Unless you perform in a symphony orchestra, chances are pretty good that you don’t wear a tuxedo all that often. So on the rare occasions that do call for black tie, the lack of familiarity with the garment can be unnerving. When you throw on your favorite pair of jeans or sneakers, you don’t think twice. They know you, you know them, everything’s chill. But when you put on a tux, it can feel like you’re wearing a costume, a quote-unquote special suit, and that you’re someone other than yourself.

You want to act like you know what you’re doing, but aren’t exactly sure what that means.

A tuxedo doesn’t have to be so daunting though. If you break things down, it’s really just a black suit, a white shirt with some unique details, and a tie with a different shape than usual (or not). The fact that top suit-makers like Suitsupply and Indochino have a myriad of options makes tuxedos more accessible than ever. Even renting a good-looking tux is no longer an oxymoron, thanks to startups like The Black Tux.

Wearing a tuxedo is also a pretty surefire way to look your best. Men look handsome in tuxedos. It’s as simple as that. A tuxedo has clean, crisp lines designed to flatter a man’s physique. The stark contrast of black and white is appealing to the eye. It also removes a lot of the guesswork around what goes with what. You almost have to go out of your way to screw things up. Not that that stops people, even—gasp!—famous people, from doing so.

The Cannes Film Festival kicks off tomorrow. It will be the 70th edition of the event in the south of France that is known for celebrating cinematic storytelling with an artistic bent. This year will see screenings of new films from auteurs such as Noah Baumbach, Sofia Coppola and Todd Haynes. It will also, as all prominent film festivals do, play host to a parade of of celebrities stepping out in their finest tuxedos. Almost all of the top male actors and directors have access to professional stylists, who help them figure out what to wear. Sometimes that works to incredible effect. Sometimes, not so much. Both scenarios, however, can serve as teaching moments for the average guy who is just wondering how to look his best in a tux.

So if you’ve got a black tie event coming up, follow these guidelines and you’ll be guaranteed to turn heads.


Dominique Charriau / Getty

Dominique Charriau / Getty

Feel Blue
While it’s called “black tie,” a tuxedo doesn’t have to be to a black suit. You don’t need to go out and get a technicolor dream tux (do NOT do that), but midnight blue is a great way to stand out without wandering too far afield, as Cafe Society star Corey Stoll showed at Cannes last year. If you are going to venture into the blue, keep the rest of your outfit classic. Otherwise, you run the risk of looking gimmicky.


Anthony Harvey / Getty

Anthony Harvey / Getty

Fit In
With a tuxedo, as with just about every sartorial concern, fit is paramount. It isn’t simply a matter of provenance. There are really expensive tuxedos that fit horribly and cheap ones that fit great. The key is understanding what works best with your body. You probably won’t be doing any jumping jacks in your tux, so don’t worry if you can’t lift your hands above your head in your jacket. You want the shoulder of the jacket to end right where your actual shoulder does. The sleeves of the jacket should reveal just a peek of the shirt sleeves, which themselves should end right where the forearm meets the wrist. A good tailor will understand all these measurements and ensure that your tux fits perfectly. He (or she) will pay for himself with all the compliments you receive. And when in doubt, just do as Ryan Gosling does.
Foc Kan / Getty

Foc Kan / Getty

Pull It Together
A tux is a piece of formalwear. There’s no way around it. Don’t be too cool for school and try to make it look casual. You just end up looking sloppy. You don’t wear black tie everyday, so try to live it up when you do. All the greats—Cary Grant, Paul Newman—knew the proper way to rock a tux. Don’t disrespect the style gawds like French actor Louis Garrel who looked like he slept in his tuxedo and then rolled straight out of bed onto the red carpet. Make sure your shoes have a nice shine on them, that your shirt is freshly pressed and that your tux visits the dry cleaners before you put it on.
George Pimentel / Getty

George Pimentel / Getty

Props To Proper Proportions
A tuxedo is more than the sum of its parts. Every aspect of the outfit needs to work together. If you’re going to wear a smaller tie, then the lapels of your jacket need to be smaller as well. Not coincidentally, this approach works best with smaller guys. Larger men can have their look enhanced by a wider lapel and a larger bowtie to create the appearance of a more V-shaped silhouette. And if you are going to eschew the bowtie in favor of a traditional one, make sure it’s the right length, which means it ends right at the waistband. You don’t want to end up like Adam Driver, who looked like the victim of a tie-cutting prank.
Tony Barson / Getty

Tony Barson / Getty

Break It Down
The quickest way to ruin a sharp black tie look is with pants that bunch up around the ankles. This could have been incorporated into the advice about fit or sloppiness or even proportions, but it’s so important that it deserves a standalone spot on this list. Even when everything else is correct, the wrong hem can take things from 100 to zero real quick. The pants should end at or just a hair below the tops of the shoes when you’re standing straight up. Doing so will elongate your figure, much more than pants that swallow up your shoes like some kind of sole-eating monster. It’s a relatively simple concept, but even legends like George Clooney have had trouble following it.

Justin Tejada is a writer and editor based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter at @just_tejada and Instagram at @justin_tejada.