How To Wear A Tux

That little white triangle of shirt is a no no fyi

That little white triangle of shirt is a no no fyi

Now that all the pomp and pageantry of Miss Limerick and Miss Clare is over and done with, my thoughts turn towards the Miss Ireland Final in The Helix in Dublin on the 14th of September. The final is a black-tie affair so for the last few days, I have been searching my favourite local stores and my favourite online retailers for the perfect tuxedo.


We all get a little excited about the idea of getting dressed up in a tux and imagine ourselves doing the James Bond gun-turn-pose thing – but the sorry reality is that most guys wear this grandiose formal wear with all the style and panache of Marty Morrissey at the All-Star Awards (sorry Marty). The tux can be a difficult outfit to pull off correctly so here are a few handy tips I've unearthed in my recent research that should leave you looking stirring, rather than shaky.


Rent Or Buy?


The answer to this question depends on your lifestyle and your budget. Renting will appeal to the average guy who only goes to one black-tie event every 10 years and it's obviously the option that makes the most economical sense but the big drawback is that you have don't have the ability to tailor or alter a rented tux and it's virtually impossible to find a suit of any kind that will fit you correctly in all the key areas, straight off the peg. My advice would be to invest in a tuxedo that you can afford in a regular or tailored fit and then have it altered in key areas such as the shoulders, chest and legs. A tuxedo is an investment piece so choose a style that will see you through a variety of occasions over a number of years. While a silk floral print tux might be all style in summer 2019, by New Years Eve 2021 you might look like a complete pleb so spend the money on something that won't go out of style.


The Jacket


Now we move on to the suit itself. We begin with the jacket, which is pretty much the centrepiece of your formal outfit. A tuxedo jacket is a tailless dinner jacket made of worsted wool, with lapels covered in silk. Most are singled breasted, with a single button, but double-breasted jackets are acceptable and are on-trend at the moment. The most formal style of lapel is peaked, but a shawl collar (an unbroken collar that loops around the shoulders and the back of the neck) is also acceptable. The left side of the lapel should have a working buttonhole so that a boutonniere can be worn. All the buttons should match, but they may be either plain black or covered in the same material as the lapels. The sleeve should have four touching buttons, like a regular suit jacket.


Apart from these details, your biggest consideration is the fit. Look at the shoulders of the jacket and make sure the pads don't jut out. Check the back of the jacket, which should fall neatly and in a straight line when fastened. The fabric around your stomach should be close to your body but not pulled or strained. If anything isn't sitting quite right then bring it to the Zipyard and get it tailored.


The Trousers


Black tie trousers are fairly straightforward – they should match your tuxedo jacket. This means the base material should be the same as the jacket. Tuxedo trousers will also have a strip of ribbon (called a "braid") covering the outer seams. This braid should match the material of the jacket's lapels. Your tux trousers should also be high-waisted and not have any belt loops (use braces if you need help keeping them up). Beyond that, black tie trousers are simple and minimal. Fit wise, it's OK to tailor them for a slimmer silhouette but never venture into skinny territory. A skinny fit tux doesn't look right and will make you look like you don't have a clue when it comes to style and etiquette.


The Shirt


Don't be tempted to wear a plain white formal shirt with a tuxedo. It isn't OK and you won't "get away with it". Invest in a dinner shirt and go all-in on the formal look. The big difference between a dinner shirt and a normal business shirt is the concealed buttons and the bib on the front. The bib or bosom is a decorated rectangular panel that runs all the way up the front of the shirt. The most common styles are pleated (vertical pleats running up the shirt) and pique (the front of the shirt is made from a stiffened material). Both are equally acceptable. If you want to go really formal, the most traditional dinner shirts have studs instead of buttons. The studs are traditionally made from onyx, are widely spaced and are usually no more than three or four to a shirt. Both styles come in either a standard or winged collar. While many lean towards the winged collar as it's considered more fashionable, winged collars are technically only supposed to be worn with white tie. Plus, in my opinion, a classic collar makes for a cleaner and more contemporary look.


The Tie


While some will opt for a plain black necktie (something I've done myself in the past), black tie really should be a bow tie affair. This ensures you look formal and differentiates your look from day to day suiting. If you have the skills, go for a self-tie bow tie in stiff satin. If you aren't familiar with how to tie it, there are tonnes of tutorial videos on YouTube to guide you through it. If you don't have the patience for this then stick to the clip in versions. I know some guys buy both so that they have the clip in for the actual event and then the have the self-tie version to wear un-done around their neck in the resident's bar afterwards.


The Shoes


You have two options for black tie shoes: formal dinner shoes made from patent leather, or black balmoral oxford dress shoes. Some argue that you can wear standard black brogues with a tux – they're wrong. Don't lose the look on the last detail. Pair your dinner shoes with a quality pair of black socks (not the time or place for funky socks). If you want to for something a little bolder, smoking slippers are a stylish alternative that offers a little more flare.


The Waist Covering


If you really want to go all out then you can add a waist covering to your tuxedo, that being a formal waistcoat or a cummerbund. A formal waistcoat is the more commonly chosen option. It differs somewhat from the vest of a three-piece suit in that it's cut lower and wider, so as to show the front of the formal shirt. Some are also backless and fasten with a buckled strap in the back. Naturally, the waistcoat should match the material of the jacket. A cummerbund is a pleated sash that wraps horizontally around the waist and is made from the same material as the jacket lapel facings. Whichever you choose, it should conceal the waistband of your trousers all the way around. Look for models that have loops that attach to matched buttons inside the waistband of the trousers.


So there you have it. Having read all this you probably think that black tie dress sounds very strict – and if you want to do it right it kind of is. At the end of the day (or night), black tie is a gesture of respect to the people who've invited you and any deviation on your part will stand out as a bold statement.


Patrick McLoughney