So, you have been diligently following our last couple of blog posts on first making the leap into custom, then upping the ante with an en vogue yet timeless custom blue tuxedo. Well done! The question now begs, what details should you choose? Shawl, Notch, or Peak Lapel? How many buttons? Single or Double-Breasted? And where did the tuxedo originate, anyway?
At the time deemed somewhat revolutionary, the tuxedo style we know today modernized evening wear and ignited a spark for men to replace the traditional tailcoat with a shortened, more casual dinner jacket. This new trend in formal wear debuted in American society, right here in our very own New York. The founders of the posh Tuxedo Park in Orange County are thought to have first introduced the style at their exclusive sporting club. Although there are many myths of creation, the most commonly believed is the tux was created on a whim, after men were getting frustrated that the tails were interfering with their sitting and dancing. Something so classic, the tuxedo: rebellious trend to timeless tradition.
If you have ever purchased a tuxedo, or looked into purchasing one, you are probably aware of all of the feature options that are available. Even more so, when investing in a custom-made tuxedo, the extra details you can choose are practically endless. When you’re given so many options, especially if you are uneducated in “proper” formal wear, making any decisions on style and detail can seem near impossible.
So what makes a classic tuxedo, well, classic? A truly classic tux is typically a single-breasted one-button jacket with peak lapels, however there are many variations. The single-breasted one-button jacket allows the front to be cut in a deep “V” shape that mimics the ideal male torso. One-button jackets are typically worn unbuttoned, so they require a cummerbund or waistcoat to cover the exposed waistband. The double-breasted jacket became acceptable as an alternative in the 1930s. It looks better buttoned while standing, but men generally prefer to unbutton their tuxedo jacket while sitting down, so it is considered inconvenient. As a general rule, when wearing a tuxedo with two or more buttons, the bottom button should be left undone. Tuxedo jackets were originally made without vents, but side vents are acceptable. Side vents provide easier access to trouser pockets and are more comfortable for sitting, but they can sometimes make the jacket less slimming. The much-too-sporty center vents are never appropriate.
Color may seem like the easiest decision you will make, but there are a couple of points to think about. When wearing black, it is often noted that men give off an aura of dominance and power. The juxtapositions of black’s lack of color against your white shirt’s complete spectrum of color creates the greatest possible contrast. While black is the norm, midnight blue is also an appropriate classic (if you haven’t already, read our post BITNB – Blue is the New Black). The extremely dark hue of navy retains its richness under artificial light, which is not true for black. It also has the upper hand at parties beginning prior to sunset due to black generally appearing dull and lifeless in daylight. Unfortunately, midnight blue is rarely offered off-the-rack and will need to be obtained from a custom tailor.
Lapels are one of the most distinctive traits of a tuxedo jacket that provide an elegant flair. Deriving from the tailcoat, peak lapels are considered most formal. The shawl collar, although considered less formal due to its origins, is equally classic and conveys a softer image than its angular counterpart. This smoother lapel also lends itself to a slimmer silhouette. Notch lapels are very popular now, but many style experts believe it is limited to a fashion-forward alternative. Made from satin or grosgrain, the color should be the same as your tuxedo (with midnight blue, facings are usually black). You get bonus points if the left lapel has a working buttonhole. Keep in mind that the facing chosen for the lapels typically determines the type of material for the bow tie and cummerbund. Piping around the pockets is recommended and also adds another burst of detail. The lapel’s facing should be used for trimming the pockets. Flap pockets are not typically appropriate for the formal attire.
Clifton Berry, of Clifton Charles in New York City, recommends a one-button peak lapel tuxedo jacket. If you already have a classic black tuxedo, or if you just want to make a statement, midnight blue is a great alternative. A bold color or pattern for the inside lining of your tux subtly allows for more of your personality to shine through – but the lining selection is all about personal choice. With a bit of guidance on the best features for a tuxedo, you can now dig in to the details. If you are not typically a stickler for the details, now is your time to start. Become one just for a night. There are many options, but the key to shining in your tuxedo is nailing the little things.
Sources: Blacktieguide.com, blacklapel.com/thecompass