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Fit to meet the queen


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POSTED: Thursday, December 03, 2009

Everyone suffers style quandaries from time to time, but few ever have to agonize—as Jake Shimabukuro has done over the past week—about what to wear to meet the queen of England.

Beyond the normal stresses of shopping for Christmas, Shimabukuro started his Black Friday getting measured for a suit to wear to perform for the queen Dec. 7 during The Royal Variety Performance 2009 in Blackpool, England.

The annual concert benefits the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund, and the ukulele star will be performing his arrangement of The Beatles' “;In My Life”; with Bette Midler.

He doesn't want to look like a slouch performing next to Midler—who plans to wear a royal purple gown for the occasion—and also sharing the spotlight with other performers like Whoopi Goldberg, Michael Buble and Miley Cyrus.

A Tweet I sent out suggesting ideas for dressing Shimabukuro turned into a high-end shopping trip that had him trying on sleek jackets at Dior Homme and walking into a Neiman Marcus dressing room lined with suits, exclaiming, “;Wow, I feel like 'Pretty Woman!' I feel like they think I'm somebody else, like maybe Jet Li.”;

A feeling no doubt magnified by the other nine people in the room with him at times, including publicists, a manager, stylists, this writer, a photographer and a tailor. All so as not to offend the British, known as sticklers for protocol and manners.

The first thought would be to honor the Brits by wearing one of their own, say Burberry or head-to-toe Alexander McQueen, as suggested by Paul David, editor-in-chief of TheSmartStylist.com. But given Shimabukuro's youth and entertainer status, he could get away with being less formal in greeting the queen post-performance, than he could at a dinner party.

“;I never had to worry so much about what I'm wearing,”; Shimabukuro said. “;I'm just a jeans and T-shirt kind of guy. Sometimes it's jeans and a collared shirt. I've never worn a suit to perform before. This will be a first.”;

In trying on jackets, he was at a loss to pick one.

“;They all look really good to me.”;

He ended up falling in love with an appropriately Beatles-esque jacket ($495) from Royal Underground, a company founded by a fellow musician, Motley Cruee's Nikki Sixx, and Kelly Gray of St. John.

The true test of any garment was picking up his ukulele and attempting to play the instrument.

“;I normally don't like to play with sleeves on; if I have sleeves, I roll it up. But I'll be playing a ballad. It's a very sensitive arrangement we're playing so I won't be rocking out.”;

Although Shimabukuro claims not to be a fashionista, he's no stranger to Armani suits and Diesel jeans, and he instinctively understands the main role of fashion as a public display of respect for others and specific occasions.

“;My whole purpose for dressing up is to be respectful, and fit to be in the presence of the queen,”; he said. “;I don't want to offend anyone. I just want to wear the appropriate attire.

“;At the same time, I want whatever I'm wearing to be complementary to Bette Midler's outfit. I have to express myself, but I do that through the ukulele. I don't know how to express myself through clothes and fashion.”;

To see a clip of Jake Shimabukuro offering a preview of “;In My Life,”; visit our Fashion Tribe blog.