How to wear a tuxedo? A simple enough question, right? The look is quite simple; some black here, some white there. But to appropriately and properly pull it off there are numerous variables that deserve consideration. Decisions have to be made on everything from shoes to collars.
As we all know, I am a fan of rules (but I am also a fan of breaking them). And as is the case in the Rules Of Men’s Dress, there are some rules in black tie that should not be broken and some that are free to be broken, in good taste of course. I receive countless inquiries from both friends and readers on how to wear a tuxedo so I feel it is prudent to centralize a list of basic and not so basic rules on how to wear a tuxedo. The list is by no mean comprehensive or complete, it will be added to as appropriate. But it should be sufficient to get any gentleman off to a suitable start. If you have any questions, comments or additions on the topic of how to wear a tuxedo; feel free to sound off in the comments.
1. Thou shall only wear a self tied bow tie. Long neck ties and pre-tied bow ties are perhaps the highest offense to black tie. In some circles they could be considered grounds for being shot on sight.
2. Thou shall avoid rental tuxedos as if they were the harbinger of death. Because, well, frankly they kind of are.
3. Tuxedo, black tie and dinner jacket are basically all just different names for the same thing. That said, they will be used interchangeably going forward.
4. Thou shall match the fabric of his bow tie to that of his lapels and stripe on his pants. But, for a bit of flair, a velvet bow tie can look great against satin or grosgrain lapels and pant stripes.
5. If thou is wearing a single breasted jacket a cummerbund, waistcoat or vest shall be worn. The primary concern is to conceal the bit of white shirting fabric between your jacket button and waistband.
6. Tuxedo/dinner jackets should only have one button when in single breasted form.
7. A tuxedo jacket/dinner jacket shall never have notch lapels. They are not formal enough for a proper tuxedo. Peak lapels and shawl collars are the only acceptable options, whether single or double breasted.
8. Thou shall wear a pocket square. White linen or cotton is ideal. Some gentlemen look dashing with a red or burgundy one, however.
9. Thou shall not match one’s tuxedo or associated accessories with the attire of his date. It does not matter what your date says, the purpose of your tuxedo is not to match or compliment her dress. Thou is meant to look stunning in one’s own right, changing one’s attire to suit her will only detract from the integrity of one’s tuxedo.
10. Midnight blue tuxedos are making a comeback. Although I normally eschew trends, I will say that midnight blue tuxedos are bad ass. Including the shawl collared one worn by Daniel Craig in Skyfall.
11. A pleated front shirt is not necessary. Although they are more formal and traditional, often times a man looks best in a button up shirt with a classic spread collar shirt and French cuffs.
13. Patent leather shoes are acceptable for black tie, however, they shall be in lace up and not loafer form.
14. If thou opts for calf skin shoes, they are to be well polished and free of brogues and medallions. Many say that a well polished black cap toe is the ideal shoe to wear with a tuxedo.
16. Belgian shoes and Prince Albert slippers are bad ass and the wearing of them is encouraged in appropriate settings like weddings and fundraisers.
17. Bit loafers can be worn with a tuxedo. The same rules apply as with Prince Albert slippers, however, bit loafers are a bit more snarky (understatement). And if you choose to wear them, do so wisely. For when worn inappropriately it can be quite an offense. It’s one of those ‘The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club’ type of things…
18. Thou can wear a club bow tie in place of a black bow tie, as long as thou is a member of said club and preferably if the event is at said club.
19. Thou can wear a button down shirt, however, the same statements apply as with bit loafers.
20. Needlepoint cummerbunds are badass.
21. Thou shall not wear a belt with a tuxedo. In fact, tuxedo pants should not have belt loops on them, ever.
22. Thou shall wear suspenders with a tuxedo. However, in the event that pants stay up without suspenders they are not necessary.
23. Thou shall not don pants with either cuffs or pleats with a tuxedo.
24. Velvet jackets, smoking jackets and jacket of colors other than black and midnight blue (including tartans) should be worn with caution. They are of a lesser formality than the two traditional options.
25. White or cream dinner jackets shall only be worn between memorial and labor days. Unless one is in a warm weather or tropical climate. They are not appropriate for cold weather falls and winters, like what we have here in the Northeast.
26. Solid black over the calf socks are the only appropriate hoisery for a man to wear with black tie. If one must change things up, black over the calf socks with clocks can also be deemed appropriate.
27. Studs are not necessary, however, they can look dashing. Gold, silver, mother of pearl, onyx are all suitable options.
29. Jacket pockets should be besom pockets, not flap pockets. If a jacket has flap pockets, they can often be tucked in the pockets to look like besom pockets.
30. Life is more fun in a tux.
31. Thou shall carry himself in a courteous and respectful manner. He shall also carry his liquor well.
32. Semi-formal dress means black tie. Formal dress means white tie. Know your dress code definitions. If you think the organizers of an event meant something else, do not be embarrassed to inquire; for it would be far more embarrassing to show up in the wrong attire.