Black Tie Done Right

Black Tie Done Right

Whether you find it unfortunate or not, the average modern man has very few excuses to don formal wear. However, outside wedding or prom season, awards season seemed like the most appropriate time to discuss tuxes and formal suits. Here at What a Man Should Wear we love a good suit, but this special occasion wear. Now I’ll admit I’m no expert on the exact tailoring and terminology of tuxes (or dinner jackets), but with a little research I think I can give you a layman’s guide.

Now I bet some of you think that all tuxedos are the same; wouldn’t that make your life easy. While the men who walk the red carpet this award season all look more or less the same, especially when compared to their female counterparts, there are tons of thoughtful decisions in each penguin suit.

First off: color. While traditionally black, the color of one’s tux or formal suit (a tux is technically defined by the presence of satin or another material on the lapels, buttons, and down the side of the trousers; some of what we are discussing don’t fit this description) is not set in stone and depends on the event you are attending. Personally for weddings, I love to see a groom and/or his men in grey. I’m also personally a fan of grey paired with a deep purple like in the picture, or navy blue like the groomsmen at my best friends wedding. Also any dark jewel tone adds some interest, the bolder the color for the bolder the man. And the truly daring (or more casual, still formal wedding goer) might even try a white or khaki. (However, Esquire does suggest darker and simpler for bigger men, perhaps with stripes).

A tux of a different color

Now we are going to get a little more technical: Jacket lapels. There are basically three different types of lapels notched, peaked, and shawl, here demonstrated for us by the dashing men of BBC’s Merlin (RIP). Starting on the left we’ve got Tom Hopper with a notched lapel. Now I can’t tell if his lapel is unusually thin or if it just looks that way because he is possibly the largest man in existence (probably the latter). Next is Adetomiwa Edun in a peaked lapel. Then Eoin Macken in a much more casual look (forgiven considering most of his day jobs don’t involve any shirt at all). And finally on the right, Rupert Young in a traditional shawl collar. Honestly I don’t particularly have a preference between these, but now you know what you are asking for.

The Knights of Camelot at the 2012 NTAs

Lastly: the details. Pocket squares, cuff links, ties, the amount of buttons. Okay that last one isn’t so much a detail as an integral part of the suit, but you get the point. When doing a traditional single-brested suit, the number of buttons should depend mostly on the style of the jacket and the length of your torso. Longer body means more buttons (see above). This works for the double-breasted jacket as well, best attempted on tall men. Personally I think a look this formal demands French cuffed sleeves with cuff links (see image below for an example of a French cuff). The links don’t need to be anything too fancy, just nice and a little personal. Pocket squares. Do it, add some color or pattern, this is where you get to add more personality.

And ties. Bow tie is traditional and making a comeback in a big way, even in more casual wear. But I’m also a huge fan of the skinny tie. This is another personal choice, just one rule, no clip ons.

More help from Merlin

For a little extra help check out these posts:

The GQ Wedding Primer Starring Darren Criss

Esquire’s Tuxedo Suggestions for Emmy Night

Esquire’s Behind the Scenes Tuxedo Lessons with Roo Panes


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