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The Complete Tuxedo Guide

"What is it about wearing a tuxedo that makes us feel confident, beautiful, splendid, even invincible?" - Vera Nazerian
Suit Lapel with Pocket Square


You know, the one with a stripe of satin on the trouser and the cummerbund. A black bow-tie and a pin-tucked shirt. Probably there has not yet been a compelling reason to do a tuxedo, but sooner rather than later, an opportunity presents itself. Therefore, the question arises as to the proper etiquette in donning a tuxedo.

Let’s start with the components that make a tuxedo.

  1. The Jacket: The “formal wear” dress code is rigid but there are many choices, go for what works best for your personality, and your best guide here is a tailor.

    Single or double-breasted? A single-breasted tuxedo is a way to go unless you have several tuxedos in your wardrobe. A shawl collar or inverted lapel or a notch lapel? Generally, it would be a good idea to keep your only tuxedo in an inverted lapel or a notch lapel in case you want understated and not flamboyant. Single-button or two-button? Two buttons push the jacket to look more like a suit jacket. Be bold – go for the one, satin-covered button. Pockets have jets made from satin and make sure the flaps are tucked into the pockets. A single or double vent makes it easy to wear the tuxedo even if you have lost or added a few pounds, but if you can afford it, the right way is to have no vents at all.
  2. The Trousers: The trouser is never fitted but moderately loose and always high-waisted. The waistband is covered with satin on the outside and never has belt loops. The pockets are usually straight but a slanted pocket works fine. There is a satin stripe along the side seam. These trousers have no cuff at the hem (remember to wear your formal shoes when fitting your trousers).
  3. The Dress Shirt: Egyptian cotton works best. White is de rigueur with a tuxedo. Pintucks are not necessary. Gents can choose a textured white shirt and still have a formal feel. Invest in black stud buttons and not sewn buttons as they help fill out the empty space between the collar and the cummerbund.
  4. The Bow Tie: A bow tie is perfect for formal evening wear. Be creative. Match the tie to the color your partner is wearing. It is important to learn to tie a proper bow-tie (more about this in later posts).
  5. The Cummerbund or Waistcoat: The cummerbund is probably the one stand-out article that raises the level of a tuxedo. The modern equivalent of girding one’s loins, immediately improves the stance, posture, and bridges the mediocre to the sublime. A waistcoat is also a good choice.
  6. The Pocket Square: This is a great chance to get creative. Fold, fluff, or make a fancy shape to put in your top pocket. Remember that you may have a boutonniere with a flower in it and you may need to harmonize them.
  7. The Suspenders: If the pants keep sliding down, good quality suspenders last and look good for a long time. Black will match best. Suspenders may be clipped to the waistband or maybe buttoned, if available, on the inside of the waistband.
  8. The Shoes: Patent leather shoes are the way to go. Lately, a lot of questions are being asked by men who have no love for patent leather. I ask my clients, therefore, to make a sensible choice of well-polished leather shoes and that seems to be an acceptable compromise. Oh, and a thin, good quality pair of silky socks with decent holding power will give you the best bang for the buck.