007 Your Life: A Gentleman's Guide to Tuxedos - Part 3
Now that you’ve wisely chosen your tuxedo, the fun doesn’t end there. The other components are just as important in completing your dapper look. But with so many options, it can become confusing and maybe overwhelming, so let me help.
Shirt: The tuxedo shirt should, first and foremost, be white. I’ve seen some in light pink, but even that might be a little much. Stick with white. Remember that a tuxedo is the most formal you can go, so the shirt has to follow. It’s like a white dress shirt, but the extra trimmings are important. Here are the basics.
Collars: With tux shirts, there are generally two kinds of collars: regular and winged. Regular collars are what you see on most dress shirts. They’re what we call turned down. Turned down collars are typically spread or pointed. Spread means the collar points jut out wide, leaving a lot of space in the middle, whereas pointed point almost straight down, leaving not too much room for the tie. I much prefer spread collars. When you wear a bow tie, you want that thing to almost float on your shirt, so avoid pointed collars because they will crowd that beautiful piece of silk. Winged collars are very traditional. Watch a movie like Titanic to see what they look like. While old school, they’re not exactly out of style, and can look very dapper.
Bib: Next, the front of the shirt. Extremely traditional tux shirts have what’s called a bib, which is usually a ruffling of the fabric that literally looks like a bib. Those can be very snazzy. More modern shirts do not sport bibs and have a uniform pattern throughout. In my opinion, if you can get your hands on a nice fitting bibbed shirt, that’s a cool look. The ruffling provides a nice contrast of the pattern and can add some understated flare.
Placket: Then, there’s the placket. That’s the line down the middle with the buttons. Tux shirts come in two kinds of plackets: regular and hidden. Regular plackets have exposed, normal, off-white buttons, and slots that allow for studs. With regular plackets, you either go studs or naked. Both look fine. Studs are more formal and, dare I say, special. And if you go for studs, opt for black. The little black dots act as a nice contrast on the white shirt that leads the eye smoothly up and down from the front jacket button to the bow tie. Honestly, without studs, the off white button look can be appear a little sloppy. Go for studs. Now, there’s also what’s known as the hidden placket, which is a smooth, seamless strip of fabric that covers the front buttons. It's modern and looks suave. For me, it’s a [bow]tie between studs and hidden placket. But if you need to look more special, say as the groom, pick studs.
Cuffs: Finally, the cuffs. The simple answer is go for French cuffs that allow for cufflinks or please, just stay home. No one will want to be your friend, especially girls. Always wear French cuffs with cufflinks with a tux.
Where to buy your shirt: There are some stand-out stores - Brooks Brothers, while very traditional, has a great collection of formal wear, including some nice shirts. Below left is the Brooks Brothers classic winged collar, regular placket, French cuff. Below right is a more modern shirt by Hugo Boss at Bloomingdales, with a spread collar and hidden placket. (Click images for details.)
Bow tie: This is where, understandably, dudes can go a little crazy. While I love a creative bow tie, say with skulls or fun little dolphins, with a tux, just go black and keep it as simple as possible. The more eccentric guys try to be with their bow ties, the more it looks like you’re trying too hard to be different, and that’s an automatic fail. However, that doesn’t mean you have to stick with just the plainest bow tie. Try a larger size (See my moniker at the bottom of Part 1 of our series.), or pattern like black on black paisley, texture like piqué (the ribbed cotton weave), or if it’s cold enough outside, be like P. Diddy and pull out the velvet. But repeat after me, subtle, subtle, subtle.
Also, make sure, as a man, you know how to tie a bow tie. While it is rumored to be very difficult, it isn’t. Just Google it, and I guarantee you’ll be tying all of your friends’ bow ties at their weddings like I do. (I'm a fan of Charles French's how to tie a bow tie video. Also, please note that there’s a reason I didn’t call this section “ties.” That’s because a tuxedo is no longer a tuxedo if you wear a regular necktie. Please, please, I beg you, don’t do that. Have some dignity. And if it’s your wedding, don’t make that the groomsman look. Major style foul.
Below left, Yves Saint Laurent, in the middle Brooks Brothers and to the right, J. Crew. (Click images for details.)
Shoes: This should be easy. Traditional shoes are patent leather oxfords, meaning, smooth, black and very shiny. Patent leather is regular leather, but with a shiny coating, traditionally made from linseed oil, but is now often made from plastic. Either way, patent leather looks good with a tux. However, it’s not 100% necessary. If you had a nice, sleek pair of oxfords (no wingtips), then you can wear those instead of patent leather as long as you have a good shine. But if it’s your wedding, just buy the patent leather. You’ll definitely wear them again.
Below, Boss by Hugo Boss oxfords. (Click images for details.)
Pocket Square: Even easier than the shoes? Yes and cheaper than the other accessories. Don’t make it complicated. Just go white, either cotton or silk. Keep your look minimal, either in a nice geometric rectangle or pointed, but like the bow tie, don’t go too crazy. A little goes a long way. Trust me. Again, for a good example, see my beautiful bathroom selfie moniker.
Suspenders: They’re fine, but not necessary. If you have to get them, say if it’s a groomsman requirement or you’re just feeling adventurous, go for it. Just make sure you have suspender buttons in the pants. If not, go buy some (they usually come with suspenders) and have them sewn in. Suspenders can look very sharp, and, of course, they are very good at holding up your pants. That’s a valuable service, especially if you’re feeling the band's music just a little too much while sporting your tux.
Socks: C’mon. Do you really need advice on socks? Ugh, okay. My pick is a nice, solid grey, polka dot or striped pattern. Read: black is boring (and potentially creepy). Just avoid anything too out there, as your mantra should now be, “I am a dapper stud wearing a uniform…not my suit to a happy hour.”
Cufflinks & Studs: Not much I can say here, other than make sure you have cufflinks. Let your personality shine. And with studs, black or very dark blue (midnight, navy) are the best.
Next week I'll delve into where to actually buy your tuxedo. Until then...
-Jon Rich is In the Midfield's Men's Lifestyle Editor. He is also a practicing attorney in NYC.
Lead collage "For the Guy: Formal and Fancy," Essential Homme Magazine
(Note: Jon prefers single button tuxedo jackets, but this collage was so swanky...)