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It's All There in Black and White

March 27, 2001|VALLI HERMAN-COHEN | TIMES SENIOR FASHION WRITER

Men's tuxedos don't change much until new trends show up at the Academy Awards. The best tools for innovation at Sunday's Oscars? Attitude and Giorgio Armani.

The Italian designer dressed more than a dozen actors and gave two, Samuel L. Jackson and Ed Harris, each a new, high-collared, pleated satin shirt that's a formalized version of a turtleneck.

With his tousled hair, flapping tie and bad-boy manner, young nominee and reluctant heartthrob Joaquin Phoenix unstuffed the stuffiness of his Armani tux. With his mom, Heart Phoenix, at his side, he showed he's really a good boy at heart.

Stepping into a natty tuxedo is no big deal for famed violinist Itzhak Perlman. "It's my work clothes," he said. But his office uniform also comes with a rare accessory: a Stradivarius and its own tuxedoed bodyguard.

Many men invoked mythic heroes. Benjamin Bratt was every bit Julia Roberts' knight in shining armor--his a brilliant white Armani shirt and matching tie. Best actor Russell Crowe was more the anglicized swashbuckler than Roman gladiator in his braid-trimmed, knee-sweeping Armani coat pinned with his grandfather's war medal. Jackson's double-breasted, ankle-length tuxedo coat suggested Shaft at the ball. Chang Chen, who starred as the bandit lover in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," was a fashion outlaw in a sexy, perforated leather jacket worn shirtless.

But romantic hero Tom Cruise seemed undone at the podium--no tuxedo, no tie. Maybe Nicole Kidman was behind his good grooming all these years.

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