Chapter 6: Formalwear – Three Degrees of the Well-Dressed Man

NO OTHER CATEGORY IN MEN’S STYLE IS AS WIDELY MISINTERPRETED AS FORMAL DRESSING. WHEN IT COMES TO BLACK TIE, GOING BY THE BOOK IS YOUR BEST OPINION. AFTER ALL, YOU’RE NOT MEANT TO STAND OUT AT A FUNCTION THAT CALLS FOR FORMAL DRESS. THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT YOU SHOULDN’T LOOK GREAT, HOWEVER. THERE ARE A NUMBER OF SMART BUT SUBTLE CHOICES YOU CAN MAKE THAT WILL ALLOW FOR SOME PERSONAL STYLE TO SHINE THROUGH, SUCH AS SHOES, CUFF LINKS AND STUDS, PERHAPS EVEN SUSPENDERS JUST KEEP IT NUANCED, AS IT’S BEST TO FIGHT THE URGE FOR ATTENTION SO PLEASE, DO YOURSELF A FAVOR, AND TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THIS CHAPTER. AND WHILE YOU’RE AT IT, WHEN WEARING A TUXEDO, NEVER, EVER, REFER TO YOURSELF AS A PENGUIN OR YOUR CLOTHING AS A MONKEY SUIT. BLACK-TIE DRESSING MUST BE ABOUT ELEGANCE AND CONFIDENCE EVERY MAN SHOULD FEEL LIKE THE MAN WHEN HE’S WEARING FORMALWEAR.

 

TUXEDO BASICS

1.) THE STRIPE

The tuxedo is descended from a military dress uniform, which explains the stripe down the seam of the pants.

2.) SINGLE-BREASTED VS.
DOUBLE-BREASTED

Like suits, tuxedos are offered in single and double-breasted silhouettes. And, as with suits, make sure you’re a double-breasted build before making yourself a double-breasted guy. Single-breasted tuxedos have traditionally had a rounded, or shawl, collar. While this style has endured and continues to be perfectly acceptable, you can’t go wrong with a peaked or even notch lapel these days.

3.) THE SHIRT

Wear a well-pressed white dress shirt (preferably French cuff). Warning: Wearing a ruffled shirt is a bold move. You don’t want to look like one of the Sweat Hogs on prom night. (If the Welcome Back, Kotter reference is lost on you, dig up an old photo of your father at his senior formal, and you’ll get the idea.)

4.) THE VEST OR CUMMERBUND

You can wear either a vest or a cummerbund under a single-breasted tuxedo but nothing but a shirt under a double-breasted one. Just so you know, the pleats on the cummerbund face up because they’re designed to catch any crumbs that may fall. If there’s one black-tie component that is truly optional these days, it is the cummerbund. If you do choose to wear a cummerbund or vest, stay away from jazzy patterns like paisley print. Suppress your inner Manilow.

5.) THE SHOES

Tuxedos are meant to be worn with tuxedo shoes. You have some flexibility here. Purists will insist on slipons, made from silk, velvet, or patent leather. Lace-ups will do just fine, just be sure to give them a high shine.

6.) THE TIE

Bow ties used to be a must, but worn properly, the elegant four-in-hand especially in silver, white, or black is a suitable alternative. If you’re wearing a bow tie, learn to tie a real one. Ifs not that hard.

DOUBLE-BREASTED

Too many men who shouldn’t be wearing double-breasted suits make the mistake of thinking they can pull off a double-breasted tuxedo.

SHAWL COLLAR

It’s the simplicity of the black-and-white outfit that makes it so classy. The rounded shawl collar has long been the classic. You don’t need to improve upon it.

SINGLE-BREASTED

A single-breasted tuxedo in a notched or a peaked lapel is as acceptable as the traditional shawl collar.

WHITE DINNER JACKET

If it’s summer or you’re attending a function in a year round warm climate, the white dinner jacket is a classy option. Avoid the red carnation – and the red wine.

BIB SHIRT

So-called because of the woven oval that extends across the chest, the bib shirt is a solid choice for formal attire.

WING COLLAR

A throwback to the 19th century, the wing collar is best suited for white tie and tails. Stick with a turn-down collar.

PLEATED SHIRT

Pleats are the classiest of tuxedo shirts.

TURN-DOWN COLLAR

Simple and elegant, this is the preferred shirt for wearing with a dinner jacket.

VELVET

If you’re willing to go for it, then go big and be sure to get a pair embroidered with your initials.

BLACK
LACE-UPS

A widely acceptable alternative to flashier formal footwear.

PATENT LEATHER

Old-school fashion law dictates that pumps are the proper shoes to wear with a tuxedo. Break this law. If you feel inclined to honor tradition, try a pair of patent-leather slip-ons.

BOW TIE

Never use a clip-on. Once you learn to tie a bow, you’ll never go back.

STRAIGHT TIE

The impossible-to-ignore option. Wearing a four-in-hand tie with a tuxedo is modern and chic.

THE PERFECT FIT

 

A TUXEDO FITS LIKE A SUIT

As with your suits, fit is everything when it comes to black-tie dressing. Stick with a single-button, single-breasted cut that sits close to your frame. For warm weather events, try a white dinner jacket if you’re feeling particularly confident. (Be sure to pair it with black tuxedo pants. A white suit at a black-tie party is definitely not a good look.)

THE BREAK

It’s okay for your pants to have a shorter break than your standard trousers have.

THE FABRIC

In the autumn and winter months, stick with the classic wool fabrics used for your suits. As you’ll probably only have one tuxedo in the closet, make sure the wool isn’t too heavy. This is a big-ticket item, and you’ll want to get the most  wear out of the tuxedo.

THE STUDS AND CUFF LINKS

Tuxedo shirts have traditionally required a stud and cuff-link set. These days studs are no longer a must, as going without has become quite common and can present a clean, sophisticated look. The French-cuff shirt, however, should be a staple. Find classic sterling-silver cuff links or perhaps some vintage enan1.el, as long as the colors are relatively neutral.

JACKET REQUIRED

Unless you’re planning to drape your jacket over the shoulders of a shivering female, keep it on.

A WORD ABOUT WEDDING ATTIRE

A morning suit wit h a cutaway coat is the most formal daytime outfit a man can wear. If you’re getting married while the sun is out, the morning suit can be an elegant choice. Wear it with a vest, a striped tie, and bxfords. Leave the top hat and the ascot at home.

HOW TO BUY A SUIT

THINK ABOUT HOW YOU’RE REALLY GOING TO USE YOUR TUXEDO. IF YOU ONLY GO TO A FEW FORMAL EVENTS A YEAR, JUST WEARING A TUX IS SPECIAL ENOUGH. IF YOU’RE GOING OUT A LOT, YOU’LL WANT SOME VARIETY, THINK ABOUT GETTING ANOTHER JACKET, WHITE PERHAPS OR SOMETHING ELSE TO WORK INTO THE ROTATION.
NEVER WEAR A BELT WITH FORMALWEAR. SUSPENDERS MAY SEEM COOL, BUT MOST MEN WEAR THEM INCORRECTLY. IN ORDER TO PULL OFF SUCCESSFULLY, YOUR CLOTHES NEED TO BE CUT PROPERLY. IN REALITY, YOUR TUXEDO PANTS SHOULD HAVE A STRONG WAISTBAND AND SIDE-TABS TO TAKE THE PLACE OF SUSPENDERS.

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