Tuxedos 101

A primer on formalwear
OK class, listen up, we're here to review the basics of formalwear - no need to get anxious about dressing up - it's easy to look sophisticated.

First, let's review the vocabulary:

Peak Lapel Peak Lapel - This is a wider lapel that comes to a peak - just like most double breasted suits.
Notch Lapel Notch Lapel - This is the same type of lapel line that a single breasted suit has.
Shawl Collar Shawl Collar - this is a long, continuous lapel line, somewhat rounded in shape.
Single Breasted Single Breasted - The most popular style, simple, clean and neat.
Double Breasted Double Breasted - This fashion style features an overlapping coat with 2 rows of buttons which button to the side, rather than down the center of the coat.
  Triple Breasted - You're right, there's no such thing - we just wanted to be sure you were paying attention.
Cummerbund Cummerbund - a pleated sash worn around your waist, usually solid black, always with a bow-tie cut from the same cloth and always worn with the pleats facing up.
Wing Tip Formal shirt collar wing-tip Formal Shirt - The most popular formal shirt style which features 2 small "triangles" for a collar.
Lay-Down formal shirt collar Lay-down Formal Shirt - This formal shirt has a full collar - just like a dress shirt.
Cufflink and Stud Sets Stud Set - 4 pieces of jewelry which take the place of buttons on your formal shirt. Looks very suave.


What Should I Wear?

White Tie or Full Dress - This is the most formal outfit - and it is quite specific. White tie means you should be wearing a black tailcoat, matching black trouser, white pique formal shirt, white pique vest, and a white pique bow-tie. No you can't substitute a regular tuxedo for the tails - you'll get arrested by the fashion police.

Black Tie - Most formal affairs fall into this category. Black tie means you need to wear a tuxedo. Single breasted or double breasted, peak, notch, or shawl collar will do. It's your choice. Your tuxedo will need a formal shirt (no you can't just wear a white dress shirt - everyone will know you're trying to cut corners), bow-tie and cummerbund set or vest and tie set, cuff links and studs. A traditionalist will wear a black bow-tie and cummerbund set, and black, round cuff links and stud set. If you would like to be less formal then wear a vest and tie set instead of the cummerbund.

Black Tie preferred – This is the host’s way of telling you that you’ll be out of place unless you are wearing a tuxedo. Any tuxedo is OK, no tailcoats. You are allowed to wear a dark, dressy suit (we would suggest a navy or black tone-on-tone stripe – please see eSuit.com or call) without having security throw you out in a humiliating scene, however, you will feel lonely without your tuxedo.

Black tie optional – This means the host and those with the “in-crowd” will be wearing a tuxedo. Of course, this also means those with the “out-crowd” will be wearing a suit. Wouldn’t you rather be with the “in-crowd”? Tails are too fancy. Stick with either a tuxedo or visit eSuit.com for a dark, dressy suit.

Black tie invited – This means the hostess really, really wants you to wear a tuxedo but isn’t going to press the issue. Rest assured, the host will be dressed to the nines in his tux. Expect about half of the men to be wearing a tuxedo, half wearing a suit.

Semi-formal – This means you are supposed to wear either a tuxedo or a dinner jacket. The rules are a less stringent, go ahead and wear that wild-and-crazy vest and ties set. Try something a little less conservative. Just remember, the fashion police are out there – watching . . .

Creative Black Tie - There is no definition for this, that is, most anything goes as long as you are wearing a tuxedo jacket. One shudders to think some may voluntarily choose to wear a tuxedo jacket and bluejean cut-offs. We believe creative black tie provides you with the opportunity to wear an interesting novelty vest which makes your outfit stand out from the crowd.

T-Shirts / Pastel Colors - Absolutely, positively not! Not only would you be arrested, the fashion police would throw away the key! Keep in mind, not only do you want to look your best for this day, but you don't want to be embarrassed looking at the pictures 5 years later!


Which style is most traditional?
The most traditional tuxedo style is the single-breasted, 1-button, peak lapel tuxedo. This is where tuxedo fashions started. While this is the most traditional, it is not the most popular. The 1-button notch lapel tuxedo wins that category hands down. Nonetheless, any of the 1-button single breasted styles will last you for years to come. These styles are evergreens - always in fashion. Sure, the lapel width may fluctuate over the years, but these styles are the classics. As you venture into 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9 button tuxedos you walk further out onto the fickle fashion world's timeline - 9 button styles will last the season, 3 button a few years, the others somewhere in between.

Formal daytime affair?
For the staunch traditionalist, formal morning and afternoon affairs require either a stroller or cutaway. These, like White Tie are very specific outfits.

Yes, formal shoes make the outfit. No it's not the end of the world if you choose regular dress shoes provided these are: basic, simple (plain toe, capped toe), clean, freshly polished to a high shine, black shoes. Formal shoes are made from shiny patent leather and are typically very simple and very dressy. They really do make the outfit look complete and they do not go out of style.

Formal trousers have a black satin stripe or braid along the outside seam. This is a relic of the trouser's military days. What if you don't like the stripe - Get over it! This is a requirement for formalwear - no stripe = no go! And never, ever cuff the pants. Cuffed formal pants require mandatory sentencing by the fashion police! Formal pants do not have belt loops. Either have your tailor alter your pants to fit without needing a belt or wear button-in suspenders (black or white only).

Baby it's cold outside
The "right" coat to wear with a tuxedo is a chesterfield topcoat. This is a grey herringbone coat with a black velvet collar. Alternatively, a black full length trenchcoat will also work. If you are interested, give us a call, we do carry both coats.

Follow these lessons and not only will you be at the head of the class, you'll look like a million!

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