Other than a dislike for Seth MacFarlane, the principal thing I took away from the 85th Academy Awards this year was the decline of the dress set. Two links and four studs of one precious or semi-precious form or another was the standard for black tie for decades, but you would never have known that at this year's ceremony where buttoning evening shirts appeared to be ubiquitous. And that is too bad because, really, when else does a man have an opportunity to wear jewelry without looking as if he is auditioning for the lead role in a reprise of Saturday Night Fever?
Now I will admit that a passion for jewelry may not be every man's cuppa, but then if everyman hung out here it would be obvious that he does not own dinner clothes. On the other hand, a dinner jacket was the holiday gift request of the precocious 17 year old Harvard undergrad grandson of a friend which tells me that standards are still upheld in a few places in this country (lacking teenage males of my own, I was happy for the opportunity to contribute the sterling and onyx set I wore at that age).
Without straying too far into the stratospheric realm of rubies, emeralds and diamonds, the regular run of good quality dress sets has in common the three materials in the photograph: polished onyx, mother of pearl, and gold to hold the other stuff together. Not inexpensive, but hardly in the same class as a Swiss wristwatch that is not even appropriate with black tie.
The relative scarcity of studs does not appear to be only a Southern California phenomenon, as a similar propensity for buttons was on display at last season's Costume Institute Gala and similar occasions in Manhattan. And since today's celebrities are hardly shrinking violets when it comes to wearing gems to the most mundane events I can only speculate that Tiffany's and its ilk do not offer loaner dress sets to every man headed for the Red Carpet, and George Clooney is one of the few who wears black tie often enough to amortize the cost over frequent wearings. But then, Clooney also wore buttons at the Awards so perhaps the dress set will preceed the dinner jacket into oblivion.
Too bad generally, but a buying opportunity for any man who pays attention to estate sales.