has worn the designer to recent awards shows and will hear of none other. But Kevin Spacey — who wore a traditional Prada tuxedo, white shirt and bow tie to the recent Golden Globes — was said to be favoring a classic Armani tux for the Oscars, as was Warren Beatty, Billy Crystal and Chow Yun Fat. Russell Crowe, from “The Insider,” was expected to show up (sans Jodie Foster) in an Armani tuxedo with tails.
Then there are the trendsetters, who follow no beat but their own. Tom Cruise (who wore a blue one-button Prada suit with brown shirt and tie to this year’s Golden Globes, and Cerruti to the SAG awards) asked Yves Saint Laurent’s Hedi Slimane to design an outfit especially for him.
Tobey Maguire, a presenter, will likely be remembered as among the most stylish of the Oscar men last night — he’d picked out a sharkskin Thierry Mugler shirt collar evening suit. It was no doubt the first time any man went to the Oscars in Thierry Mugler.

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