Anatomy of a Tuxedo
In the late 19th century, Men’s formalwear was forever changed. Residents of the affluent neighborhood, Tuxedo Park, started a new trend wearing dinner jackets that differed from that of common suits. The tuxedo is thought to have originated from that area in 1888, and at first referred to only the jacket. By the 1930s, the entire outfit was known by the name tuxedo. Since then, styles and tastes have changed, yet the tuxedo has remained mostly the same.
The tuxedo jacket has a few key variations. Single breasted or double breasted, which means that there are either one row or two rows of buttons, respectively. There is also full tails which refers to a tuxedo that has long flowing tails in the back and typically doesn’t button in the front. While the tuxedo jacket can have anywhere between one and four buttons in a row, the traditional tuxedo only featured one button (or two for very tall gentlemen), per row.
There are three options for the rear of the jacket as well. Center single vent, which describes a single slit in the bottom rear of the jacket. Side vents, two openings, symmetrically in the back of the jacket. Finally, no vent, in which there is no opening in the back of the jacket.
Lapels are considered one of the most definitive identifiers of a tuxedo. Again, there are three options. Notch lapels, which are similar to a traditional suit’s lapels, referring to a notch cut out between the collar and the lapel that creates a downward triangular shape. The peak lapel in which the top of the lapel is peaked upward and outward creating the “elephant ear” shape. Finally, the shawl lapel, in which there is no cut in the lapel creating a single line of fabric from collar to lapel.
Tuxedo pants offer fewer options than jackets and are a bit more traditionalized. Pants are intended to sit at the waist and typically have besom (slit) pockets. They are similar to suit pants, save for one important distinction, the sides of the tuxedo pants feature a thin line of fabric called the ‘braid’ that cover the joining of the pieces and typically match the collar material. In most versions they do not come with belt loops, and are held up using suspenders.
There are two very different options when it comes to waist coverings, the objective of both options is to hide the pants button and create seamlessness appearance between the shirt, jacket and pants. The options are either a vest (sometimes called a waistcoat), which functions similar to a three-piece suit vest, but is sometimes cut lower to show off more of the shirt. The other option is a cummerbund, a piece of fabric that goes around the waist. The waist covering typically matches the bow tie.
The tuxedo shirt is considerably more formal than the average dress shirt. Shirts come in three different types of collars. The most formal type of collar is the wingtip, a style in which the collar band stands against the neck with two small triangular tabs that fold down to frame the bowtie. More common is the lay-down collar, which resembles the average dress shirt collar. Lastly, the band collar (sometimes called mandarin), in which the band is perfectly circular with nothing to fold.
One of the things that makes the tuxedo immediately recognizable is the texturing that runs the length of the shirt along the front. Those textures typically come in two styles. The more common version is called pleated front (ribbed), it features vertical pleats that can be spaced from 1/8th of an inch apart to ½. There is also the pique front, relatively uncommon today, in which a ‘waffle’ textured fabric is featured on the front of the shirt.
The most common and most formal option for neckwear with a tuxedo is the bowtie. Simple in it’s elegance, it typically matches the waist covering. While the bowtie has long reigned supreme, it isn’t the only option. The typical straight tie is another option, albeit considered significantly less formal. The ascot is a broad tie that resembles a scarf, featuring two panels, it’s typically worn with morning attire. The Cravat is a more narrow version of the ascot that comes to a point at the end. Finally, the sharpei, which takes features from both the ascot and the cravat resembling a narrower ascot with a knot or band at the top.
Studs & Cufflinks
Rather than coming with sewn in buttons, many tuxedo dress shirts feature holes in which matching cufflinks and studs can be placed. Typically a buttonless shirt features four holes in which studs are to be placed. Even when a shirt does come with buttons, french cuffs allow the wearer to adorn their wrists with cufflinks.
Highly contentious, shoes in the world of tuxedos have many options ranging formality and flash. The most formal is the patent leather oxford, patent leather allows for the shoe to be polished to a mirror sheen and the oxford style means that the design is relatively minimal. Shoes which feature broguing are considered less formal but allow the wearer to combine colors, patterns and types of leather. The most versatile option is the leather oxford, similar to the patent leather oxford, it isn’t as shiny, but can be paired conservatively with both tuxedos and suits. Lastly, velvet is considered traditional and formal. It’s completely acceptable to wear velvet slippers with a tuxedo according to the most formal rules, however, this should only be done by either a host or by a gentleman in a club.
Between your shoes and trousers lie an important decision. Socks. The most formal option is the Silk OTC (Over The Calf) sock which slides up to just below the knee. This option is typical for eveningwear but can pose a problem for some men in the daytime as silk tends to be relatively transparent. For events during daylight hours, a silk blend is a more functional choice. Socks are sometimes ribbed and can even be worn with sock-suspenders to keep them in place.
Pocket Squares And Boutonnieres
The last highlight of a tuxedo can be the colors and patterns worn outside the suit. Boutonnieres are a classic look that, although loud, is considered extremely formal. It is a flower (real or synthetic) pinned to the lapel. The pocket square is more common, allowing the wearer to choose the style of fold that best suits them. Both the boutonniere and the pocket square should match the bowtie and waist covering to complete the look.
The tuxedo is considered the ultimate in men’s evening formal wear. In the previous century, it has seen a number of trends come and go: oversized lapels, neon colors and ruffled shirts. The tuxedo was created for the express purpose of making a man look his absolute best. Every feature on a tuxedo is intended to preserve the natural lines of a figure with little to no break.
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