“I’m renting a tuxedo for a wedding soon. I know that getting the right fit is important, but what are some other things I can do to make sure I look great?”
– Sam J.
Excellent question! Nailing the fit is incredibly important, but there are a few details that will transform a good tuxedo into a great one. Below is our list of 7 formal details that make a big difference.
#1: The Right Neckwear
A lot of formal functions allow for either a long tie or a bow tie. Very formal events specify bow ties only. But if you’re really wanting to get the most out of your tuxedo, wear a bow tie regardless. For one, it’s technically the only correct neckwear to wear with a tuxedo. For another, it’s always going to be your best and most formal look.
And while you’re at it, go the extra mile and learn to tie one yourself. A tuxedo with a bow tie is classy, but a tuxedo with a self-tied bow tie is the stuff that Bond is made of. Check out this quick and easy video tutorial to learn how.
#2. The Right Shirt
First thing’s first. If you want to get the most out of your tuxedo, always wear a white shirt. Black shirts are permissible for some formal events like proms, but they never achieve the same masculine effect of a white shirt underneath a black coat. The contrast is important in defining a masculine silhouette that tuxedos are designed to promote.
The other primary shirt consideration is the collar. While both wing-tip collar shirts and turn-down collar shirts are very common, your best look is going to be a turn-down collar shirt. According to strict formal standards, the only time you really ever need a wing-tip collar shirt is when wearing a tailcoat. For your best overall effect, pair your tuxedo with a white turn-down collar shirt.
#3. The Studs and Cuff Links
Most tuxedo shirts can be fastened with regular buttons, or they can be fitted with studs and cuff links. Show people you care and always opt for studs and cufflinks for your shirt closures. If you want to go all out, this is one area where you can go out and buy a fun set to personalize your ensemble with a little flair. But at the end of the day, a basic set with black centers and silver rims will get the job done nicely.
#4. The Right Waist Covering
When it comes to waist coverings, your options are a vest, cummerbund, or nothing. Some people will tell you that you don’t really need a waist covering. Don’t listen to these people. It serves an important function in preserving the streamlined effect of a good tuxedo. It covers up the awkward bunching up of the shirt where is tucks into the trousers. It also hides the awkward white triangle that would show up around the belly button when the coat is buttoned.
But not all waist coverings are created equal. For your best look, choose either a cummerbund or a low-stance vest that doesn’t cover up much of the shirt above the front jacket button. The white ‘V’ of the shirt when the jacket is buttoned is an important formal element that creates the impression of a narrow waist and broad shoulders. You don’t want your vest to cover that up too much.
*Bonus Tips: If you opt for a cummerbund, make sure that the pleats are facing upward. Those are “crumb catchers.” If you wear a vest, always leave the bottom button unbuttoned.
#5. The Best Button Stance
Here again, there are a lot of options that are perfectly accepted for most formal functions, but to get your best look you want a button that fastens around the bottom of your ribcage. This allows the coat to “break” or pull away at the natural waist for a very comfortable fit and a masculine look.
The most formal and preferred option for your best look is a one-button coat, but a two-button coat will also work. Just never button the bottom button if there’s more than one button. Ever. Trust me. Also, for your best look, it’s usually advisable to avoid jackets with more than two buttons on the front.
#6. The Pocket Square:
Most tuxedo coats will have a front pocket on the left side over the chest. If you have a front pocket, you should also have a pocket square in it. Many guys forgo this detail and they still look good. But the guys that remember it look even better. It’s just another way to show that you care and that you know what you’re doing where dressing formally is concerned. There are lots of ways to fold a pocket square, as illustrated in this infographic, but the most formal fold is a simple, narrow, straight edge fold.
#7. The Pant Hem:
Last but not least is nailing the pant hem. Technically this is part of getting the right fit, but it’s an area that often gets overlooked. The last thing you want is a well thought-out tuxedo being undermined by trousers bunching up around your ankles. In a perfect world, you want your pant legs to rest very comfortably on the tops of your shoes, without bunching up too much. A half break or full break is the goal. More than that and your pants look too long and bunched up. Less than that and you’re showing off your socks a little much when you sit down. Get it wrong and the whole tuxedo looks off. Get it right, and nobody notices a thing, except that you look really well put together.
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