The Art Of The Tuxedo

With the end of 2014 fast approaching, and the festive party season now well under way, it’s fair to say that the sartorially-minded among us will be turning our attention to New Year’s Eve and the slew of style-related questions it prompts. Not only do you need to decide how exactly you’re going to ring in the New Year (no-holds-barred ball? Intimate gathering at home?), you’ll also need to consider what you’re going to wear in order to do it in style.

Yes, there’s the smart trouser, shirt and lightweight knit combo. Yes, you could sharpen up in a suit and tie. But why not step it up a notch for the end of year celebrations with a tux?

After all, a tuxedo is not, strictly speaking, the most formal of formal wear – that title is reserved for white tie dress, which is a damn sight stricter in comparison. A tux, due to its lack of tails, was historically considered the more casual formal wear option. However, as time has passed and the ‘formal’ dress codes of red carpet events have become our go-to reference, the tux has become synonymous with being dressed to kill.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that there are a few rules when it comes to buying and wearing a tuxedo. Some of them are pretty steadfast, while others have a bit more wiggle room.

First up, here are a few pointers on buying the perfect tux for a festive party:

Keep It Classic With A Twist

Considering this is likely to be an investment rather than an occasion-specific one-off, classic, simple elegance should be top of your shopping list. For a style with a difference that will still serve you for years to come, try a midnight blue, single-button jacket with a classic grosgrain/satin shawl or peak lapel and slit pockets, paired with matching midnight blue grosgrain/satin-striped tuxedo trousers.

Midnight blue is an excellent yet seriously underused alternative to black; it absorbs slightly more light and therefore looks richer under both natural and artificial light, giving you a sophisticated edge over your fellow partygoers.

It’s also important – unsurprisingly – to make sure it fits you properly. And by this I mean ‘fits you properly’ in the tuxedo sense. That’s to say, it should fit comfortably and flatter your line but shouldn’t appear too slim or skinny.

The are two reasons for this: firstly, a tuxedo is an undisputed classic in the tailoring world so respect its history by refraining from following particular trends when it comes to cut. Secondly, you know it’s only a matter of hours (and glasses) before you start unleashing the moves and leading everyone in the chorus to Auld Lang Syne so a little bit of room to manoeuvre in comes in very handy.

Men's Midnight Blue Tuxedo/Dinner Suits - Formal/Black Tie Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

ramsey aw12 charles tyrwhitt 2014 DSQUARED2 ss14 ovadia & sons ss14 tommy hilfiger tailored aw14 calibre ss14 kip aw14 brunello cucinelli aw13 debenhams hammond & co aw14
  • Austin Reed Navy Double Breasted Dresswear JacketAustin Reed Navy Double Breasted Dresswear Jacket
  • Austin Reed Navy Peak Lapel Dresswear JacketAustin Reed Navy Peak Lapel Dresswear Jacket
  • Austin Reed Ar Red Nick Hart Navy Textured Grosgrain JacketAustin Reed Ar Red Nick Hart Navy Textured Grosgrain Jacket
  • Midnight Blue Shawl Collar Slim Fot Dinner Suit JacketMidnight Blue Shawl Collar Slim Fot Dinner Suit Jacket
  • Ted Baker Slowfox Wool TuxedoTed Baker Slowfox Wool Tuxedo
  • Navy Double Breasted Slim Fit Luxury Dinner Suit JacketNavy Double Breasted Slim Fit Luxury Dinner Suit Jacket
  • Acne Studios Drifter Slim-fit Wool Tuxedo JacketAcne Studios Drifter Slim-fit Wool Tuxedo Jacket
  • Lanvin Tropical Slim-fit Wool-blend TuxedoLanvin Tropical Slim-fit Wool-blend Tuxedo
  • Wooyoungmi Navy Wool-blend Suit JacketWooyoungmi Navy Wool-blend Suit Jacket

Now that you’ve bought your tuxedo, you’ll need to build the rest of your look – starting with the perfect shirt. Here’s where you can start to bend the rules (a little, mind):

The Shirt

If you want to keep things classic, you’ll need a white evening shirt with a wing or turndown collar, as well as a bib, French cuffs and studs.

However, not everyone will have one of these readily available and although the purists out there would have me pilloried, things really don’t need to be so strict. A white dress shirt with a strong collar and a hidden placket will work just as well. Hell, even a crisply ironed dress shirt will work in a pinch.

Just make sure that you stick to the French cuffs, though, as these will be key in distinguishing your tux shirt from your regular work shirts.

  • Austin Reed White Marcella Formal Dress ShirtAustin Reed White Marcella Formal Dress Shirt
  • Next Signature Canclini White Dress Wing ShirtNext Signature Canclini White Dress Wing Shirt
  • Austin Reed Regular Fit Wing Collar ShirtAustin Reed Regular Fit Wing Collar Shirt
  • John Lewis Marcella Point-collar Classic-fit Dress Shirt WhiteJohn Lewis Marcella Point-collar Classic-fit Dress Shirt White
  • Thomas Pink Marcella Placket Dress Shirt WhiteThomas Pink Marcella Placket Dress Shirt White
  • John Lewis Wing Collar Tailored Dress Shirt WhiteJohn Lewis Wing Collar Tailored Dress Shirt White
The Tie

Traditionally, it’s been all about the bow tie (in the same material as your lapel) but is anyone really going to snub you for switching things up with a black grenadine neck tie? Probably not. And if they do, we highly recommend finding friends less constipated.

If you’re in a bind, a neck tie is perfectly acceptable – just make sure it’s a similar width to your lapel and collar. If, on the other hand, you do opt for the traditional bow tie, then go the whole hog and for God’s sake don’t buy a pre-tied version. There are a slew of videos on YouTube that demonstrate just how easy it is to tie your own bow tie, so you needn’t even ask your mum.

Style-wise, we’d suggest opting for a semi-butterfly tie as it fills the collar gap while still being flattering to most faces.

  • Thomas Pink Moire Self Tie Bow TieThomas Pink Moire Self Tie Bow Tie
  • Moss 1851 Black Self Tie Silk Bow TieMoss 1851 Black Self Tie Silk Bow Tie
  • Sized Self Tie Black Silk Bow Ties Cr535bSized Self Tie Black Silk Bow Ties Cr535b
  • T.m.lewin Black Ottoman Silk TieT.m.lewin Black Ottoman Silk Tie
  • Austin Reed 7cm Black Satin TieAustin Reed 7cm Black Satin Tie
  • Lanvin Silk-satin TieLanvin Silk-satin Tie
The Shoes

Staying true to form? Then formal pumps (or court shoes) in patent leather with a black grosgrain bow are what’s called for. Admittedly, these can be difficult to find so a pair of well-polished Oxford dress shoes make the ideal substitute.

For the unabashedly debonair amongst you, velvet pumps are a more eye-catching alternative that will definitely make an impression.

  • Rolando Sturlini Velvet Dress SlippersRolando Sturlini Velvet Dress Slippers
  • Boss Black Elvinos Patent Oxford ShoesBoss Black Elvinos Patent Oxford Shoes
  • Asos Shoes In LeatherAsos Shoes In Leather
  • Black Lansdowne Slipper ShoesBlack Lansdowne Slipper Shoes
  • Churchs Sovereign Embroidered Velvet SlippersChurchs Sovereign Embroidered Velvet Slippers
  • Gucci Patent Leather Lace-up Shoes 205235Gucci Patent Leather Lace-up Shoes 205235
The Accessories

When it comes to accessories, you’ve got a little more leeway. The classic accompaniments are a black cummerbund that covers your waist and black suspenders that button inside your trouser waist. For some reason, plenty of people think these two accessories are mutually exclusive when, in fact, the cummerbund is simply decorative (concealing the trouser waistband and any pooling of the shirt), while the suspenders are practical, assisting in holding your tux trousers in place.

For parties that encourage you to go the extra mile, a silk pocket square or lapel flower come highly recommended. Opt for classic colour combinations, here, so pair a black tux with white or red accessories and a midnight blue tux with either white or a navy that’s a couple of tones lighter than your tux.

Finally, never ever wear a watch – it’s the DJ’s job to count you down at a New Year’s Eve party.

  • Austin Reed Black Silk CummerbundAustin Reed Black Silk Cummerbund
  • Moss 1851 Black Silk Dress ScarfMoss 1851 Black Silk Dress Scarf
  • Moss 1851 White Silk Dress ScarfMoss 1851 White Silk Dress Scarf
  • Osborne Black Adjustable Button And Clip BracesOsborne Black Adjustable Button And Clip Braces
  • T.m.lewin Cream Silk Pocket SquareT.m.lewin Cream Silk Pocket Square
  • Turnbull & Asser Silk Pocket SquareTurnbull & Asser Silk Pocket Square
  • Lanvin Engraved Gold-plated CufflinksLanvin Engraved Gold-plated Cufflinks
  • Montblanc Contemporary Onyx Cufflinks BlackMontblanc Contemporary Onyx Cufflinks Black
  • Lanvin Rosette Lapel PinLanvin Rosette Lapel Pin
Classic Formal Outfit Inspiration

In the lookbook below we have curated a selection of classic black tie ensembles, consisting of a tuxedo, white shirt and bow tie.

These outfits would all be appropriate for the majority of formal events:

Men's Tuxedo/Dinner Suits - Classic Formal/Black Tie Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

sarar aw14 sarar ss14 ramsey aw12 suitsupply 2014 gieves & hawkes aw13 dunhill aw14 M&S Savile Row Inspired aw12 Aquascutum aw14 reiss aw13
Modern/Unconventional Formal Outfit Inspiration

For our second lookbook we have sourced images that show more contemporary or unconventional takes on styling the tuxedo, which play with colour, choice of footwear, shirt type and even splitting into separates.

These outfits would NOT be suitable for traditional formal or black tie events, but could be considered if you’re simply looking to create a statement look for a big New Year’s Eve party:

Men's Tuxedo/Dinner Suits - Modern/Unconventional Formal/Black Tie Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

marc jacobs ss14 suitsupply 2014 the kooples aw12 berluti ss14 joop sarar black tie aw14 gieves and hawkes aw14 Roberto Cavalli ss14 next aw12
Final Word

Choosing to buy and wear a tux for the party season may feel like the sartorial equivalent of navigating a minefield but, as we’ve shown, there’s always a little room to bend the rules slightly.

But only slightly. If you do want to switch things up, be sure to do it with caution. Altering just one part of the classic tuxedo line-up – no matter how subtle – will make you stand out. Whether that’s for the right or wrong reason is down to you. Bear this in mind when considering camouflage pumps with your tuxedo (that one’s for you, Tyson Beckford, and that serious mistake at the recent Victoria’s Secret show).

As always, we want to hear what you guys have to say, so make sure you leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below…