When To Wear A Tuxdeo

Guys: Get all the details on when and where it's appropriate to wear a tuxedo.

Chris Evans arrives at the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.
Chris Evans arrives at the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. Getty Images: Dan MacMedan / Contributor

Guys, relax. It's only natural to wonder when to wear a tuxedo as well as where to wear one. So many invitations these days don't even include a dress code, so men are often left to make the best choice for themselves. That's where we come in.

First: A little history. It is important to know that the tuxedo is not actually the height of men's formalwear. "White tie" is as dressy as it gets, and you can read more about the distinction in our guide to party attire.

The tailless tuxedo jacket (not at all far from what it looks like today) gets its name from Tuxedo Park—"an early 20th century enclave of trendsetting, fashion-forward New York swells."

Since a true white tie event is very rare, you're more likely to need a classic tuxedo than something more formal than that. 

When and Where to Wear a Tuxedo

Tuxedos are reserved mostly for the dressiest events on your calendar. Anytime an invitation indicates formal, black tie, or black tie optional, a tuxedo is best. Below, we have listed a few more occasions when you might wear one:

  • The opening of the opera, ballet or symphony
  • A ball or formal dance
  • A formal dinner party or reception
  • Dinner at a formal restaurant (some think you should be dressed at least as well as your waiter)

How to Wear a Tuxedo

These days, if you're a man in your late twenties or early thirties and have a lot of weddings and dressy occasions to attend, you'll be better off investing once in a quality tuxedo instead of renting an ill-fitting one over and over again.

Look to outfitters like Suit Supply, Bonobos and Indochino to find a relatively affordable made-to-measure option.

  • Traditional is always best: avoid colorful cummerbunds and vests.
  • If you want to have fun with your look, try a playfully printed pocket square or socks.
  • Follow the same rules for buying a tuxedo as for a suit. Double-breasted styles look best on trimmer men, while single button styles are the most universally flattering.
  • Never, for any reason, wear a clip on bowtie. If you don't know how to tie one, consult a YouTube tutorial like this one.
  • Remember that cummerbunds should match the fabric on the man's jacket (and the pleats face up.)

What Type of Tuxedo is Right For You?

What's the best way to find the right tuxedo for you? Go shopping, of course! Start by looking online to find styles and prices that might work for you. You can shop online, and many e-retailers have systems to help you take your measurements at home and then place a custom order from home, without a trip to the tailor.

  • Double Breasted: This look is very fashion-forward, and is especially flattering on slim men, as it makes your shoulders appear more broad.
  • Single Breasted Peak Lapel: This is the most traditional tuxedo style, and a good starting option if you're not sure what your personal tastes are just yet.
  • Shawl Collar: This dapper look is extra-flattering for heavier men but looks great on everyone.
  • Notched Collar: This is another traditional option, just slightly different than a peak lapel.
  • White Dinner Jacket: If you want to pull a James Bond, try substituting your tuxedo's black jacket for a white dinner jacket, an old school look that's attention-grabbing and very dashing.

    Updated By Taylor Davies