Red carpet arrivals: the man files

Leading men gallantly allowed the ladies to take the spotlight but are trying harder to make their own fashion statement.

Watching the red carpet arrivals at the Oscars, it's easy to see this is a woman's game: singer Jennifer Hudson tells TV host Ryan Seacrest that her stylist cried when she finally chose her dress and Django Unchain-ed's Kerry Washington goes into detail about the specific sparkle of her manicure.

The men? Although film-maker Judd Apatow offers up the tidbit that he had to get a six year old shirt from his closet - having gained too much weight to wear the one originally laid out – the men are rarely asked about where their designer suits are from.

That's a shame, because the guys have stepped up their game. Although the show's opening number featured a dance floor filled with traditional black tuxedos and black ties, there were plenty of actors who dressed outside of the Armani-approved box.

There was Samuel Jackson, resplendent in a red velvet tuxedo jacket and black satin shirt, looking like he might have raided the costume department of one of his earlier movies, Pulp Fiction. By doing so, he learned an important rule of awards night dressing, also known as the Bjork Swan Dress Theory: the wackier you look, the more camera time you get. Since Jackson wasn't that recognisable in Django Unchained, he probably wanted to ensure that audiences won't forget what he really looks like.

That film's star, Jamie Foxx, opted for a grey suit with contrast black lapels. Wayward for an Oscar nominee – the colour was a tad too casual – it wasn't exactly a gasp-worthy Cher moment, either.

Others also eschewed black. Best Supporting Actor winner Christoph Waltz wore a blue suit, as did actors Jason Schwartzman and Chris Tucker, while Daniel Day-Lewis chose a midnight-blue Domenico Vacca suit. Day-Lewis apparently was in character as Abraham Lincoln the whole time he was shooting that title role; looks like he shed that sartorial bad influence – the Lincoln beard crosses the line from scruffy to a three-months-lost-in-the-woods look - just in time for his red carpet appearance.

At any rate, there were so many beards on display, that Ben Affleck's Beard had his Twitter account in overdrive. (“I look good from this angle,” Ben Affleck's Beard tweeted.)

Hair was a big talking point among the commentators, with Kelly Osbourne and her colleagues trying to work out on E!'s live red carpet show whether Silver Linings Playboo-k's Bradley Cooper had used gel or Brylcreem to achieve his slicked-back effect. (This writer's verdict: Cooper is a fine chunk of actor-ness – his girl appeal was raised further when he brought his mother as his date - but he has to hold back on the hair product, stat.)

Channing Tatum's hair was on the one-number-too-far buzz cut side of military, but Lincoln's Joseph Gordon-Levitt achieved the right kind of mousse-laden, Mad Men coiff.

One surprising red carpet trend? A kilt. It was first trotted out by host Seth MacFarlane's father, Ron, who decided to wear his only kilt on the night, combined with “my sleek black garden sloggers. Fashionable, yet oh so comfortable,” according to his tweet before the big day. Perhaps it gave the winner of Best Animated Feature Film, Mark Andrews, an idea: the Brave director and co-writer – way to live your film's title, man! – also stepped out onto the stage in a kilt. Please, George Clooney, stick to the facial hair trend for now.

Who looked liked they'd studied the Academy Awards Dressing 101 handbook? Ben Affleck: dapper and handsome in a three-piece suit. Chris Pine: rocking the heck out a double-breasted suit. Richard Gere and Dustin Hoffman: when you're part of the old guard, you can wear a regular tie.

And who needed help? Quentin Tarantino is so adept at making brilliantly creative movies that he doesn't have time to tie the top button of his shirt. Director Tim Burton cleverly matched his black sling to his outfit, but appears to be sharing wayward hair tips with his wife, Helena Bonham Carter. It's always good to see couples who theme dress, though: he had the hurt arm, and she donned a dress whose bottom looked like a roll of white bandages, always at the ready in case he tripped over Charlize Theron's train.

Still, one had to look hard for men making deliberately interesting fashion choices. Eddie Redmayne chose footwear that resembled soft black slippers, all the better for staying upright after the long speeches and champagne. Robert Downey Jr emitted rock star appeal in head-to-toe black; John Travolta had the same look, but didn't pull it off in quite the same way.

Perhaps there will be more emphasis on men's dressing in the future, though. When asked what his expectations for the night were, Argo's Bryan Cranston had this to say on the red carpet: “We're hoping for a wardrobe malfunction, at least on someone. That's always exciting.”