It’s that time of the year when you receive a wedding invitation, with a mandatory ‘black tie’ dress code. Sure, you’ll don a classic tux but what exactly constitutes a tuxedo? If your idea of a classic tux is styling a black suit with a bow tie, then that’s where you’re wrong. This particular style of formal menswear is more than just putting together basic wardrobe essentials.
Tuxedos sit in the top echelons of menswear dressing. Considering its sheen, fabrics, silhouettes and cuts, they’ve always been a quintessential staple for black-tie events, red carpet occasions, and formal dinner dates. While the rules of tuxedo dressing are not as flexible as we would like them to be, a classic suit offers the sartorial freedom to play with different elements of style. However, a tux does come with a sartorial gambit if you play your cards right. You can also wiggle some room to flex your sartorial know-how this wedding season with quirky options like a zebra-jacquard dinner jacket rather than a traditional black one. Otherwise, the anatomy of a tuxedo is pretty cut and dry, similar to an official uniform.
We did a breakdown of all you need to know about styling a tuxedo for this wedding season.
There are a few things to note about ties on tuxedos. One, a bowtie is non-negotiable. It’s what separates a tuxedo from a normal suit. Two, its material should match that of your jacket and its lapels, preferably satin (more on that below). Three, your bowtie should not be a pre-tied knockoff. The best time to learn how to tie a bowtie was yesterday. The second best time is now. Four, and just in case we weren’t clear before, never wear a necktie with a tuxedo.
Maximilian Mogg self-tie silk-satin bowtie, from mrporter.com.
It might not have the most visibility in the tuxedo ensemble, but the importance of the dress shirt cannot be understated. You shouldn’t just throw on any ordinary casual white shirt and call it a day, as it might be missing any of the important elements to a dress shirt. Keep a lookout for the collar, the pleat, the bib, and the placket.
Brioni white slim-fit bib-front double-cuff cotton-voile shirt, from mrporter.com.
They say the devil’s in the details, and cuff links can help place you in the realms of sartorial gods. The accessories can either reflect yourself (like these Deakin and Francis racing car cuff links if you’re an automobile enthusiast), but the ethos of “less is more” can also be applied to wearing them. A simple pair of silver cuff links will go a long way. Check out our guide to shirt cuffs here.
Deakin and Francis enamelled silver racing car cufflinks, from mrporter.com.
The centrepiece of your tuxedo is the jacket. What separates a proper tuxedo jacket from a regular blazer is satin. Traditional tuxedos use the elegant material to highlight certain elements of the jacket, most commonly the lapels, buttons, and pockets. Tuxedo jackets are also not limited to the standard black. Burgundy and green are becoming mainstays as great alternatives, and risk-takers can turn to Tom Ford for designs like the aforementioned zebra-jacquard jacket.
Hugo Boss navy slim-fit cotton-velvet tuxedo jacket, from mrporter.com.
A good way to distinguish yourself from the other tuxedo-wearers at any formal event is the pocket square. It’s mandatory with tuxedos, and although white pocket squares in silk are the norm, you can mix things up with coloured ones for an accent.
Tom Ford silk-twill pocket square, from mrporter.com.
The cummerbund might have been designed to catch falling bread crumbs in the past, but it has quickly become a tuxedo staple. These days, it’s there to hide the unsightly folds of your dress shirt, keeping your outfit seamless. When wearing one, always remember that the cummerbund’s pleats face upwards, and it should sit naturally at your waist. However, some might prefer the look of a waistcoat instead and that’s totally fine.
Berluti scritto mulberry silk cummerbund, from mrporter.com.
Another option for the waist is the waistcoat (sometimes called a vest). Unlike a traditional vest in a three-piece suit, a tuxedo’s waistcoat is cut lower and wider to show off your dress shirt’s bib. A waistcoat is traditionally black, although one must experiment with other colours for weddings.
Favourbrook navy grosgrain cotton-velvet waistcoat, from mrporter.com.
Thankfully, the other half of a tuxedo doesn’t need much introduction. Black is the norm for trousers, with the occasional strip of satin running down the sides. Your trousers should also be tapered and not sag below your ankles. However, before you slide on your belt, stop and put it back. Tuxedos are not meant to be worn with belts (and god forbid one with a flashy buckle). Suspenders are the way to go instead.
Hugo Boss black silm-fit virgin wool tuxedo trousers, from mrporter.com.
It’s considered of a fashion faux pas to wear a belt with tuxedo trousers, despite the contrary existence of belt loops on some of them. To look sleek and debonair, use suspenders (sometimes called braces) instead to support your trousers. They should remain hidden throughout the evening underneath your jacket and cummerbund or waistcoat. You can also simply go sans-suspenders if your trousers are well-tailored.
Favourbrook black leather-trimmed silk moire braces, from mrporter.com.
Leave your sneakers on the rack, as patent leather reigns supreme in the footwear department of formalwear. A traditional plain-toe shoe is versatile, except when you’re wearing a white tuxedo. Oxfords and derby shoes are usually the style you’d wear, but you can always jazz it up with a pair of patent leather Chelsea boots from Tom Ford. Black silk socks are usually the go-to so your feet can breathe throughout the night, but wool and cotton would work too. If you’re in the mood for a bit of fun, patterned socks with a burst of colour can add some vibrancy and character to your whole ensemble for those who manage a peek (although they should not).
Saint Laurent black patent leather derby shoes, from mrporter.com.
All images: Courtesy Mr Porter
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia Singapore.