Tuxedo Season

“This is truffle season, Tom Ford tuxedos for no reason…” I can remember hearing one of my favorite rappers, Jay-Z spit those lines on “Suit & Tie.” And it was then as it has been for me, that wearing a tuxedo has no better time or place than formal events or just because. A tuxedo is like a suit of armor, everyone looks damn good in one and it makes you feel unstoppable.

However, many men are still intimidated by the ultimate outfit and how best to choose what style or color will work for them. Take this walk with me and hopefully by the end of this article, you will be ready to throw one on and step out with the elegance and confidence that only a tuxedo can exude.

First things first, tuxedos and suits are very similar. The greatest difference is the silk/satin lapel on the jacket and the pants. Never mistake a basic black suit adorned with a bow tie and cummerbund as a tuxedo. Second, all tuxedos are not black, and a bow tie does not have to be the choice of neck wear.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get into some reasons why you should have a tuxedo. If the invite to the event is “black tie” that essentially means “tuxedo.” Celebratory events, New Year’s Eve and weddings [particularly if you are the groom] call for a tuxedo. Additionally, after a certain age [the prom going one], you should be looking to purchase and stop renting. A tuxedo looks extremely better when it fits your body because of tailoring. No need in shelling out money for a rental each time a gala comes up or you get invited to a swanky party.

When it comes to tuxedo jackets, there are a few styles you can go with. A noticeable difference will be in the lapels or the fabric/material of the jacket. The following are types of lapels:

  • Notch Lapels – the most standard and most versatile
  • Peak Lapels – the more formal of the bunch
  • Shawl Collar – considered the O.G.

Once you’ve decided on which lapel style you like [and there is no wrong answer], you can decide on a single breast or double-breasted coat. Single is always a safe choice with double breasted being a bit bold. However, with the single breast, make sure there is only one button on the jacket. One. Button.

Now for colors! In today’s IG/FB social media driven environment, the notion is to stunt hard for the pics that will make their way on to the ‘Gram. But you want to be deliberate about your choice and make sure you are not out on a limb while trying to look your best. Black is always iconic and lends to tradition. You can wear the black tuxedo, anywhere. Midnight blue has made a huge comeback and can be a substitute for black. Just like the black tux, the midnight blue tux can be worn anywhere and still confuse people into thinking it’s black. White tuxedos are usually meant for hotter temps or starring in James Bond movies. Finally, gray tuxedos have seen an emergence with cooler temps and heavier fabrics.

No matter what color you decide to go with, you will need to find black shoes. Patent leather has been the standard for decades but now a shiny oxford can stand in. Lately, loafers/drivers in felt or smoother fabrics have been the choice for younger tuxedo wearers. Finally, the neck wear. As I stated earlier, you can always go with a bow tie [satin] but not one that is pre-tied. Or a standard necktie [preferably in satin] is now very much acceptable.

A tuxedo is a man’s greatest weapon when it comes to style and being in vogue at any high-end affair. Take the time to learn what works and doesn’t work so that you will not be left high and dry. The next time you get an invite, be ready to dazzle and impress in your well fitted and owned tuxedo. Cheers.

Keith Cradle, Ph.D., is a community engagement specialist, cultural arts advocate and a nonprofit strategist with over 25 years of experience. Cradle is currently on the Board of Directors for Carolina Voices (www.carolinavoices.org), The Bechtler Museum (www.bechtler.org), Inspire the Fire (www.inspirethefire.org) and the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council for Mecklenburg County. He currently hosts the Podcast “Crafted With Cradle” (iTunes / Spotify / iHeartRadio / Suite929) and is the author of “Cut the Check!: Successful Strategies for Increasing Donor Engagement and Fundraising”, available on www.keithcradle.com or Amazon.