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The Tuxedo 101: According to Symphony Conductors

Few men on earth under­stand the tuxe­do like a sym­pho­ny con­duc­tor. A con­duc­tor basi­cal­ly lives in a tuxe­do. It’s his uni­form, his per­for­mance gear, his most impor­tant wardrobe sta­ple. He needs respon­sive attire that com­ple­ments and inspires intense reac­tions from his audi­ence.

In oth­er words, he’s got­ta look good to sound good. Here’s how they do it:


“[Fash­ion choice] reflects who I am: my age, my gen­er­a­tion, my sense of style are always expressed. … Dif­fer­ent attire may bet­ter suit dif­fer­ent con­cert expe­ri­ences. Per­haps Sat­ur­day night is date night, and so tails and for­mal­wear is very appro­pri­ate. But a mid­day Fam­i­ly Con­cert is more casu­al, and for a con­cert in the com­mu­ni­ty we may want an even more infor­mal look.” – Yan­nick Nézet-Séguin, Philadel­phia Orches­tra con­duc­tor


“Wear­ing red makes you per­form more… Wear­ing blue, you can be qui­et, and not per­form… Maybe doing all these per­for­mances in my work, in real life I want to be qui­eter.” – Michael Tilson Thomas, San Fran­cis­co Sym­pho­ny con­duc­tor (SFGate)

“I’m pret­ty con­ser­v­a­tive when it comes to color—and acces­sories with col­or­ful pock­et squares.” – Alan Gilbert, New York City Sym­pho­ny con­duc­tor (Finan­cial Times)

“We all made a deci­sion togeth­er for our Pop­UP con­cert last fall to wear bright­ly col­ored tops. The audi­ence was delight­ed that they could pick out their favorite per­form­ers more eas­i­ly. It was a big suc­cess.” – Yan­nick Nézet-Séguin, music direc­tor of the Philadel­phia Orches­tra (Sym­pho­ny Mag­a­zine)

groom in black tuxedo


“Tuxe­does with tails are comfortable—they’re less con­flict­ing and have more room for the arms. … You’re not deal­ing with white ties, a vest, cum­mer­bunds.” – Michael Tilson Thomas (SFGate)


“[‘Per­for­mal’ tuxe­do t‑shirts] don’t cling to skin; you don’t feel soak­ing wet and clam­my an hour into a Mahler sym­pho­ny or an opera.” – Abi­lene Phil­har­mon­ic con­duc­tor David Itkin

“One of my go-to looks is jeans and a blaz­er. While I do have bespoke jack­ets that are more con­struct­ed, I also love an unstruc­tured tai­lored jack­et.” – Alan Gilbert (Finan­cial Times)


“For my shirts, I enjoy a soft­er, Neapoli­tan shoul­der. I have my ini­tials mono­grammed beneath my left rib cage but on my con­cert shirts, they’re out of the way on the left elbow.” – Alan Gilbert 


“[I wear] a Chi­nese col­lar and but­tons fas­tened from the waist to the neck, but with cus­tom-designed tails to resem­ble a tra­di­tion­al frock from behind.” – John Axel­rod, Roy­al Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra of Seville (W Mag­a­zine)

groom in black tuxedo


“Dressed in the most styl­ish tuxe­do I could find, I walked onto the stage while the orches­tra was warm­ing up and sim­ply made a short state­ment crit­i­ciz­ing Gergiev’s sup­port of the law…I was imme­di­ate­ly pounced upon by secu­ri­ty and even­tu­al­ly left of my own voli­tion.” – Valery Gergiev, prin­ci­pal con­duc­tor of the Lon­don Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra (NPR)

While you may not be spend­ing half your week in a tuxe­do for your career, these gen­tle­men cer­tain­ly do have the whole tux thing fig­ured out and we could afford to learn a thing or two from them. After all, your wed­ding is kind of like a per­for­mance, right?

Gen­er­a­tion Tux has plen­ty of tuxe­do options to choose from. High-qual­i­ty easy to wear. The con­duc­tors would be proud. View our col­lec­tion now.

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