Planning a formal event or just want to be ready when the call comes? Here’s what you need to know to buy the perfect tuxedo.
There’s a time in every modern man’s life when he needs to take formality to a new level. Now, unless you’ve been invited to the Vienna Opera Ball or you’re in line for a knighthood, that formality will likely come in the form of a black-tie event, and for that, you’ll need a tux.
The tuxedo traces its origins to New York’s Tuxedo Park, the site of the Autumn Ball at which the early tuxedo debuted in the late 1800s. A formal fashion renaissance between world wars led to tuxedos becoming de rigueur for evening entertaining, especially in the United Kingdom and the US East Coast and its styling slowly evolved, with peaked lapels, both single and double-breasted versions, and subtle colour variations – in fact, while we often associate the dark blue tuxedo with Daniel Craig’s razor-sharp look in Skyfall (Connery also wore one in Dr No), at one stage in the early 20th century midnight blue tuxedo wool production outweighed that of black.
By the 1940s Humphrey Bogart had made the white jacket tuxedo famous, especially in tropical climates, but into the 1960s the Rat Pack brought black back with infinite elegance, in both the desert and on the east coast.
So how do you choose the right tux for you?
Rent or Buy
Of course, a tuxedo is an investment, whether you’re buying off the rack or having it tailored, and it might not be worth your while if you really don’t think you’ll get much use out of it, hence why many men rent tuxedos. If you need a tux and don’t have one, and aren’t looking to create your own, then we suggest choosing a high-quality rental agency, one with contemporary cuts and suits that haven’t been worn to death. If you’re only going to wear a tux once, you’ll want to look the part.
If you do decide you’d like to add a tux to your wardrobe you can go with off the shelf – Tom Ford‘s tuxedos were used for most of the Daniel Craig Bond flicks and are available in a range of sizes – or you can go with one tailored to your specific body shape. If you’re a purist, you’ll adhere to the reference that the difference between a suit and a tuxedo is the presence of satin – usually on the lapels but sometimes also on the pants – however today the distinction is not so widely recognised so you have a little more flexibility.
Timeless vs Contemporary
We know there’s a temptation to create a tux that stands out, or to just double up your wedding tuxedo but before you do, keep in mind that a classic tuxedo has stood the test of time while many variations on that theme have fallen to the wayside. You won’t see many white tuxedo jackets outside a classic 1980s prom comedy, and while celebrities and IG monkeys will create some very bold renditions, you might not be able to pull it off quite as easily so it’s better to stick to the tried-and-tested in black or dark blue.
If you do want to spice things up a little you can add subtle twists to your tuxedo shirt collar, add a cummerbund or black braces (alas, pleated dress shirts went out with the original Karate Kid), or go for a bolder lining that adds a flash of colour when you’re smoking your cigar on the terrace.
Essentially, save for the satin additions (if any) your tuxedo jacket is a regular black suit jacket (also referred to as a dinner jacket in the UK). This makes having a tuxedo a little easier – leave out the satin and you have a classic black suit for funerals, formal events, and even job interviews. Most tuxedos are made from wool, the weight of which should depend on where you plan to wear it. While you can opt for notched or peaked lapels, the best tuxedos have shawl lapels, which add a subtle sense of formality. You’ll also want to go with a single vent and two buttons out front. If you’re specifically tailoring a tux, your tailor might even nudge you towards one single low button for that classic tapered look, as well as discrete side pockets.
Again, your trousers depend on if you’re crafting a tux or if you’re doubling the duties of a black suit. If you’re doing the former you’ll want a waist that is a little higher than the standard suit, and a tapered look with a hem that’s a little higher above the shoe (which should be either a formal dress show or a black oxford) than the norm. To maintain that look it’s also a good idea to forgo the usual belt loops and instead opt for side adjusters or suspenders (for which you should have your tailor add in-sem buttons so you don’t have to use clip ons). Naturally, the trousers should be the same material as the jacket and in the same colour (although a dark blue jacket could be paired with black trousers if they’re obviously a tuxedo ensemble).
There are some great accessories you can add to your tuxedo look, including the braces and cummerbund we mentioned above. A nice pair of black cuff links add an additional formality, as does a white handkerchief, while a black waistcoat can be quite flattering. Your shirt should be completely white and feature a spread collar to better showcase your bowtie.
In terms of the tie, you can get away with a regular black tie at many “black tie” events but it’s nice to do the tuxedo right with a proper bow tie format. Even then, it’s ok to go with a clip on band bow tie but not one that clips to the collar, that’s just tacky. However, if you do go with a proper bow tie that needs to be tied, you will be able to go for that classic Rat Pack untied look later in the night.
In a tuxedo, I’m a star. In regular clothes, I’m a nobody.
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