No, the cummerbund isn’t as popular as its cousin, the vest. That said, cummerbunds have their place as fashion accessories in formal wear. Today, they’re often mistakenly referred to as cumberbunds — and even Webster’s dictionary lists the spelling as an alternative option. Whichever name you use, the cummerbund is all about class and sophistication.
The British Roots of Cummerbunds
The cummerbund was born out of necessity around 1850. In the heat of India, British soldiers stationed there needed something cooler to wear when they dined. The soldiers usually wore vests under their military jackets. This made for a very uncomfortable experience during meal times.
At the time, British personnel noticed that the native peoples of India wore sashes around their waists. So, the military decided to adapt the sashes to fit their needs. This gave birth to the western cummerbund. An important benefit of the new waist sashes was that they acted as a sort of crumb catcher during meals.
When the tuxedo made its appearance in New York in 1886, it was spartan in nature and came without many accessories. Soon, however, accessories were created specifically for the tuxedo. This is about the time black bow ties became popular.
With the new black tie dress code in play, aristocrats of the day decided to borrow style ideas from the British military. This is how black cummerbunds became part of the formal wear ensemble. The men of those days also used cummerbunds to hold their event ticket stubs and other personal items.
The Modern-Day Appeal of Cummerbunds
Today, the cummerbund, bow tie, and tuxedo are part of formal wear. The purpose of the cummerbund piece is to cover the area where the shirt creases at the top of the pants. This creates a crisp and classy look for formal events.
Cummerbunds come in many color and fabric variations and can certainly be worn as statement pieces. The interesting thing about cummerbunds is that they are primarily exclusive to tuxedos, while vests and ties can be worn with both suits and tuxedos.