Formal follows function: The Black Tux's Patrick Coyne (LEFT) and Andrew Blackmon—here wearing their own designs—believe dapper duds can have purpose too.
The dashing founders of The Black Tux, a newly launched, high-end men’s tuxedo and suit rental e-company based in Santa Monica, faced some befuddling woes in the last couple years—tux rentals for their friends’ weddings. “It was absolutely terrible,” says cofounder Patrick Coyne of trying to rent a tux for partner Andrew Blackmon’s Santa Barbara wedding. (“The problem with buying [a tux] is that every bride wants her own very specific look,” notes Blackmon.) “I was in New York at the time, so I had to go into a shop, get measured by this guy, and then fax my measurements to the shop we were using here,” continues Coyne. “Then I go to pick it up, and it’s like two sizes too big, it’s a blend of wool and polyester, and the shirt’s made of microfiber. I didn’t even know they made microfiber shirts.”
The pair, both 28, met through friends in college—Coyne studied business and religious studies at USC, Blackmon (the surfer of the two), literature at Pepperdine University—and they stayed friends as they both went on to business school afterward. During this period of excessive wedding rentals, they felt like the suits that were available left much to be desired. “The price was high, there was a very poor selection, and there were no options—it was just very inconvenient,” notes Blackmon. “We thought it was a really great industry that had customers who were unsatisfied, so we decided to start The Black Tux and give people great satisfaction.”
They ended up with a selection of five rental options—three tuxedos (one in midnight blue—“the coolest one” notes Blackmon) and two different gray suits, all available exclusively on theblacktux.com. Taking cues from the classically cool like James Franco and a young Paul Newman, a mix of peaked and notched lapels top off the slim-fitting options, which Blackmon and Coyne designed. “We want [the tuxes] to be dapper, but not overly metro. Not dandy,” muses Coyne. “Cool and classic, like a gentleman.”
Once Coyne was back in LA after business school at NYU, he heard about Chrysalis, the nonprofit devoted to working with homeless and low-income individuals to help them find and retain jobs (director Brett Ratner is on the board of directors), and began to volunteer there. “We’re both very passionate about empowering people rather than gift-giving,” says Blackmon of their decision to donate a portion of proceeds from each tux and suit rental to Chrysalis (the pair also provides suits to Chrysalis clients going on job interviews).
“From the beginning, The Black Tux wanted to embed social good into their business culture. We were excited to be on the ground floor as they were launching,” says Jessica VomSteeg, Chrysalis’s manager of individual and corporate giving. “Not only do they help fund the Chrysalis program, but they also outfit our clients to look professional as they re-enter the workforce.”
“I think the question is, why not?” says Coyne of building a business model that gives back. “I don’t have to have a reason to help the people who I’ve had the opportunity to help. It just makes sense to us.”