Buying a tuxedo is a major investment. There is a process involved in finding the perfect tux, getting it tailored appropriately and then matching the right accessories for the perfectly polished look. When it comes down to it, the fact of the matter is that the tuxedo is just a suit on steroids. And just like suit wearing, there are a few simple rules that, if followed, will guarantee a successful execution of a dapper tuxedo ensemble:
10 Commandments of the Tuxedo
I. Honor Thy Body Type
The slim fitted tuxedo has gained a lot of traction recently, but it isn’t a look that can be pulled off by everyone. Be true to your body type and dress accordingly. For slim, and slender frames, opt for the one- or two-button coat preferably with a narrow peak lapel. For heavier-set physiques, experts suggest a box style one-button tux with wide lapels and a deep V-cut down the center of the body. This creates a vertical focal point and elongates the appearance of the torso, creating a slimming effect.
For Tom Kalenderian, executive vice president of Barneys, New York, shoulder fit is an essential part of the proper tux fit. He recommends a snug and high armhole. Even though this may feel a bit restricting, the sacrifice in arm movement will pay off in appearance.
2. Thou Shall Wear a Bow tie
Bow ties with tuxedos are an absolute must, this a universal agreement amongst luxury designers across the board. As the legendary designer, creative mind, and menswear enthusiast Tom Ford proclaims, the everyday four-in-hand necktie is plain inappropriate for a tuxedo, in his words, it is, “just wrong.”
Invest in a high quality bow tie, preferable a self-tie. Something just doesn’t feel right topping off a formal tuxedo ensemble with a clip on. Tying a bow tie knot isn’t as hard as it seems, it just takes a little practice. With the plethora of YouTube tutorials available, there is no excuse!
3. Thou Shall Stay Proportional
The type and size of bow tie worn with the tuxedo should be based on the kind of shirt collar and lapels it will be paired with. It isn’t rocket science; wide lapels call for wider collars such as the spread collar, and should be matched with larger bow ties, usually the typical butterfly style. For narrow lapels, pair with a slim collar such as the cut diamond collar and opt for the narrower bow ties in the diamond point or bat wing style.
4. Remember Thy Grooming Habits
If donning a tuxedo, odds are, the event you are attending is kind of a big deal, don’t offend by showing up scruffy and unkempt. Clean-shaven is the best look for tuxedo wearers, but if facial hair is your signature, then make sure every hair is in place.
5. Love thy Tailor
“Your tailor is your best friend,” says Michael Hainey, deputy editor of GQ magazine, “What’s weird is that guys spend all this time within the culture of the gym, getting toned, fit bodies, and then they wear suit coats that are two sizes too big.” Never underestimate the power of the perfect fit, as menswear guru Alan Flusser says, “The custom made tuxedo represents the highest expression of tailoring art and sartorial know-how.”
6. Thou Shall Not Disregard the Details
Don’t be afraid to show a little cuff, as it is customary to do so, “the half-inch rule for the cuff reveal has always been inflexible,” Michael Hainey decrees. Tuxedo trousers should have a length that maintains a modest break at the top of the shoe, and should have no cuffs. For footwear, Tom Ford proclaims pumps as preferential. In a standard two-button suit, “the closure defines an anatomical equator,” says Alan Flusser, noting that the closure should be lined up with the bellybutton.
7. Know Thy Suit Coat Options
Notched-lapel blazers are usually reserved for the business/corporate realm, so go for the peaked lapel tuxedo coat. Another, less conventional, option that has become popular in the celebrity scene lately is the shawl collar. The rounded, narrow lapels are reminiscent of the smoking jacket and exude the elegance of old Hollywood glamour.
8. Thou Shall Not Be Afraid of Navy
Even though the term is “Black Tie,” that doesn’t mean you can’t venture out of the black and white category. A dark navy tuxedo is a stylish yet sensible take on the look, giving the tux a modern edge. Navy looks especially great in a slim fitted tux. If venturing into the navy realm, be sure to keep all other aspects of the ensemble simple and classic.
9. Thou Shall Always Be Elegant
“It’s about elegance,” says prominent menswear designer John Varvatos about wearing tuxedo, proclaiming that there is nothing elegant about yards of cotton bunched up under your coat. He suggests wearing a tapered shirt – you will be more comfortable, and with clean, straight lines will look thinner and much more put together.
10. Thou Shall Not Rent
As Michael Hainey says, renting a tuxedo is, “the equivalent of wearing a bowling shoe.” If within your means, buy, don’t rent.
Various designer quotes from:
- How to Wear a Tux by Guy Trebay (February 22, 2012) http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/23/fashion/formal-wear-tips-from-mens-fashion-experts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
- GQ tips for red carpet style by Matthew Sebra (Jan 13, 2012) http://www.gq.com/style/profiles/201201/celebrity-red-carpet-style-fashion-dos-donts-best-worst-dressed-oscars#slide=7
- 7 Tips on How to Wear a Tuxedo Oscar Style (2010) http://www.ifashionnetwork.com/ifashion-designers/fashion-mr/60-imenswear/389-7-tips-on-how-to-wear-a-tuxedo-oscar-style.html