A guide to the Tuxedo.
An invitation to an event that includes the words “Tuxedo”, Black Tie”, “White Tie” etc, can cause more panic in a man than a three hundred point drop on the Dow Jones. But worry not, help is at hand. It’s not a moment to panic or to be unsure. It’s a time to shine and show off your most elegant self.
Richard Fox makes White Tie, Black Tie and Formal Morning suits. The opportunities to wear such an outfit in these more casual times is becoming increasingly rare. However, if you have a requirement for any of these Tail Coat outfits, we are here to help. Just contact us and let us know what you need.
In contrast, just about everyone at one time or another is required to wear a Tuxedo. So lets take a minute and discuss the “Tux”. Where it came from. What your styling options are. How it can be worn and how it should be worn. Also what accessories go with it. Because nothing shows fear the door, like understanding what it is we were once afraid of.
Just about everyone at some point in their lives will be invited to an event that requires the wearing of this elegant suit. Be it a wedding, a formal dinner / dance, charity auction or a professional group evening.
The History of the Tuxedo is a simple tale of trans-Atlantic cross-pollination
Edward, the Prince of Wales, as he was known before he became Edward VII, King of Great Britain, was a leader of fashion and general man about town. He waited 60 years to become the King upon the death of his mother Queen Victoria in 1901. But by that time he was well known as an innovator in the field of gentlemen’s attire.
It was reported that around 1895 he decided that when dining with friends that the traditional dress of the day, White Tie (an outfit that included a starched high collar, white waistcoat and tie and a tail coat cut at an angle on the front),should be relaxed. One evening he met his group wearing a blue silk jacket with matching trousers. Worn with a white shirt and dark bow tie. Know in the UK simply as the Dinner Suit, or more normally now, the “DJ” or Dinner Jacket.
In 1896 following a trip to the UK, a wealthy New Yorker by the name of James Potter introduced this style of evening wear at his local country club. The elegant suit went down well with the clubs members, just as it had in the clubs of England, and the style spread rapidly. The name of this New York establishment? The Tuxedo Club. A legend was born.
Traditionally, the Tuxedo is thought of as a black suit with satin or silk lapels on the jacket and a satin or silk stripe down the outer side of the trouser leg. However, the first Tuxedos were in fact midnight blue, with black silk lapels. The contrast between the shiny lapel and the dark blue tends to make the suit look darker than a black cloth. This color combination was revived for Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Casino Royal, to great and elegant effect.
The jacket can come with either a Peak lapel or a Shawl collar. Some jackets are made with a notch lapel, but the previous two options are by far dressier and if a Tuxedo is supposed to be anything, it is dressy. The peak lapel gives a sharpness to the jacket emphasized by the angles which show off the shoulder line. Shawl lapels can be best used to soften the appearance of the wearer if he is very angular.
A Tuxedo, should be fitted to the wearer’s physique. And, if custom made, cut to emphasize the wearer’s good points and disguise the not so good. The overall effect should be slim line elegance whether the jacket is single or double breasted.
Selecting a shirt to go with your Tuxedo is reasonably straight forward. Traditionally, it should be white with either pleated or plain front. this is entirely up to the wearer. It should have a french cuff, with cuff links. The buttons can either be black studs, black buttons or solid white buttons. Try not to use Mother of Pearl buttons, their off white shade can spoil the monochromatic look of the outfit.
The collar can either be a Wing Collar or a Spread Collar. Wing Collars used to be reserved for evenings that involved dancing. Spread Collars for evenings that involved purely dining. However, these traditions are so distant now that it really is up to the wearer to decide which style he prefers. It is worth mentioning that if you decide on a wing collar, make sure that the collar stand is deep enough to allow the tie to move a little vertically. Otherwise you will spend the evening constantly re-positioning your tie on the collar. If you have your evening shirt custom made you can ask for a “collar back loop”, to ensure your tie and wing collar do not part company.
The bow tie you wear is again completely up to you. I have seen some incredible choices over the years. But I have to say that my favorite is the traditional black. Why? It’s just classic and it’s just elegant and who doesn’t like classic elegance?
Top tip on Bow ties: If you can learn how to tie a bow tie, then do it. It is a much better look. If you can’t, (and no judgement here, because it isn’t easy!) Then wear a pre-tied bow tie but buy a tie-yourself tie and stash it in your inside pocket. When that time of the evening arrives, when the wine is flowing, and the dancers are kicking, you can make your excuses, go the bathroom and swap the pre-tied for the tie- yourself that is casually draped around your neck, under your spread collar for maximum effect and the full-on ‘Rat-Pack in the early hours’ look.
A white silk or cotton pocket square with sharp folds in your breast pocket should finish off your look from the waist up. When it comes to the design of the folds on the kerchief, keep it simple but sharp. A straight and level flash of white or at most a two point fold above the breast pocket jet is all you are looking for. No need to guild the lily!
The waist line has become a battleground of late. To wear a cummerbund or not to wear a cummerbund. What is a Cummerbund I hear some ask? Simply put, it is a sash that is worn around the waist. Its design comes from days of old when it was common in polite society to wear a sash to cover the transition between pant and tunic. Or pant and shirt in more recent times. It is normally made of black satin or silk. It is horizontally pleated and whilst deep at the front, tapers in depth to the fastening around the back. While the cummerbund is very dressy, the idea behind it is to keep the “look” simple. It is also a great place to stash items you want to carry, that will spoil the line of you suit!
Alternative # 1. Is to wear a dress pant with a plain waistband. Plain means that it has neither buttons nor belt loops on the waistband. Normally such pants would have side adjusters of some type to ensure a proper fit. A belt should never be worn with a Tuxedo. But, if you absolutely do have to wear a belt, then cover it with a cummerbund!
Alternative # 2. Is to wear a Waistcoat or Vest. The Tuxedo vest traditionally has a deep front opening which is rounded and has either a straight or pointed bottom. Again, a very dressy look which would preclude the wearing of a cummerbund.
The final piece of the jigsaw is the shoe choice. Again, traditionally you would wear a Patent Leather Slipper with your Tuxedo. This is a step to far for some, literally. Patent leather is a polarizing material. You either love it or hate it. Most male tastes fall to the latter. However it does look great with a Tuxedo. But if you simply cannot do it, there are alternatives. The first and favorite is the Loafer. Not the traditional American Penny but something with more of an Italian profile. Simple design, chisel toed and highly polished. Or, the very popular black sued shoe or chelsea boot. It is a more contemporary look but be careful that the color doesn’t fade. They can start to look grey, which is not a desirable contrast, when you are immaculate from the ankles up. The final choice is a one piece oxford shoe. Only available from some of the finest shoemakers. The entire Upper of the shoe is one piece. From the Toe to the vamp, Quarter to the collar and counter. It is one piece of leather, skillfully molded and stitched to create a thing of beauty that will finish off your outfit to perfection. Keep highly polished, and exclusive to your Tuxedo. They are a classic style and will last you a lifetime.
So there we have it. A traditional Tuxedo outfit is about as classic and elegant as it gets. But what about you and where this classic fits into your life. Each of us has different needs. Some love a traditional look and some want to take it up a notch. Whether you are traditional of you want something different, maybe a Black Watch Tartan Tux’, just let us know.
Some of you will use a Tuxedo twice a month, some of you once every two years. Which ever it is, treat yourself, buy one! You can buy custom or you can buy off-the-rack, its up to you and your budget. But if you have one in your wardrobe and you make it yours, by either having it made for you, or having it off-the-rack but fitted to you by a professional. You will get so much more out of the occasions and celebrations for which you bought it. Tuxedo rental is a profitable business, but people rarely feel good in something they hired, unless its a classic car or a plane. And the last thing you want when you attend an occasion of this type that usually result in so many great memories, is being asked for two Martini’s and a Gin and Tonic, because someone mistook you for the waiter!
Please contact us if you would like to discuss the purchase of a Tuxedo or and other formal outfit.
Tel: 831 324 0604