26
MAR
2013

The Suit Series, Pt. VII: The Tuxedo

Bespoke tudexo with bowtie and pocket square

The Oscars just passed us, and with wedding season coming up, formal wear is on our minds. Few men have the opportunity to wear a tuxedo nowadays and there’s a lot of mystification as to what they’re supposed to look like. So, what makes a tuxedo a tuxedo?

WHAT MAKES A PROPER TUXEDO?

First and foremost, tuxedos are not suits. Yes, both involve jackets and trousers made from matching materials, but the garments serve different purposes. Suits are a bit more casual and appropriate for daytime wear to the office, out to lunch, and that sort of thing. While you may have to limit yourself aesthetically due to your industry, there’s a lot of leeway a man gets with a suit in terms of pairing shirts, ties, pocket squares, socks, and other accoutrements.

Tuxedos, on the other hand, are semi-formal, are classically referred to as dinner clothes, and are to be worn exclusively in the evening. If you’re invited to a “black-tie” event, that means you must wear a tuxedo.

With a basic tuxedo, men don’t have the sartorial freedom they do with a business suit. Think about the etymology of the word “formal,” specifically in the sense of adhering to a form. Tuxedos have a specific set of guidelines that will make it look “correct” and in tune with its history as a non-sporty garment. Here are some pointers for the first-time tux buyer:

DO:

  1. Wear a single-breasted tuxedo with only one button and either peaked lapels or a shawl collar. Any double-breasted button stance is appropriate, and peaked lapels are standard here. Shawl collars on double-breasted jackets are very rare but smart if you can pull it off.
  2. Opt for jetted besom pockets on the jacket. They’re cleaner (and therefore more formal) than flap pockets.
  3. Wear either a vest or a cummerbund with a single-breasted jacket. Vests go particularly well with peaked lapels, and cummerbunds go nicely with shawl collars. Double-breasted jackets require neither.
  4. Line your tux with satin or grosgrain facings. At least the lapels, pockets, and pant out-seams should be faced with the material of your choice. Facing on the collar is optional.
  5. Wear pants that take braces or that have side tabs. Belts are no good on tuxedos.
  6. Keep your tuxedo colors to either black or midnight blue; a cream-colored jacket is appropriate for summer months or all year long in warm climates. You can venture into different colors for smoking jackets, but that’s for a different article altogether.
  7. Wear black patent leather oxfords (plain or cap-toe) or slip-ons; high-quality black calfskin shoes with a high shine are also acceptable. If you’re as secure as can be in your sense of style, some classic opera pumps with a bow on the vamp will make you stand out from the crowd to say the least.
  8. Choose black knee-high socks. Period.
  9. Shirts are white and either have a regular “turndown” collar or a “wing” collar, which is more traditional. Pleated or pique fronts are appropriate too, and pick up a stud set to lend some tasteful bling to your ensemble.

 

DON’T:

  1. Wear two- or three-button single-breasted tuxedos, and certainly not with notched lapels. If you’re going to opt for these details, you’re basically turning your tux into a suit. What’s the point of that?
  2. Get flap pockets. This is another business suit detail that will add bulk to your tux and compromise its formal integrity.
  3. Wear a belt with a tux. Ever.
  4. Put on shoes with too much detail like broguing, bicycle toes, wingtips, etc. They’re too sporty for tuxes.
  5. Wear a necktie, as these are too business-like for a tux. Think of it this way: how often do you get a chance to throw on a bow tie? Take advantage!

As we head into wedding season and grooms think about tuxes, these tips should be helpful. As always, we’re here to steer you in the right direction when you’re unsure of wear to go.

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  1. adam Reply

    If i go for double breasted, you say nothing is required underneath i.e. waistcoat but during the evening when i take off my jacket is it ok to just have shirt underneath?

    • Brian Reply

      Even though nothing is required in terms of a waistcoat, you can certainly still wear one if you’d prefer to take your coat off and maintain a more dressed up look. If you take your coat off and just have a shirt on, then that’s OK as well, but I wouldn’t be the only one with a coat removed in the room (i.e. gauge your audience and blend in with the crowd).

  2. Erik Reply

    What is the best fabric for a tuxedo, superfine 120’s?

    • Brian Reply

      The best fabric will be the one that speaks to you as an individual. With “super” numbers, we never recommend following that exclusively. This number essentially tells you about the durability of the cloth and does not necessarily define its overall quality. Go with a 2-ply weave on a fabric made of long-filament fibers. For a tuxedo, you could even mix a wool / silk blend to add some shine to its overall appearance. When getting a tuxedo custom made, don’t be afraid to have a little fun with the fabric and pattern.

  3. Phil Reply

    Would it be inappropriate to wear an ivory vest with a black double breasted tuxedo? I am looking for an “Old school” classic look (ie 1930’s / 1940’s era).

    • Brian Reply

      The color combination would not be inappropriate. It’s important with a double breasted jacket that the vest opens high enough to be seen. With a double breasted jacket you never wear that unbuttoned.

  4. Andrew Reply

    I am going to an award ceremony on Thursday. I have a db tux but M unsure if it is a bit old fashioned? Also if I do wear it do you unbutton when you sit down?

    • Brian Reply

      Andrew – thanks for the question and sorry about not being able to get back to you before your event. A double breasted tuxedo is certainly still appropriate. As with any double breasted jacket though, you have to make sure the fit is impeccable and the button stance is correct to balance your frame. Typically, a double breasted jacket should always be worn buttoned when standing. It is up to you if you want to unbutton it when sitting. My personal preference is to always wear a double breasted buttoned when I have one on.

  5. James Bond Quantum of Solace Tuxedo Reply

    All these tips are worth reading, and great tips for any beginner. I want to make some additions here, when it comes vent there is no vent traditionally in a tuxedo but if you do like to wear then you should add dual vents but never go with a single vent

    • Brian Reply

      Thank you for your comments. You are correct that traditionally tuxedo coats were made without vents. Nowadays however, a vent is a personal preference and often depends on the body shape. Larger guys will look better in a single vent than side vents, where as trimmer guys will look better in side vents. Adding either type of vent adds comfort and both are acceptable with modern a modern tuxedo.

  6. Vik Reply

    Can my groomsmen wear a peaked lapel black tuxedo without a vest? It’ll be quite warm in July and want them to be comfortable.

    • Brian Reply

      Certainly – When wearing a tuxedo you want to wear either a vest, cummerbund, or braces (braces button into the pants vs. suspenders which clip on). A vest is not required with any style of tuxedo but one of the three accessories should be present.

  7. Glenn Reply

    Can i ask if i could pair my notched lapel suit with a cummerbund and tie?
    Ill gonna wear it in my wedding.

    • Brian Reply

      You would only wear a cummerbund with a tuxedo, and it doesn’t mater what the lapel style is (notched, peak, or shawl) to wear the cummerbund with it. You would only wear a bowtie with this set, not a long tie.

  8. hann Reply

    Should i buy a tux with pocket on the breast or without , its for my prom SOS

    • Brian Reply

      We’re sorry we didn’t get right back to you about this and hope you had a great time at your prom. For future reference, we always like a breast pocket so it can be dressed up with a pocket square, which helps polish the finished look for you.

  9. James T Reply

    I’m doing some red carpet events in Venice and wondering whether my black gold-rimmed studs are still acceptable; almost nobody else has studs and cummerbund , just bow tie, white buttons and braces. Also, is it ok to wear braces as well as cummerbund or preferable to wear a belt underneath the cummerbund (something has to hold the pants up…). Thanks for advice!

    • Brian Reply

      James –

      Studs on a tuxedo shirt are classic. If I weren’t doing studs on a tuxedo shirt, I would do a french front to cover the buttons, but would never show white buttons alone. Generally you would choose 1 of 3 accessories to wear with the tux between a cummerbund, braces, or a vest. A lot of people make the mistake of wearing 2 of these together. A tuxedo NEVER has belt loops on it, so most guys think they need braces to hold the pants up, however well fit pants should stay in place without the need for support (also depends on your body type). If you have to wear braces and a cummerbund together, you can get away with it, but just know the preferred look is only 1 additional accessory under the jacket. If you have time, I would get the pants tailored to your size so you don’t need both.

      Hope this helps!

      Brian

  10. Anza Reply

    hi im going for prom on the 24th September: im wearing a dark blue jacket with black shawl coler, along with dark blue pants and black suede shoes, my date is in a red dress.
    *i am wearing a red tie with red pocket square ,is this a good idea?
    *what wool type (fabric) should i get my jacket and pants in?
    * are slim pants the best, im slim but not sure slim pants are formal enough.
    pleas help..
    thanks in advance.

    • Brian Reply

      Anza –

      Congratulations – prom is a great event! Your choice to wear a dark blue with black satin is perfectly acceptable. If you’re matching red tie and pocket square to your date that also works (red and blue go well together already). Fabric should be wool, and will likely depend on what’s available to you in the store. Make sure to stick with 100% wool or a blend of natural fibers (stay away from polyester). Regarding slim fit, as long as you have the body to carry it then that is also acceptable. You want the garment all around to move with your body. If it is too tight and creates “pulling” then you should go with something a little more loosely fit.

      Good luck!

      Brian

  11. Anza Reply

    thanks a lot Brian, your a life saver!

  12. Shuaib Malik Reply

    Hello,

    Thanks for writing such a wonderful article. I’m planning on wearing Tux for the first time on my wedding which is scheduled in January 2016 (winter). I want to look elegant yet stylish; something that makes fashion statement. I’m 5’11” tall. I wear 46 regular jacket and 38 size trousers. Please suggest which type of Tux I should look for that fulfills my listed requirements. My preference is to go with black. Please tell: shirt collar type, shirt style (simple or plain), shirt button colors, cuff type (french works?), Tux collar type, number of vents, trouser with plain front (preferred) or pleated, vest (i like low rise so that black buttons of shirt r visible), bow tie or simple tie? I notice these days bow also comes in trendy styles?, please tell me about the shoes style as I am very confused about which shoe to wear. Plain black socks or any other? Lastly, breast pocket square should compliment bow tie or i can replace it with white rose.

    • Brian Reply

      Shuaib –

      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding celebration. I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed reading this article. Your questions are all good ones, and typically issues that we would address in our consultations. If you would like to schedule an appointment, I’d welcome the opportunity to work with you and help you prepare to look your best on your special day. If you are not in Philadelphia and able to meet in person, we can set up a virtual consultation.

      Best,

      Brian

  13. Rajeev Reply

    I bought a dark grey peak lapel tuxedo set. I am a brown skin guy and I will be wearing for my wedding reception. This is the first set I have ever owned. I didn’t not have much idea. Do you have any suggestion for the color/type of shoes, color of bow tie, pocket square color, braces color? I am planning on wearing a white shirt. What kind of studs and cuff links will be appropriate?

    • Brian Reply

      Rajeev –

      Thank you for your post and sorry for the long delay in being able to respond. I am not sure if your wedding has happened yet or not, but the advice you are seeking is exactly what we would give in a consultation. If there is still time before your wedding and you would like to schedule a consultation with us, please reach out via phone at 215-253-5905.

      Thank you,

      Brian

  14. Yoye Reply

    HI, I’m getting married on a sunny day in January 2016. My groomsmen are wearing navy blue, double breasted suits. They will be wearing burgundy ties. I have opted for an ivory tuxedo for myself and the bestman with black pants. Do you think there’s a lack of correlation in style with this choice?

    • Brian Reply

      Yoye –

      Sorry for the long delay in getting to respond to your inquiry. I think you’ll be OK with the choice you’ve made and not sure if you could change this close to your wedding date if you could. I generally suggest that you as the groom stand apart from your groomsmen, so having you and the best man stand apart is OK. The only difference is you’ll both be in tuxes and them in suits which may lack coordination slightly. I wouldn’t think too much further on it though as you seem all set and I think what you’ve chosen works.

  15. Tom Reply

    Thanks for all of the tips. I am 57 and getting married in February (dusk/evening). Second wedding for both and fairly non-traditional. My fiancé is planning a grey/silver dress and I will wear my tuxedo. We just purchased a silver/grey paisley vest and cravat combination with pocket square. Looking for a shirt and was thinking either a spread or tab collar and no pleats vice the wing collar pleated shirt I currently own. I was just assuming white, but my fiancé thinks I should wear off white or grey since she is not wearing white. Which is more proper?

    • Brian Reply

      Hi there –

      Congratulations on the upcoming wedding! You could wear an off-white (if she’s in ivory) or a grey-ish tone (if she’s in silver/grey) to coordinate more closely, but wearing a white tuxedo shirt in the style you described would be fine too.

      Have a great party!

      Brian

  16. Felipe Reply

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for the article. I have been invited to a black tie wedding and I’m not sure if it would be ok to wear a dark blue tuxed, or if such a color would only be appropiate for the groom.

    Thanks in advance!

    • Brian Reply

      Felipe –

      Attending a wedding, not in the wedding party, in a midnight blue tuxedo would be just fine. It shows a fun sense of style and it shouldn’t matter if the groom is in navy or black as well. As long as he’s in a tux, you can wear one. If he were in a suit, you wouldn’t wear a tux, but then again that wouldn’t be a black tie wedding.

      Enjoy and have fun!

  17. Jacob Reply

    I’m going to be in interviews with congressmen and other national figures similar as a school trip and was wondering if it’s acceptable to wear a tux here. The tux store near me has some modest tuxedos that don’t show much satin at all. They seem very business-like there.

    • Brian Reply

      Jacob –

      Tuxedo’s should be reserved for formal occasions. Interviews as you’ve described are more of a business setting, and proper business attire should be worn. Nothing with satin (even the smallest bit) would be appropriate for these occasions.

      Good luck,

      Brian

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