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Suit vs. Tuxedo: the Ultimate Guide

So, the age-old ques­tion has arisen again. What is the dif­fer­ence between a suit and a tuxe­do? Sure, we all know that it’s the extra bit of pol­ish that sets a tuxe­do apart from a suit, but what does that mean? What are the specifics? Why are tuxe­dos so much fanci­er than a suit?

We’re here to spell it out for you and answer any ques­tions you could pos­si­bly have on the mat­ter. Pay close atten­tion to the rules sec­tion, too. These are very impor­tant when it comes to pulling off a tux.

groom and groomsmen in blue suits

What’s the difference between a suit and a tuxedo?

One of the biggest fac­tors is satin.

Tuxe­dos use satin in their design where suits do not. Tuxe­do pants may include a satin strip down the sides and tuxe­do jack­ets often have satin-cov­ered but­tons and a satin lapel. It’s the addi­tion of that satin that real­ly boosts a suit up to a tux. It adds that extra sheen, but acces­sories real­ly do the heavy lift­ing. A com­plet­ed tuxe­do ensem­ble usu­al­ly includes shirt studs, cuf­flinks, glossy shoes, a bow tie, sus­penders, and a cum­mer­bund or vest. 

While it’s true that a tuxe­do ensem­ble can include some of these things, it will gen­er­al­ly be only one or two off this list. Here’s why:

  1. Shirt studs are only used on tuxe­dos. These are insert­ed into a tux shirt above the but­tons and used to fas­ten a shirt instead of said but­ton. 
  2. Cuf­flinks are used for more for­mal affairs. While it is pos­si­ble to wear cuf­flinks with a suit, as long as the shirt has the right holes in the cuffs, cuf­flinks are most often found with tuxe­dos. 
  3. Glossy shoes are only worn with tuxe­dos, while mat­te shoes can tech­ni­cal­ly be worn with either a tux or a suit.
  4. A bow tie should be worn with a tux instead of a long tie to show off the shirt studs, but you may opt for a long tie instead. Either tie may be worn with a suit, but where a tuxe­do tie may stick to col­ors like black or white, ties with suits can be any num­ber of col­ors and pat­terns.
  5. Sus­penders can be worn with tux pants, if you are in need of the extra sup­port, but belts are nev­er ever worn with tux pants.
  6. Vests may be worn with suits or tuxe­dos, but a cum­mer­bund should only be worn with a tux.
bride and groom in black tuxedo kissing in field

Formal Follows Function

So, we know that tuxe­dos are indeed more for­mal than your aver­age suit and now we know that this can most­ly be attrib­uted to the satin details and oth­er flour­ish­es. But what else? When are you sup­posed to wear a tuxe­do or suit?

Tuxe­dos are meant for those black-tie affairs—wedding or oth­er­wise. Think char­i­ty gala, red car­pet pre­miere, etc. Of course, all of us low­er tier folk may nev­er actu­al­ly go to an event like those, that doesn’t mean we can’t be run­way ready for a top-class wed­ding or oth­er events.

Tuxe­dos make great wed­ding attire for two rea­sons: 1) when are you ever going to have this oppor­tu­ni­ty again and 2) they look phe­nom­e­nal. Tuxe­dos pair excel­lent­ly with her ele­gant wed­ding gown. Yes, I said “gown” on pur­pose. The menswear should always match the bride in style. So if she’s wear­ing a princess ball­go­wn or chic satin look, then it’s time for the tux to shine.

And if you’re get­ting funer­al vibes instead of James Bond vibes (which, please, def­i­nite­ly not), then you don’t have to stick to just black with tuxe­dos. A white tux jack­et is ultra classy and blue or gray adds an extra mod­ern flair.

While suits aren’t quite as fan­cy as tuxe­dos, that doesn’t mean they’re drab. If you have the chance to go tux, by all means, do it, but some­times that’s just not your style. Again, your suit needs to match the bride’s style. If she’s not wear­ing some­thing prim and prop­er, nei­ther should you. Suits are great options for roman­tic and tra­di­tion­al styled wed­dings or fun and bohemi­an wed­dings. The pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

Suits also come in more col­or options than tuxe­dos for a whole range of style options. Clas­sic navy is a sta­ple for menswear and shark­skin gray is both refined and fun. You can always find some­thing for you and your partner’s style with a suit. Plus, with few­er add-ons and rules, suits are a lit­tle eas­i­er to pull off.

groom in gray tuxedo and groomsmen in gray suits

Whether you go with a suit or a tuxe­do for your big day is com­plete­ly up to you and your part­ner. Just know that either way, you are going to look great. And we can help.

With an easy process, trust­ed wed­ding style experts and amaz­ing choice of high-qual­i­ty menswear, you can’t go wrong with Gen­er­a­tion Tux. See what we have to offer to make your union extra­or­di­nary.

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