With New Year's Eve prompting Tuxedo appearances throughout my social media feeds I thought it may be a good idea to provide some insight into navigating the wide-ranging and seemingly endless Men's suiting market.
There’s a timeless saying, ‘buy a tuxedo by the time you’re 30 and make sure it fits forever’. Sage advice, certainly, but you’re still left wondering how to find and purchase said tuxedo. The right one. The one that’s meant to see you through some of the best nights of your life.
That’s why we’re here. To help you navigate your first tuxedo purchase. Think of this as the foundation of a formal wear collection that James Bond himself would be envious of.
- Off-The-Rack v. Custom Made
Clearly, you’re tired of renting tuxedos and ready to own one. But how should you go about this? There are two ways to purchase suits in general – custom and off-the-rack (OTR). Your decision will likely be based on budget, but this doesn’t have to be the biggest determinant in the quality of the finished product.
What you’re essentially paying for when you purchase a custom suit is the opportunity to spec your tuxedo, choosing the lapels, material, venting, lining, and a host of other options; this can be expensive. While you might find a great OTR tux for between $700 and $800, a custom tuxedo from a respected tailor will likely cost you $2,000 or more.
The best way to choose between OTR or custom-made? Three options:
Shop around and, see what tuxedos from which stores fit you best, if any, and choose the best OTR option you can find.
Think about tailoring an OTR suit to achieve a custom look without the price tag. The extra $50-$100 (depending on the amount of alteration) might seem like an unnecessary expense to a novice but - trust me - this is how you make a $700 tuxedo look like a $3,000 tuxedo.
Finally, if you’re ready to ball-out bite the bullet and build your suit from scratch.
- Think of your Tuxedo as “Separates”
This is a good way to keep yourself in check. Remember, this is your first tuxedo and you don’t want to go with anything too crazy. Sure, that green velvet jacket looks great on the mannequin but – while you might pull it off at your Aunt Muriel’s wedding – you’re going to want something more conservative for a Christmas Gala or a work event.
A simple black tux, much like a navy suit, can be worn multiple times without catching anyone’s attention – and this is an important factor when your formalwear wardrobe is limited. Think of traditional as best for your first tuxedo. This will give you a classic, timeless look, while serving as the foundation for your formalwear collection.
- The Jacket
A timeless jacket should gracefully walk the line of conservatism – again, nothing too crazy. Regardless if you’re buying OTR or custom, it’s best to go with a single breasted, two-button jacket featuring medium-width notch lapels. A personal favorite is this slim fitting option from Nordstroms. As for the fabric? Opt for a black silk face lapel featuring a black fabric with a “twill” pattern body; black fabric buttons, and lastly a lining without too much contrast.
Pro tip: I can’t recommend double venting enough. Since you’ll be sitting during most formal events, the double venting allows you to put the vent over the back of the chair, whereas a single vent must be sat on causing wrinkles.
- The Trousers
Only once you own a great pair of tuxedo trousers can you start to get creative. With the right fit and style, you’ll be pairing your trousers with different jackets, dress shirts, and ties (not to mention BOMBEROS shoes) for years to come.
Choose a pair that matches the twill fabric mentioned above. Go for flat fronts, no cuffs, and look for piping on the sides. Tuxedo pants should be worn with braces –make sure the trousers have buttons to accommodate. Most importantly, this look allows for size adjustability on the sides since you won’t be wearing a belt.
A simple, understated pair of tuxedo trousers will allow you to create multiple looks without having to purchase complete suits - only jackets. We love this wrinkle-free, stretchy pair from Bonobos. They'll give you a little extra liberty on the dance floor and travel extremely well. As Goldfinger told Bond, “Choose your next witticism carefully." This, too, could be applied to a first pair of tuxedo trousers.
- The Shirt
White, White, White. When it comes to the tuxedo shirt, I can’t stress white enough. The juxtaposition of a hyper-white shirt against a jet-black tuxedo is one of the factors that makes a tuxedo so striking.
When buying your first shirt, I recommend opting for flat-front. This creates a versatile and classic look, which can be worn on almost any occasion. This option from Proper Cloth is a well priced winner. After this, the lowest cost step-up is a pleated bib tuxedo shirt – this should be the second addition to your formalwear wardrobe.
One other thing I can’t stress enough is to purchase a set of “tuxedo studs.” Those are the black enamel buttons which complete the look and make your white shirt pop. As they say, beauty is in the detail.
- The Shoes
The beginning and end of every outfit, partnering your first tux with the right pair of shoes is essential. Typically, you’ll find people wear a patent leather oxford or derby with a black tux. But don’t feel constricted – your footwear is the one place you can really get personal.
The BOMBEROS El Presidente is a traditional slipper in patent black leather. The white suede piping matches the black-and-white contrast of your tuxedo. Plus, a smooth leather sole is perfect for the dance floor.
- Coming Back to the Separates
Now you’ve got a perfectly tailored tuxedo which can be worn to charity galas, weddings, and fundraisers. As your career grows, you’ll attend more and more of these functions which means you’ll want to expand your formalwear collection.
Now that you have a pair of black tuxedo trousers, you can use these as your go-to option for when you do purchase that Green velvet blazer (like this one from Suit Supply) that looked so good on the mannequin. The same pair of pants can pair with a double-breasted tux jacket, a round lapel, or a white smoking jacket (again, options from Suit Supply) to create a multitude of looks.
I hope this can serve as somewhat of a guide or blueprint for putting together your formalwear wardrobe, but should you have any additional questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at email@example.com. We’d love to hear your feedback as well as any success stories you may have to share.