(A guide to wearing a tuxedo)
“Just like girls need to learn to be comfortable in heels before they go out in them for the first time, a man should try wearing a suit throughout a normal day. I do most things in a suit—and sometimes even in a tuxedo—and so I’m comfortable in one.”
At the onset of March, the whole of Hollywood once again buzzed with the hottest ticket to the biggest, if not, the most significant awards show known to man, the Academy Awards. A constellation of some of the most celebrated stars descended and assembled at the red carpet, dressed to the nines, all raring to see who takes home the ever-elusive golden statue.
But apart from the politics, the scandals, and of course, the winners being called out from the envelope at the podium, we are always carefully looking out for the hits and misses on the red carpet.
And why not? When the rest of the world is simply cordoned off to just observe from afar, we transform ourselves into experts judging the sparkling, chosen few.
What’s interesting to see is that women and their couture numbers aren’t the only ones scrutinized for their style and fashionable choices. Men, of course, are no side-shows. In an event as grand as this, it is easy to get lost in a sea of blacks and dark blues. But, in sharp dressing, it always boils down to even the smallest details. And when it comes to looking his best in a tux, even the best and the brightest fall.
Wearing a tuxedo could either make or break a man. Interestingly, the rules are strict when it comes to putting your classic tux on your back and unfortunately, this is not a case of “as long as you feel good in it.” But essentially, the strictness of this dress code, with all the do’s and don’ts make it an easy sartorial decision. As they say, “Manners maketh man” but a man who knows his tuxedo is ten times better.
For this issue of Rank, we run down some of the top considerations when wearing a tux, dissecting notes that we want you to remember on each element of the tux. But first, the biggest advice worth giving is to BUY A TUX, NEVER RENT.
Even if you are the guy who only attends a formal function once every five years, investing in a tux will make life easier for you. There is absolutely no way you can find a tux that fits you perfectly in any rental shop around—and in the Philippines, we don’t have a lot (decent ones at least).
So, you decided on getting something than renting for the sake of it. And of course, you want something that won’t just sit idly in your closet after that wedding or that office function your boss forced you to attend is over. In that sense, buy something that is timeless and would last as long as you need it to be. And for your overall look’s centerpiece, go for the single-breasted jacket with one to two-buttons.
The lapels are another consideration. That flap of fabric that is folded over the edges of your jacket and sewn to your collar is the lapel. There are three common lapels known to man: the notched, peaked, and the shawl.
If you have bought a suit or even just a jacket off-the-rack, chances are, you have purchased a notched lapel. And that’s okay. The notch is the most common and the most versatile out of the three. If you only need one suit in your life, you might want to consider the notch as it is something that you can wear for work and even at some random down time with your girl. Go with a dark charcoal or something that is close to black.
For dressier, more formal occasions, a peaked or a shawl lapel would be the better option. Remember that unlike the notch lapel, you can never dress down either of these lapels. Not only is the peaked lapel the more formal option, it also gives an extra lengthening effect as it moves the eyes towards an upward direction, with its edges pointing towards the shoulders.
To finish your overall dapper look, a good pair of shoes would seal the deal. Formal pumps or those with patent leather may be the obvious option but are rather dated and expensive so well-maintained and polished lace-ups would do. Also keep in mind to choose thin black high socks, and nothing cotton and thick.
Official sketches of the Hugo Boss tuxedos worn by Sebastian Stan at the Golden Globe Awards (top) and Alexander Skarsgård at the Screen Actors Guid Awards (bottom).
The bow tie
One rule: never go for the pre-tied kind you get at the department store. In a formal gathering, the finishing touch of your look should be the tie that highlights the gentleman in you. Always remember that the material should complement that which is used in your jacket’s lapel facings.
Do not try to wear a straight tie a la early-2000s Leonardo DiCaprio and make it pass for a good formal event look. There are a number of styles of bow ties you can adhere to: the butterfly, semi-butterfly, pointed, and the straight-end. Pick which type resonates with your style and yes, even your features. If you have a face with stronger features, it is best to go for thicker ties. If your features are narrower, then a thinner orientation of ties would work for you best.
The evening shirt
For formal gatherings, make a good impression by wearing a classic, crisp white evening shirt—strictly white. Your favorite stars at the Grammys and even at the Oscars may have presented you with some pretty eye-catching alternatives, but remember, you want your style to be timeless, not something fleeting like a hashtag that goes away in no time.
Traditionally, a tuxedo’s accompanying shirt has what many would call a “bib”, which is a decorated rectangular panel in front of the shirt. Commonly, these are pleated or pique. Instead of buttons, a tuxedo inner shirt go for three to four studs in a shirt, especially if the shirt is stiff-front or pique. Also of note are the cuffs.
Common for formal evening shirts is the French cuff which holds the cufflinks. In some cases, tuxedos are sold with matching cufflinks. But if otherwise, always note that the cufflinks should match with the studs of the shirt.
When it comes to the collar, purists would argue that a winged collar is only for white tie, but since it has been worn a lot of times in black, it won’t be criminal to go for this particular collar. Otherwise, go for the conventional turndown collar to go for that classic look.
The trousers worn with a tuxedo is pretty fuss-free but the key for it to look real good is the fit. Do not be the guy with a low-hanging crotch that ruins the entire look. The important thing is for it to match the material used in the jacket.
Trousers are commonly high-waisted and remember that you do not wear a belt with your tuxedo trousers. That’s why they are commonly worn with suspenders or a waist covering—either a waistcoat or a cummerbund. Some may argue that these two are dated and would make you look like you’re going to a prom, so going for suspenders might be the upgraded version.