How To Buy The Right Tuxedo

By Jennifer Ryan Jones Photography by Joseph Shin

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BLAZER OF GLORY THINK OF THE TUXEDO jacket as the highest expression of the blazer. It has subtly elegant details that set it apart from a suit or sports jacket: contrasting lapel, satin accents, covered buttons. That amount of flair can go a long way toward putting together a look that has a sense of occasion. When it comes to wearing a formal piece of clothing in a less formal setting, the best trick is not to wear black. A little color, pattern or cool fabric makes it easy to dress down. This Alexander McQueen jacket has so much personality, you can keep it simple with the rest of your outfit.

VELVET GOLD MINE Alexander McQueen navy velvet tuxedo jacket, $1,675, mrporter.com

1. Rock this Black Watch plaid at holiday parties. Brooks Brothers Black Watch tuxedo jacket, $848, brooksbrothers.com

2. Pair this with dark denim and a crisp dress shirt. Gucci Duke evening jacket, $1,735,

3. Peak lapels, a ticket pocket and velvet at a great price. Zara velvet blazer, $99

BOW FLEX

If you wear a bow tie the right way, the disarming and charming accessory ranks up there with puppies as a reliable way to get women to talk to you. But think dandy, not nerdy. This bow tie is handwoven from silk and feathers and is guaranteed to inspire at least one conversation. If you’re not that much of a peacock, go with something more subdued. But if you do, learn how to hand tie one for a more rakish appeal and to avoid the prom-night clip-on look. Monsieur Jean Yves bow tie, $495, available at Saks Fifth Avenue

FLOWER POWER

If you’re going to an event where a tie would look a little too uptight and you’re tired of the whole pocket-square thing, consider wearing a lapel flower. If you’re thinking boo to the boutonniere because it’s not quite manly enough, think again. These fabric flowers are perfectly undersized (about an inch and half wide), come in dozens of color combinations (from basic black to flashy) and add just enough pop to a jacket lapel. The go-to brand these days is Hook + Albert. Clockwise from top: Carmel, $30; Aurora Red, $95; Green Sheen, $30, hookandalbert.com

A tuxedo can be deconstructed any number of ways, and that includes the pants. Tuxedo pants can elevate a simple black blazer. The details on traditional tuxedo pants are flattering for a number of reasons: They typically have vertical pockets, which elongate your form and make you appear taller. The same goes for the black satin stripe down the side. And maybe the coolest thing is that they’re the original Sansabelt: Adjustable side tabs negate the need for a belt, which can bulk up an otherwise sleek look. Richard James burgundy mohair trousers, part of a tuxedo, $1,280, mrporter.com

A TUXEDO SHIRT doesn’t need to be all pleated and extra fancy to look dashing. And technically you don’t even need it to be a tuxedo shirt. A proper dress shirt can work, provided it has the right details and cut. Be sure to avoid sport shirts and button-downs. Above, we break down the details on this updated tuxedo shirt to show you what to look for. Thomas Mason for J. Crew bib-front tuxedo shirt, $168, jcrew.com

1. A COOL COLLAR Avoid wing-collar tuxedo shirts when dressing down. Go with a semi-spread to show off your bow-tie skills or to accommodate a larger half-Windsor knot.

2. FLAT FIT High arm holes and a snug fit across the chest keep your shirt from getting rumpled. A bunched-up shirt is inexcusable in a semiformal setting.

3. BIB OPTIONAL We like that the bib on this shirt isn’t pleated. It adds just enough detail without going overboard. A plain-front dress shirt would also work.

4. LEARN FRENCH If you want to wear cuff links, you’re going to need French cuffs. And you’re going to want to see them, so tailor your jacket to show up to an inch of sleeve.

5. NO STUDS Those little black studs that come with rental tuxedos scream “rental tuxedo.” This shirt has mother-of-pearl buttons, making it appropriate to wear with a suit.

6. PASS ON THE POCKET A true dress shirt doesn’t have a pocket on the front. Pockets say “business.” You want your evening look to say “pleasure.“

THE FOUNDATION of any outfit is the shoes. And the fastest way to undermine an upgraded formal look is to finish it with down-at-the-heels footwear. A pair of well-polished black cap-toe oxfords always works, but you might want to consider going old-school with tuxedo slippers (also called pumps). We know that doesn’t sound very masculine, but once you read the pictograms on this pair of velvet slippers from Stubbs & Wootton you might be convinced. Stubbs & Wootton College slippers, $450, stubbsandwootton.com

COOL IT WITH THE CUMMERBUND

When deconstructing formalwear, you should leave the cummerbund in the drawer. It is one of those items that look just plain goofy out of a truly formal context. We’re lukewarm on the cummerbund in a traditionally formal context too, as it presents more problems than it solves: You need to continually adjust it throughout the night, and it can make your belly sweat—never a good look.

Cuff links are the closest thing to man jewelry that we can get behind. In more-casual settings, silk knots are fine, but we like the elegance and versatility of these mother-of-pearl cuff links. The multicolored iridescence makes them the perfect match for any number of jacket colors and styles. David Yurman black mother-of-pearl cuff links, $395, davidyurman.com

Don’t go for multipeak folds when pairing a pocket square with a tuxedo jacket. Subdued is the order of the day. The classic, or presidential, fold is sleek, elegant and easy

STEP 1 White Out Take a freshly ironed pocket square and lay it out on a flat surface. You can’t go wrong with a white cotton square.

STEP 2 Half Measure Fold it in half vertically, taking care to match corner to corner. If you want a crisp look, iron the crease.

STEP 3 Adjustment Bureau Fold horizontally and slide it into the pocket, stitched side up. Adjust the fold so it sits well and doesn’t slide down.


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