The cummerbund is a traditional tuxedo accessory that is designed to bridge the transition between your shirt and pants. It is used in place of (but not with) a vest. A cummerbund is always worn with a bow tie, never a long tie. Although we’ve seen more pictures lately showing guys going without a cummerbund or vest, it tends to lead to a sloppy look where the shirt is pulling out of the pants and bunching. Since tuxedo pants do not have belt loops, there is less opportunity to draw the waistband tight enough to prevent the shirt from becoming partially untucked. The cummerbund provides some compression and provides a nice crisp and clean look. Cummerbunds are a ‘one size fits most’ accessory with an elastic band and hook in the back to allow you to adjust it to a tighter or looser configuration.
The correct spelling is actually “Cummerbund” not “Cumberbund. While Merriam-Webster Dictionary does list “Cumberbund” as an alternate spelling, this is purely because of how often it is misspelled and pronounced. Such is the way that language develops. But for now, and originally, “Cummerbund” is the correct spelling.
Black is the traditional color of tuxedos in general and the cummerbund specifically. That said, there are many different color and pattern options available to find just the right look. Often the cummerbund and bow tie are the same color and pattern, but basic black nearly always works regardless. Similar to the bow tie that has ebbed and flowed in the fashion world, the cummerbund has enjoyed varying popularity as an accessory. The past ten years have seen most men opt for the vest but we’ve had a lot more requests for cummerbunds lately and we’ve seen several designers introduce modern interpretations that coordinate with their tuxedo lines.
The cummerbund began in India around 1850, not as formal wear necessarily, but as dining wear for British military personnel stationed there. The folks from India often wore sashes around their waist called kamarbands, kamar meaning ‘waist.’ For formal dinners, the British army customarily wore waistcoats (vests) under their jackets. But in no small part due to the heat in India, the British were very keen to find a cooler dining uniform and quickly adopted the sash for their dining wear waist covering.
One last tip – the pleats of the cummerbund should always face up.
So, there you have it – the low down on a cummerbund, it’s history and how you should wear it. If you have any questions on how a cummerbund might look for your next event, we’d be honored to help if we can.
Vittorio Menswear & Tuxedo
1900 East Ridge Road (Near 104/Culver Road Exit)
Rochester, NY 14622