With apologies to ZZ Top, everybody loves a sharp-dressed man. Drake knows. Will Smith rocks black ties. 007 himself, Daniel Craig, is tux-chic. Pull off the James Bond Skyfall look yourself and all that quiet confidence is yours.
Occasions that require formal dress are few. Invent some elegant outfits to fill out your social calendar and leave a lasting impression. Go for avant-garde or classic. Pick a rolled shawl collar or a sharply tailored model. Explore the intricacies of ties, shirt collars, and vests.
For holiday parties, weddings and other occasions, the age-old question is always whether to buy or rent. Read on to learn more about the cost of a tuxedo.
Cost of a Tuxedo
Your choice of style, fabric, and cut determines the cost of your ensemble. More importantly, the amount of time you plan on holding on to a tuxedo will determine the cost. Renting a formal outfit once, including shoes, is a few hundred dollars. For an outfit you will only wear once, or one that needs to be custom coordinated with a group of people, this is often the only option.
However, if you only wear your tuxedo twice, you have paid for your custom ensemble. Three times and your bespoke masterpiece is free! Some caution applies, of course. There are several online and classic tailors who make formal wear. Department stores and designer labels also offer tuxedos. Shop around to find what suits you and your budget.
Pick the Pieces
Your basic ensemble consists of a jacket, vest or cummerbund, shirt, neckwear, and trousers. Within those pieces, there are many variations. Whether you want to rent off the rack each time or purchase custom tuxedos, you have choices!
A gentleman’s evening suit at the end of the 19th century had a tailcoat. The young rebels of Edwardian England and Tuxedo Park, New York developed a less restricting style. They based it on the comfortable smoking jacket.
These days, true elegance and impressing ladies demand a few concessions to distinguish a tuxedo from a mere business suit.
Fabric, Cut, and Color
It doesn’t matter if you rent or buy, for the true aficionado of eveningwear, a tuxedo is always black or midnight blue, with white dinner jackets acceptable in season and on waiters. The fabric is a lusterless worsted wool. Relaxed rules mean that you often see different colors and fabrics in tuxedo rentals. Dark colors still trump the baby blue and pastel peach dinner jackets though.
You can distinguish tuxedo jackets by their distinctive lapels. Retained from their smoking jacket roots, the lapels of a tuxedo jacket are always a contrasting fabric. Lapels are still almost always black satin or grosgrain. The lapel shape is a peak or shawl lapel.
Unlike the modern suit jacket, a tuxedo jacket is one-button, usually fabric covered in the same fabric with the lapel facing. It has one vent at maximum. Some eschew the vent altogether.
The modern tuxedo is all about clean lines. Jetted pockets are the norm. Bulky flaps and bulges are for less formal looks.
Trousers, Shirts, and Accoutrements
Ordinary dress trousers come in a variety of styles and fabrics. Tuxedo trousers are striped with a narrow band of matching lapel material at the outer seams. They are never cuffed and rarely have belt loops.
Waist tabs and buttons for braces maintain the smooth waist of tuxedo trousers. In fact, the fly front is a more recent fashion concession. Many tuxedo trousers also skip deep pockets to ensure a smooth line.
Tuxedo shirts generally come in white. A stand-up wing tip collar or spread collar is acceptable. Tuxedo shirts have a bib front, which is doubled fabric in the front. It is usually ornamented with tucks, pleads or discreet pique. French cuffs and shirt studs are part of the look.
The waistcoat or cummerbund covers the junction of shirt and trousers. Some modern looks go bare, but bunched fabric never looks polished. The deep cut waistcoat or cummerbund covers this unsightly flash of white fabric.
The bow tie is self-tied. The tie and pocket square encourages self-expression. As for footwear, the correct shoe is black patent. Loafer style or oxfords are classic.
Designer vs. Bespoke vs. Used
Designer tuxedos can often run into the thousands of dollars like their business suit counterparts. Armani isn’t cheap. Rental versions can often be had after they’re retired for a fraction of the cost. If the cut, fabric, and condition please you, purchasing it isn’t a bad idea.
A custom or bespoke tux can be had for less than $500. You can incorporate all the touches that you desire in your black tie splendor. Additionally, made to measure will drape and not suffer from gaps and bunches that off the rack rentals suffer from.
As for shirts, shoes and the various accouterments, there is no reason to not own your own. Rentals are never going to fit well, and ownership of the correct items is inexpensive compared to the investment in the whole suit.
Thrift and Elegance
Invest in a classic tuxedo if you have a need to wear one more than twice in your lifetime. You may find yourself inventing reasons to wear it. Choose classic pieces and add pieces to show off your personality.
Cut, color, style, and fabric determine whether or not a suit is a formal tuxedo, follow the basics, but don’t be afraid to stray a little. The cost of renting a generic ensemble is about half that of buying your own quality garment, so you can be a little picky.
if the cost of a tuxedo worries you, buying a used tuxedo in worsted wool and a classic cut is inexpensive. Designer tuxedos are retired from rental use often, and some have minimal or easily repairable wear.
Ready for a wedding, a holiday in the Hamptons or martinis in Monte Carlo? Keep reading this blog for more ideas! If you’re interested in work attire, make sure you check out our section on work life!