A tuxedo is a classic no matter what, if you’re off to a posh do then you need to know how to wear one, and it’s not as tricky as you’d think.
Now it’s unlikely that your work requires you to wear a tux everyday (unless you’re 007), but there comes a time in a man’s life when he has to go somewhere really fancy. When that happens a tuxedo is really the only clothing option, and as long as you know exactly how to pull one off, it’s not that much of a pain to wear. Although black is the most common style, you don’t need to be restricted to the look if you’d rather go for something else. Still, for practicalities sake, let’s start with the ever classic black tuxedo, and see exactly how to pull it off.
Black Tie – Black Tuxedo
So you’re preparing for a black tie event. You’re pretty sure you need to wear something fancy, preferably with a black tie, but apart from that you’re lost. Not surprising really, as tuxedos come in a few variations, meaning it doesn’t really fit into the ‘one style suits all’ category. So, let’s quickly cover the basic differences so you can decide on the right style for you.
Tuxedo Shirt – The Lapels
Although the tux is a classic piece there are ways to make it your own, including changing your lapels around. There’s three basic ones to choose from, the peak lapel, shawl collar, and notch lapel.
- Peak Lapel: The peak lapel is seen as the most traditional of the three options and is a good choice if you want to appear taller and broader. The collar draws attention towards the shoulders and elongates the body giving the illusion of a fuller body.
- Shawl Collar: The most formal lapel, and probably the least common nowadays, the shawl collar is most known for being worn by Sean Connery a fair amount. It has no points or notches and has a completely smooth curve from the collar to the top of the jacket button.
- Notch lapel: The notch lapel looks almost identical to the peak lapel but the very top has a slightly more accentuated point. This is actually the least common lapel for a tux, but looks good with any body type, so if you’re not into the shawl or peak, this could be for you.
Waistcoat or Cummerbund
The main job of the waistcoat or cummerbund is to conceal the waistband of your trousers and give you a smoother and elegant appearance. If you pick a waistcoat remember to choose one in the same material and colour as your jacket. Too much contrast is just going to look messy and won’t fit with the black tie style you’re going for.
There are different types of waistcoats, some are backless, some aren’t, some are double breasted, and some are single breasted, but regardless of the design, they’ll all keep your suit looking sharp, even if you take your jacket off.
The cummerbund has gone slightly out of fashion, but if you don’t want something as bulky as a waistcoat then it might be a good option. Traditionally it should be the same colour as your lapels, so try to avoid anything coloured, especially if you’re at something formal, like a wedding. A cummerbund is great if you don’t want to cover up the whole of your shirt, and instead prefer a cleaner, streamlined look.
Bow Tie or Tie
The bow tie is probably the most traditional tie to wear with a tux. It can be a fiddly thing to get right, but only use a pre-tied bow if you’re in a hurry and really just can’t get the hang of it. Choose one in a versatile black colour, as this is going to go with whatever colour tux you go for, and pretty much suits everyone.
You can wear a normal tie for a modern take on the tux, especially if you just don’t like the look of a bow tie, but remember to tuck it into your waistcoat if you’ve picked it over the cummerbund.
Shoes aren’t too difficult to get right with a tuxedo because honestly, there aren’t a lot of options to choose from. Trainers, loafers and anything too relaxed just isn’t going to work, and the classic high shine leather shoe wins out here. Avoid patterns, obvious lacing and anything too bulky.
You’ll want to go for a classic shoe such as a brogue or a derby as they are the most common shoes to wear with black tie. Don’t feel tempted to wear brown shoes with a black suit. It’s not a colour combination that works, and even if you’re dealing with some classy footwear, it can ruin a perfectly good tux.
Men’s White Tuxedo
This is a touchy subject, and with so many white tuxedos portrayed negatively across the media, you’re probably wondering why we’re even bringing it up. Well, although there are some terrible white tuxedos out there, and in general it’s safer to go for a darker colour, done correctly, a white tux can add a sleek, modern vibe to your look.
Generally the trick is to stay clear of a full white suit. It’s the white jacket, white trouser and white shoes look that brings the tackiness out, so keep it selective. A white jacket with a pair of black trousers and a black bow tie can break up the look, ensuring that you look classy, while maintaining a subtle finish.
Like we stated before, no white trousers with your white tux. It’s not a look that ever looks good, so keep your leg wear darker. A simple and failsafe colour is black which does give a striking contrast with your white jacket, but still manages to maintain a elegant look.
Despite the fact that you’re going for a white top half, your shoes have to always match with your trousers, so regardless of how impressive your jacket is, choose a pair of shoes that go with your black trousers. The only real option then is a pair of black shoes in either a muted or patent leather finish, as this helps balance the look and keep things neutral and clean.
Men’s Velvet Dinner Jacket
On to another controversial look – the velvet dinner jacket. A velvet jacket can look a bit naff if it’s a cheap design that’s seen better days, but a quality one from a respectable brand can really give you a sleek and unique finish. Because velvet has an interesting texture and shine, if you’re feeling brave enough you can afford to experiment a little with the colour. Red, blue and green are all colours that work surprisingly well with this fabric, but try to go for a dark shade for a subtle touch of colour.
Keep your shirt in a clean, fresh white to help emphasise the texture of the velvet and bring out the deep tonal shades. Generally your lapels should be the same material as the rest of your dinner jacket, but sometimes people like to mix things up and go for a contrasting style. Try this look with a coloured tuxedo where you’re making an impression anyway, rather than with a more subtle outfit.
Like with the white tux, it’s best not to match your jacket with your trousers when it comes to velvet. Too much of it can result in an overkill, and you only need a statement touch of the material to make an impact. A pair of low shine black or navy trousers will match with most velvet jackets and offer a subtle contrast to your outfit, ensuring you stay sharp and sleek.
Simplicity is best when it comes to complimenting velvet. Anything too high shine will compete with the top half and give you an odd, un-coordinated finish, so avoid the patent leather shoes and instead go for a muted leather brogue.
Men’s Midnight Blue Tuxedo
Although black is the most common colour for a tuxedo, blue shouldn’t be forgotten when you’re dressing up for a black tie event. A blue and navy are colours that tend to work with every skin type, offering the slimming properties of black, but also keeping things lighter, and more summer friendly.
It also offers a less intense contrast to the white shirt, keeping things more subtle, elegant and fresh. Keep the whole outfit in the same colour, matching your trousers with your jacket and making sure that the look stays streamlined and slim fitting.
If you’re going for a midnight blue jacket, you’re also gonna have to go for midnight blue trousers as well. Mixing colours together won’t provide you with the clean, streamlined look you’re going for, and however great the quality of your clothing is, you just won’t look as smart. Stick to slim fit trousers in an identical shade and keep it simple, avoiding any added detailing or finishes.
Black patent leather shoes were made for looks like this, and perfectly compliments the fresh yet sophisticated shade of a midnight blue tuxedo. Try to keep your shoes slim fitting and with a sole that’s thin and elegant, so that your suit maintains its sophisticated look.
So in general it’s better to save up and go for a more expensive piece, like a tom ford tuxedo, or even a tailored piece, but sometimes that option just isn’t possible. Good quality cheap tuxedos aren’t readily available, so you need to keep your eyes out for good deals. Here’s a few basic tips to get quality tuxes for less than an arm and a leg.
- Stroll through some outlet stores. Designer stores tend to chuck all their unsold wares from the previous season into outlet stores or villages. These pieces are usually half the price, and when you’re dealing with something as classic as a tux, it doesn’t really matter if it’s last season.
- Tailor a cheap tux. Sometimes even the outlet stores are too expensive, so if you see a cheap tux in a colour you like, grab it, because you can always get it taken in if it doesn’t quite fit perfectly. You’ll end up with a well tailored suit that fits you like a glove, and for half the price of an expensive design.
Your Quick Guide on How to Wear a Tuxedo
- Find the right collar to work for you. Shawl collars, peak lapels and notch lapels all have a distinct look, so find out which one you prefer.
- Decide on a waistcoat or a cummerbund. Waistcoats are more classic and give a neat, fitted look, while cummerbunds are great for creating a less invasive, streamlined style.
- A bow tie is the most common feature with a tuxedo, and a simple black design is the best option.
- If you’re going for a white tuxedo, don’t match it with white trousers, and instead contrast with some slim black ones instead.
- Velvet tuxes are good for a modern twist on a classic look, but don’t over do it, and keep the rest of your outfit in a dark, muted finish.
- Midnight blue tuxedos are classics that achieve the same sleek look as a black tux, but have the added benefit of being summer appropriate. Keep your trousers in the same colour and finish with a pair of patent leather shoes.
On That Note…
There are actually a lot more tuxedo style than the red carpet may have suggested, and although the traditional black, slim fit tuxedo is never going to go out of fashion, there’s no need to stick to it if you’d rather experiment. Velvet, white and midnight blue are all textures and shades you can go for to stand out from the crowd, while looking sharp and classically elegant.
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