When it appeared, the tuxedo used to be a straightforward matter. A century ago, you would have no issues picking a tux except when finding the right size. Today, the tuxedo landscape has gone through several transformations, bringing about an unprecedented variety of choice. As a result, nailing your tux style isn’t as simple as it was.
That’s precisely why this guide exists. We will take you through the basics of tuxedo attire and show you how to make your tux unique.
Finding your tuxedo style means walking that fine line between a custom look and the appropriate attire for a particular event. Some styles will be more versatile than others, while some will be fit only for very specific occasions.
To nail the look you need, you’ll need to understand which tuxedo styles exist and how to use them correctly. To that end, we’ll start with the basics, i.e., what makes a tuxedo.
A tuxedo consists of a tuxedo jacket, tux pants, shirt, shoes, and different accessories, some of which are optional. Reading this description, you’d be right to ask what is the difference between a suit and a tuxedo. That’s a fair question, and one that gets asked relatively often. Here’s a brief explanation.
The most important difference between a tux and a suit is that tuxedo uses silk satin detailing. This secondary material appears on the jacket lapels and, usually, leg stripes. It’s also present on the button piping and covers the jacket’s buttons for a classier and more uniform look.
A suit will commonly consist of a single, consistent material on the outside. It will also have flap pockets and buttons made from plastic, metal, or bone.
Another difference is that a tuxedo will be matched with a bow tie, while suits usually go with neckties. These rules have become a bit fluid in modern times, but the mentioned combinations are still considered the safest way to go.
The jacket represents the core of the tuxedo. In fact, you may hear people refer to the jacket alone as a tux. Tuxedo jackets can vary considerably in color, lapel style, design, and fabric.
Starting with lapels, you’ll encounter three primary types: notch, peak, and shawl. Which lapel you choose will very much determine the style of your attire.
Notch lapels are the most common – they’re the widespread choice among suit and tuxedo lovers alike. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find any variant of semi-formal and even casual attire that doesn’t have a notch option.
Since this lapel type can be found on suits as well as sport coats, it’s considered casual. As a result, it’s not the best lapel choice for black-tie occasions.
Peak lapels have come the other way around from notch lapels. This type was once characteristic for formal attire, i.e., tailcoats. With time, the peak lapel started moving down the formal ladder, making its way to tuxedos and, eventually, suits.
The peak lapel is still considered the most formal, especially compared to the notch variant. As a relatively rare option, peak lapels are usually viewed as fashion statements.
Finally, it could be argued that a shawl lapel represents the ideal middle ground between the previous two types. It’s very stylish and serves as a staple of tuxedos, yet it’s not as formal as a peak lapel. Interestingly enough, shawl lapels are becoming the “classical” variant for the tux although they boast possibly the most modern look.
The best way to describe a tux shirt would be as the ideal background for the tie. However, that doesn’t mean you should take the choice of shirt lightly.
White is usually the color of choice with tuxedo shirts. Apart from that, you’ll actually have a staggering number of customization options. In particular, your shirt style may vary based on:
Collars come primarily in two styles: wing tip and spread. The former is the classical, formal option, designed specifically for bow ties. The latter is a more casual variant suitable for any type of tie.
Plackets are a sometimes overlooked element of the tuxedo shirt, but one that provides plenty of character. A placket is a strip of fabric that goes over the button holes. Here, you’ll get to choose between front, French front, covered, and tuxedo plackets.
The front placket is the standard, surefire type that you’ll see on most shirts – tuxedo or otherwise. It features folded fabric that creates a symmetrical strip with shirt buttons in the middle.
A French front doesn’t have a placket at all, i.e., no folded fabric. This style achieves a cleaner look, taking the style into a more minimalist direction and slightly disrupting the symmetry.
Covered plackets are essentially front plackets that go over the buttons rather than letting them show. This type is considered more formal.
Lastly, a tuxedo placket is, much like the French front, not a placket at all. This style comes without fabric folding, but has removable buttons (only the top four) that can be replaced with tuxedo studs.
Wrapping up the shirt style sections are the cuffs, which can be barrel and French. Barrel cuffs are the standard with most shirts, much like front plackets. On the other hand, French cuffs require cufflinks, which are a staple of tuxedo attire. Read our full guide if you want to learn what shirt to wear with a tuxedo.
After the surprisingly exhaustive section on tuxedo shirts, the description of tux pants will seem rather plain. Picture suit pants, preferably black, with satin leg stripes and waistband, and you’ll get tuxedo pants. That’s pretty much all there is to this element of your attire.
It’s worth mentioning that you can exchange tux pants for a different type in casual events. However, don’t do this when dressing in proper black-tie attire.
Tuxedo pants don’t have belt loops so they need to fit quite well, but you can help them stay on with clip-on suspenders. Learn more about tuxedos and belts and if you should wear a belt with the tuxedo.
The common image of a tuxedo-wearing man including a bow tie has created the widespread opinion that no other type of neckwear could possibly go with a tux. This is true for formal black-tie occasions (which get their name from a black bow tie), but is far from a universal hard rule.
When the dress code is more relaxed, you can go for the modern combination of tuxedo and necktie. However, take notice that pulling off that look won’t be as easy as simply going with a bow tie. You’ll need to get the width of the tie and the knot just right to make the necktie work in that setup. Plus, it will help if the tie color matches that of your jacket.
Whether you choose a bow tie or necktie, you’ll need to decide on one crucial feature early—the material. The go-to option is some variant of silk – satin, twill, or knit. But if you’re up for some experimenting, velvet, flannel, and wool will be your friends. Be careful, though; satin will work well for both tie types, while other materials will be a better fit for bow ties.
Many people today haven’t seen a tuxedo with a vest or cummerbund anywhere except the movies. Choosing not to wear these classical accessories has become commonplace for a modern look and completely acceptable even in more formal occasions.
But that doesn’t mean cummerbunds and vests are entirely out of the question. Granted, they’ll be reserved for black-tie events, and cummerbunds may soon become outdated, but there’s no good reason not to try out these accessories when appropriate.
Wear a pair of Oxfords with a tuxedo and you can’t go wrong. The reason is apparent: it’s simple. And when it comes to tuxes, simplicity is never a bad way to go. Yet, just like with the shirts, simplicity doesn’t equal a lack of options.
The best shoe options for a tuxedo will be patent leather, cap toe, and loafers. We listed them here in order from more to less formal. Patent leather may be the perfect match for a classic tuxedo look. It will blend seamlessly with the satin elements on your jacket and pants, completing the style without flaw.
Cap toe shoes will make your outfit a bit more lively while keeping the ornamentation subtle. It’s a great touch of personal style that doesn’t disturb the balanced, elegant look. Finally, loafers will, obviously, be the most relaxed footwear choice. Wear them during hot days and make the most of the loafer/tux setup by hitting the dance floor.
If you’ve followed along so far, you’ve probably got a pretty good idea of what a classic tuxedo style represents. It’s pretty much synonymous with “black-tie” and, for broader audiences, the James Bond look. We’re talking black jacket, pants, patent leather shoes, white shirt, a vest or cummerbund, cufflinks, and the unavoidable black bow tie.
The modern look takes a more relaxed approach, primarily in losing the waist accessories and sporting less formal lapels. A modern tuxedo will also more often be midnight blue rather than black and may come in various other colors.
Finally, trendy styles may include anything from slightly bold color choices to combinations that may be considered questionable. Such tuxes can be done in different textures and prints and take more freedom with accessories. A trendy tuxedo will, unsurprisingly, be less appropriate for formal events.
The prevalent tuxedo styles in 2023 are relatively subdued and modern. When it comes to tux colors, darker colors are still the norm, although blue and navy have joined black as equals. However, tan and green tuxedos are making a significant impact in a movement toward natural colors.
When it comes to the bow tie-necktie dilemma, the argument still looks pretty one-sided, with bow ties winning by a landslide (as they do everywhere). Moving forward with accessories, suspenders are successfully replacing vests, and if you look closely, you can see a cummerbund here and there.
Wrapping up with shoes, the classical options are still more prevalent, but loafers seem to be fighting valiantly for their place under the sun.
Now that you know more about your tuxedo options, it’s time to start shopping. Or should we say, renting. Many people today prefer to rent a tux as it’s the more budget-friendly alternative to buying your own, especially when looking for the best wedding suits for groomsmen. It also allows you to wear a high-quality tux to a unique occasion such as a wedding or prom without breaking the bank.
However, there’s a strong case for purchasing a quality tuxedo. Invest in it once, and you’ll always have an elegant black-tie option should the need arise. You can also check out the Generation Tux collection where you can both rent and buy great-looking tuxedos.
Nailing the tuxedo style will require you to make numerous decisions based on your personal style and the event’s dress code. When browsing your options, keep two key rules in mind.
First, don’t overdo your attire. Tuxedos look their best with simple yet elegant choices.
Second, wear what fits you most comfortably. Find the right balance between these principles, and you’ll enjoy every second spent in your tux.