How To Style a Tuxedo

When you receive an invitation to an event that includes the words Black Tie, you might panic. What’s potentially even worse is getting an invitation to an event that includes the words Black Tie Optional. You’d like to avoid having to dust off your old tux (or worse) buy a new one, but you also don’t want to be the guy that’s underdressed. And we get it! Wearing a tuxedo requires a bit more effort than does a standard suit. But, we also know that required or not, a well-worn tuxedo is a surefire way to look smart. Just ask James Bond’s long list of lady friends.

We’ve put together this handy how-to to help with those pre-Black Tie blues. Maybe (just maybe) with these style tips, you might even look forward to your next opportunity to wear a tuxedo.

Keep it Classic:

The best way to nail this look is to stick with tradition. That means choosing a notch lapel, single-breasted jacket. We’ll leave the other options (shawl, peak, etc.) up to you. For your pants, make sure you’ve chosen a pair with a single silk stripe down the side. In all of this, fit is incredibly important. The shoulders should fit (this isn’t an 80’s Power Suit!) and the jacket should fall neatly against your torso.

Collar and cuffs:

In choosing a shirt, opt for a turned down, pointed collar as opposed to a winged collar which are for White Tie events. The difference? With a wing collar, the band of the bowtie is visible. When it comes to your cuffs choose french cuffs and simple, elegant cufflinks. Nothing kitschy. Nothing gold. Stick with silver, black, or white. After all, your cufflinks will be visible as half an inch of your shirt cuff should be visible from underneath your jacket.

Bow ties only:

Yes, that means ties aren’t an option. Like we’ve said, the tuxedo is classic. The whole look has gone unchanged (for the most part) for decades. Why disrupt things now? If you don’t have experience tying a bow tie, opt for the pre-tied version. But do not (we repeat, do not!) buy a clip-on.

Shine your Shoes:

Polished Oxfords are really the only way to go. If you must, patent leather is acceptable but a shined shoe can really pull your outfit together. Avoid tassels or elaborate stitching and never, ever try to make a statement by pairing your tuxedo with a pair of trainers.

Cummberbund, Vest or Neither?:

We say go for a vest or neither. Cumberbunds are outdated and look out of place…unless you’re at an opera. Some people think that the allure of a tuxedo is ruined if it’s only two pieces. To that, our response is simple: Bond…James Bond.

All About the Accessories:

Okay, it’s not all about the accessories but too many (or one or two that are too bold) can easily ruin your black tie look. DO wear tall silk or cashmere black socks. DON’T wear a top hat or gloves. DO add a simple silk white handkerchief or pocket square. DON’T wear a sports watch or an otherwise chunky or overly noticeable one.

We’ll leave you with these wise words from London-based tailor Ben Allen. “”When everyone looks the same, you can always notice when someone has done it properly and someone hasn’t.”

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