One of the lost arts of manliness is teaching young men how to wear a tuxedo. When the number of times you wear an outfit is reduced to prom and a wedding, it can be hard to figure out formal wear. Luckily, it's not as hard as it seems.
Answering the Call to High Fashion
What evening gowns are for women, tuxedos are for men. They are the outfits that are designed to show off the masculine characteristics, full of tradition and history while at the same time making allowances for the changes in style. They are also associated with male icons, most notably James Bond, and the rites of passage in a male's life such as marriages.
However, there are more times when you can and should wear a tuxedo. Many live performances of the fine arts are appropriate places to wear a tuxedo - in fact, it's encouraged, and while many men choose "not to bother" with a tux, there are many cultural critics who lament this as a lack of respect for the artists and for the art form itself. It's also a good thing to wear to a fine restaurant, for a special occasion with your partner, or even just for an evening out social dancing.
Most of all, it doesn't have to be a bother. A few simple rules to remember about a couple of the unique parts of the tuxedo makes it no more difficult than any other menswear.
How to Wear a Tuxedo Well
There are a few things about tuxes that may seem unfamiliar to men at first. Each of them can be handled easily, though, by making a few choices.
- Which Shirt? There are a few different styles of shirts available with tuxedos. The traditional kind has pleats down the chest and a high stiff collar that only folds down at the very tips, where they meet at the neck. However, more modern styles have a normal collar like any casual button-down shirt, and some forego any fold-over at all in favor of some kind of "button cap" style of decoration.
- Which Tie? There are basically three kinds of ties that you can wear with a tux. Pre-tied bow ties and ascots are the "quick and easy" way, though they don't have quite the cachet that goes with wearing a tux. Taking the time to learn how to tie a bow tie has much more integrity. Bow ties are appropriate for both the "tab" collars and the full collar, but if you'd rather wear a modern-style tie, it's a good idea to stick with the full collar. As noted above, a button-cap can be a very contemporary substitute, but if you're in a formal tux, something at the throat is necessary.
- Vests and Cummerbunds. While vests are somewhat clear to most men, the kinds of vests that come with tuxes can be confusing - often fastening in back instead of in front. Cummerbunds can be even more frustrating, but follow a couple of simple rules: the middle pleat of the cummerbund should be running along the waistband of the trousers, and the pleats should have the open side pointing up. This actually goes back to the original purpose of the cummerbund, which was to hold the tickets for the evening's entertainment. This was necessary, because there were no trouser pockets in the original evening menswear.
- Suitcoat and Trousers. Most men are used to wearing the basic suit, but one thing to remember with tuxedos is that there is a line and cut to the suit that is designed to look a certain way. This applies to pockets especially - avoid putting bulky key rings, wallets, or phones in the pockets. Preferably don't have anything in them, but at the very least pare things down to what is absolutely necessary. Suitcoats should have all but the lowest button fastened if you are standing, and be unbuttoned when you sit down.
Following these simple rules on how to wear a tuxedo will let any man wear a tux with confidence and style whenever and wherever he chooses to experience the high-end of men's fashion.