Why Do Orchestras Wear Tuxedos?

August 25 2021 – Phyllis Khoshatefeh

Orchestras have been wearing formal dress since the 15th century, when they traveled to the homes of nobility to perform private concerts. Home concerts were formal events attended by societies elite. Musicians were expected to dress in a manner that was befitting of their audience and in the style of the times.

It was common for aristocrats and upper class families to host formal concerts at their homes for family and friends until the 19th century, when theaters and concert halls became available. Although this opened up attendance to a wider audience, high ticket prices meant that these events were attended by the wealthy, eager to show off their fashion, status and culture. During this time, formal attire was expected for proper gentlemen’s evening wear, so members of the orchestra wore tuxedos as a matter of etiquette.

Although today’s audiences no longer wear formal dress to orchestra concerts, the musicians themselves carry on the tradition. In an age when traditions are fading and there are less reasons to get “dressed up”, the vision of an orchestra dressed in formal wear adds to the ambiance of the event.

In addition to their dress, classical orchestras have continued many other timeworn traditions. Musicians take the stage in dramatic fashion, with intermittent clapping and bowing. All of these rituals helps the musicians and audience get into a musical frame of mind, and it imbues a sense that this is a special event, still worthy of nobility.

Tagged: Bands, Orchestras