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At this prom, black tie takes a back seat

Cameron Frazier and Gabrielle Cistrunk. Cameron wore an embroidered white suit, with blue sequins on the lapel and the bottom of the legs. His shoes featured blue sequin trim.
Tamara Frazier
Cameron Frazier and Gabrielle Cistrunk. Cameron wore an embroidered white suit, with blue sequins on the lapel and the bottom of the legs. His shoes featured blue sequin trim.

Prom. It's that time of year when students make a dramatic entrance with their glamorous outfits for the big dance.

Traditionally prom is all about the dresses. Through the years they have evolved from long gowns with full sleeves to off-the-shoulder minis. Ruffles, satin, lace, sequins — you name it. But what about the guys' outfits? Typically they wear a classic tuxedo or a suit — with a color-coordinated cummerbund and bow tie to complement their date's dress, of course.

But that was then.

Zack Dahbour, manager of Zak's Avenue Fashions, a men's clothing store in Louisville, Miss., (pronounced LOUIS-ville) says he noticed that prom fashion started changing three years ago.

"The guys who come in want fancy, not traditional. They even want their shoes fancy," he says.

During prom season, many of the students rent or buy their outfits at Zak's. Dahnour says they have both classic and trendy styles. But in recent years, the students want styles that reflect their personalities.

The guys are picking out embossed floral blazers and luxurious velvet suits in a symphony of colors. For their shoes, they've ditched shoelaces for slip-on loafers that range from jacquard print to metallic-glitter-spiked creations. Any color goes.

"The old school looked decent and fashionable. Everybody wore the same. For the new school, we wanna set a trend," says Emory James, a senior at Louisville High School, who ordered his suit online.

This was his first time attending prom, and he went with his girlfriend, Ayma Whitfield.

Emory James and Ayma Whitfield. Emory wore an embroidered black and green gold-trimmed suit. Instead of a button-down shirt, he chose a turtleneck. His shoes are black-studded, red-soled loafers.
/ Jack King Media
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Jack King Media
Emory James and Ayma Whitfield. Emory wore an embroidered black and green gold-trimmed suit. Instead of a button-down shirt, he chose a turtleneck. His shoes are black-studded, red-soled loafers.

About five miles down the street from Zak's is Fantabulous Formals. If someone is looking for a traditional black-tie tux or a prom suit, this is the place to go. However, there's one request all the guys make that's not traditional.

"Slim fit — they want their jacket and pants slim, and they want their pants ankle length or higher,'' says Mary Jo Miller, a seamstress at Fantabulous Formals.

At the same time, color coordinating with one's date is still traditional — and trendy.

LHS Senior Gabrielle Cistrunk says her date, Cameron Frazier, wanted her to agree on royal blue. Just a couple of days before prom, Cameron wouldn't say if he'd found a suit.

"I was nervous about prom because life has thrown so many trials against us, and we're used to things going wrong," Gabrielle says.

Back in 2020, prom was canceled for many students around the nation because of the coronavirus. In an attempt to try and rectify that situation, two photographers in the Washington, D.C., area had some other students dress up for prom photos anyway.

Here in Louisville, after finally seeing Cameron, Gabrielle got a surprise.

"The suit, the shoes were a shock to me. As we like to say, he understood the assignment."

But Emory and Cameron were not the only guys getting fancy from LHS. Tre'Jon Coburn and Jatavious Cashmier Hunt also dressed up:

Tre'Jon Coburn and Jatavious Cashmier Hunt.
/ Nanette Coburn
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Nanette Coburn
Tre'Jon Coburn and Jatavious Cashmier Hunt.

One could argue that all the guys stole the spotlight — but that's not the conversation any of these students cared to have. They were just happy to be able to attend prom and thought that everyone looked good.

That inclusive attitude seems to be part of the new-school way. Anyone care to dance?

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.