Ultimate Guide to Wearing a Tuxedo

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So you’ve narrowed down your wedding suit options to a tuxedo—now what? 

First of all, let us congratulate you on this momentous decision. Out of all the options and colors out there you’ve opted for a tuxedo and that is just amazing. James Bond would be proud. And so are we. 

Secondly, it’s time to get down to business. Tuxedos, while far superior to any old suit, are also more complex. There’s a lot that goes into pulling off a tuxedo and we’re here to make sure you do it right.

closeup of groom in black tuxedo

The Occasion

First, for those of you who may not have made your decision yet, is defining the proper occasion to wear a tuxedo. Tuxes are more formal than suits, meaning that the event you wear a tuxedo to is going to be formal and the dress the bride will wear will be formal. Overall, it’s just a big prom. Just kidding.

But sincerely, yes, tuxedo’s are the go-to menswear for a black-tie event. You get the chance to wear an outfit that you may only wear that one time in your life. This is a big deal.

Want to be ultra classy, but black’s not your color (which is pretty much impossible)? Not to worry. A tuxedo doesn’t have to be black. In fact, am absolutely positive you’ve seen a white tuxedo jacket before. It’s up there with black for one of the classiest looks around. Other than that, you can also easily find tuxedos in blues and grays.

groom and groomsmen in black tuxedos

The Staples

Your tuxedo jacket will be slightly different than your average suit jacket. The biggest difference is satin. The buttons of your tuxedo jacket will be covered with satin and you will also have a fancy satin lapel that comes in one of three styles—notch, peak, and shawl. Notch and peak lapels are found on suits as well as tuxedos, but those nice shawl lapels are particular to tuxes.

Notch lapels are a great go-to when you’re not sure which lapel style to go with. It’s perfectly classic and simple. Peak lapels are a little step up, for a slightly more formal look. They are elegant and elongating. Shawl lapels are more rounded and nostalgic, but still a polished choice.

generation tux lapel guide

Your tuxedo pant will also be different. A satin stripe will be down the sides of your tuxedo pants. Tux pants do not have belt loops and you, therefore, should not, under any circumstance, wear a belt with a tuxedo. Occasionally, these pants will come with an adjustable waist, but if you need extra support, grab a pair of suspenders. Your tux pants may also include a rubbery strip in the wait to ensure that your shirt does not slip from its crisp tuck. 

Your tuxedo shirt will often have pleats down the front, marking it above a standard dress shirt. It may also have a wingtip collar for wearing bowties and places for cufflinks and shirt studs.

closeup of groom in white tuxedo

The Bells and Whistles

As we said, tuxes are more complicated than your average suit, being twice as formal, after all. Here’s a comprehensive list of all the extra things you need to make sure you have when putting together your tuxedo ensemble.

  • Patent leather shoes: Glossy shoes are only be worn with tuxedos and never with suits. However, matte shoes can be worn in place of glassy with a tux, if you prefer.
  • Cufflinks: Cufflinks, in either a simple or personalized design, go on the cuffs of your tuxedo shirt. First through the hole in the outer part of your cuff and then through the hole between the two buttons on the other side.
  • Shirt studs: Studs are the little black buttons you see paired with a tuxedo. Your tux shirt will have regular buttons and you will need to add these to your shirt for that extra bit of polish. There will be five studs for your shirt and they will be inserted into the secondary hole above each regular button, starting at the second button of your shirt. You will use the studs, rather than the buttons, to fasten your shirt.
  • Bow tie: A bow tie, rather than a long tie, should be worn with a tuxedo and, more often than not, it will be black. Make sure your bow tie is adjusted properly so that it is it sitting upright and not sagging.
  • Pocket square: Pocket squares are not a necessity, but they help add another level of polish to your ensemble. With a tuxedo, your pocket square will often be white.
  • Suspenders: As we mentioned in the section above, belts should never be worn with tuxedos and suspenders should be worn instead if you need something else holding up your pants.
  • Vest or cummerbund: Either a vest or a cummerbund can be worn with a tuxedo, with the cummerbund being the more traditional option. Cummerbunds should  be worn with the pleats facing up. Your tuxedo vest will have an adjustable strap in the back to make sure it is snug, but not too tight. Your vest  should be smooth to create a clean silhouette underneath your jacket. The cummerbund also has an adjustable strap used for fitting and any excess material can be tucked into an inside pocket.
groom and groomsmen in black tuxedos

Fit

With such a refined look as the tuxedo, it is crucial to get the right fit.

The sleeves of your shirt should land at your wrist where your hand starts to widen, with your jacket sleeves leaving about a half inch of your shirt cuff showing. This leaves room for showing off your cufflinks without swimming or shrinking in your jacket. You shouldn’t see an “X” shape in the chest of your jacket, or a gap at the back of your neck; these indicate your jacket is too small and too big, respectively.

Your tuxedo pants should sit at your natural waist, right below your belly button. Your pant legs should not pool around your ankles. This is called the break and it should only be about half an inch and land at the back of your shoe.

generation tux suit and tuxedo fit guide

Tuxedo Tips

  1. Jacket buttoned when standing and unbuttoned when sitting. When buttoned, your top button should always be buttoned and your bottom button should remain unbuttoned.
  2. If you’re not wearing cufflinks, you will clasp the buttons on your cuff. Your shirt sleeve should hit your wrist right at the beginning of your hand. If your sleeve it too long, use the outermost button to close your cuff.
  3. Other companies will provide you with four shirt studs, instead of five. We include the extra for the button directly above your waist, in case you decide not to wear a cummerbund or vest. 
  4. Cummerbunds should  be worn with the pleats facing up, as they were  originally used to catch crumbs that fell during a meal.
  5. Make sure you fasten your shirt cuffs, with either a button or a cufflink, before putting on your jacket.
  6. The bottom button of your vest should be left unbuttoned.
closeup of groom in gray tuxedo

If you hadn’t fully committed to wearing a tuxedo, this should have given you plenty of cause. Tuxedos are the ultimate show of elegance and class, even if they’re a bit more difficult to wear. But don’t let this suade you, if you’ve already gone with a suit. Suits are plenty great, in their own rite. Want more inspiration? View our gallery.

If you’re ready to pick one out, browse our tuxedos to see what we have to offer to make your black-tie wedding extraordinary. Still not convinced? Test drive one for  yourself with our Home Try-On program so you can see and feel the difference for yourself.

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