Let me ask you a question. How often does a man get a chance to wear a tuxedo?
Unless you’re Jack Donaghy, probably not very often.
I’m within that age range where many of my friends are getting engaged and married. In fact, I’m getting married myself (next week!), and when K and I started hardcore planning a few months ago, there was no doubt in my mind I wanted to wear a tuxedo.
Since you’re an EG reader, I’m going to assume you enjoy dressing well and welcome the opportunity that formal events provide to do so 🙂
Keep it classic, minimize embarrassment
If you’re the one getting married, resist all temptation for a cutesy, clever wedding theme and just have one that’s simple and classic, with injections of you and your bride’s personality.
Sound familiar? That’s how I suggest you build your wardrobe as well… simple and classic, with small personal touches of color, pattern, and texture. Just keep it tasteful and minimal… same with your wedding theme.
Think about it: your wedding is the one day where it’s all about you (and your wife-to-be, of course). This is your moment, so why not keep it classy and formal?
You want to minimize embarrassment (notice I say minimize, not “avoid completely”, because that’s most likely impossible) as much as possible, because ten, twenty, thirty years from now, you want your photos to look classic, not trendy or corny.
I mean, take a good look at the photo above. Sure, in the 70s, guys had long, feathered hair… and yeah, the tuxedos are brown (which I actually think is pretty damn awesome), but imagine if they were black… it would be a straight-forward, classic look, wouldn’t you agree?
Don’t mistake formal for stuffy and boring. You can still get down on the dance floor while being impeccably dressed, and on your special day, you don’t want to look like anything but your very best.
Get on the same level as your wife-to-be
Here’s another reason to go the formal route for your wedding: Your lovely wife is going to look absolutely stunning in her dress. And you’re going to show up in, what… a tucked-in dress shirt and some khakis?
Why not look equally as dashing in a tuxedo?
Tropical isn’t an excuse for casual
I’m getting married in Hawaii, and so naturally when K and I started to plan, we Googled a bunch of stuff.
I came across numerous destination wedding photos similar to this one, where the groom and his groomsmen are in some form of casual island wear… for the wedding!
Tropical weather is indeed relaxing, but isn’t an excuse to relax your appearance, especially at your own wedding.
Keep it formal. Even if you’re exchanging vows in the sand, it doesn’t give you an excuse to wear baggy chinos and a billowy white untucked dress shirt with flip flops.
If you still want to keep it casual, make it the put-together sort of casual, not the sloppy, baggy casual.
Find clothes that fit, tuck in your shirt, and put on a tie and jacket, please… Even if it’s an unlined, unstructured linen version.
Pulling off the tuxedo, the right way
Okay, you’re convinced. Your wedding is a once-in-a-lifetime event and you want to go all out. Or perhaps you’re attending a friend’s Black Tie formal wedding. How exactly do you wear a tuxedo? Are there a different set of rules?
Here’s my short and sweet advice: Approach your tuxedo acquisition the same way you would a suit… go as classic as possible for maximum utility.
Since tuxedo options are relatively limited, the devil is in the details, namely fit and proportion. Same rules for fit apply to your tux as they would to a regular suit you purchase.
A traditional tuxedo jacket has a single button closure, a shawl or peak lapel, a similarly-colored satin on the lapels, cloth-covered buttons, no vent (or a double vent), and jetted pockets (no flaps covering the opening).
Traditional tuxedo trousers should have no belt loops (either tab waistband or suspenders / braces), no cuffs, and sometimes, a similarly-colored satin stripe running down the outseam.
Traditionally, you want to wear a white shirt with a turndown collar, studs (instead of plastic buttons), and french cuffs with links that match the studs. Alternatively, you can wear a dress shirt with a covered placket (an extra strip of fabric that covers the buttons of your shirt).
You’ll also (again, traditionally) want to cover your waist, either with a cummerbund or a waistcoat (sort of like a vest, but meant for formal occasions / to be worn with tuxedos).
Finally, stick with a black bow tie and polished black oxford dress shoes to finish off the look.
Since you’re doing Black Tie formal, you want to stick to tradition as closely as possible. Do the best you can.
First, make sure it’s okay to wear one
You can’t just go around wearing a tuxedo all willy nilly. Make sure it’s appropriate to wear one at the event you’re attending!
Let’s assume we’re still talking about weddings. If you’re the groom, and it’s your wedding, and your wedding is Black Tie formal, you should wear a tux. If you’re simply an attendee at a wedding, and you’re certain the dress code is Black Tie formal (or Black Tie optional), you can wear a tux.
If you’re attending a wedding and you’re unsure of the dress code, if the dress code is anything but formal, or if you’re the groom and you’re having a non-formal wedding theme… then don’t wear a tux.
Makes sense, right?
Here’s a bit more general info about how to dress for formal events via Real Men Real Style.
How to buy a tuxedo, where to go, what to look for
Buying a tuxedo can be expensive. But, ironically enough, it can also be relatively affordable (Behold! The power of the Internet).
Just like with regular suiting, you want to make sure you try the tuxedo on in person first. Nailing fit on off-the-rack suits purchased online is really, really difficult, unless you already know the brand’s sizing well.
Take it from me. I’ve ordered many blazers from unfamiliar brands online, and I’ve always had to return them, because the fit just isn’t right.
Another option is to do made-to-measure. There are several services out there for this. My particular favorite is Black Lapel; at the time, they had the exact tuxedo I wanted, which was a midnight navy color instead of traditional black.
Plus, I’ve known Warren (co-founder of Black Lapel) for a few years, and I was happy to try out his service since I haven’t yet had the chance to do so.
I’ll be sure to cover my experiences and final results with Black Lapel in a future article.
Put it this way: if renting is your only option, you’re better off having a black tie optional wedding and wearing a nicely tailored dark suit.
I would not recommend renting your tuxedo, unless the tux rental game has changed drastically since 2001 when I rented one for prom.
They typically come in a very traditional cut, and most likely, it will be of subpar quality and fit.
As you know, fit is everything, and this is the primary reason why I don’t recommend renting a tuxedo.
Most tux rental shops can only do minor (temporary) alterations such as pant length and sleeve length, but can’t touch pant width, lapel width, jacket boxiness, etc.
This article is about purchasing your first tuxedo. You’ll own it for life, and will pay for itself after a handful of uses. On top of that, it’s perfect for fancy formal nights out on the town, which you now have a reason to attend, since you own a perfectly fitting tux in your closet 😉
When purchasing a tux (whether off-the-rack, made-to-measure, or full bespoke) you can control everything, and by reading EG regularly, you can do so capably and confidently.
Internalize the traditions, rules, and alternatives of formalwear.
Rule of thumb: Keep it understated and classic. I know I often encourage you to make an outfit your own, but when it comes to formalwear, classic, understated, and as close to traditional as possible is always best.
Unlike regular suiting, I’m not encouraging you to go all out bending the rules. Throw in a small bit of irreverence if you like, but keep it minimal.
Are you ready to walk down that aisle?
Or maybe attend that formal wedding or event? Let’s hear about your upcoming plans below.
[tux photo and infographic via Black Lapel]