Attend any formal event and one thing you’ll notice straightaway is that most tuxedos are virtually indistinguishable. That’s fine if you like to disappear into the crowd, but if you want to stand out, accessorize your tuxedo well and you’ll be the most-talked about part of the evening, in a good way.
There are numerous ways you can play around with your tux to make yourself more noticeable, but the key thing to remember is not to get too creative. This is a conservative form of dress and while it doesn’t hurt to put a fresh spin on the look, go too far and you risk being refused entry. If in doubt, check with the host beforehand, as for some events ‘black tie’ means nothing but.
To start with, you’ll need a tuxedo. If you don’t have your own then you can easily buy a high-quality one for relatively little expense from online suppliers such as Dobell and have confidence it will be a good fit. Here’s a rough guide on what to wear with it…
You can’t wear a tuxedo without a tie. Well, you could, but somehow it wouldn’t look right. You have the choice of a bow tie or a straight tie. If you’re going with the bow, then it’s worth spending a couple of hours learning how to tie a real one rather than wearing a clip-on – the difference is noticeable.
There are many funky and outlandish patterns available for bow ties, from Union Jacks and tartan for the patriotic, to ones with little flashing LEDs for the terminally uncool. Treat them all with caution. If the invitation specifies creative black-tie then there’s nothing to say you can’t reflect something of your own personality in your attire, but understated is usually the best approach. If in doubt, consider what would James Bond wear.
If you want a straight tie then it’s best to stick with a black silk version. Some can get away with a bolo tie, but unless you have a reputation as a rugged individualist with a stubborn streak who looks good on a horse, it’s probably best avoided.
Either or, but never both. This handy piece of cloth serves multiple functions: to prevent food and wine spillages on your shirtfront, to keep the tummy tucked in, and to hold your cigars. It should match the colour of your tie. Try and avoid anything too bright unless the occasion dictates, such as a wedding when you’re a groomsman and you need to match the colours of the bridesmaids’ dresses.
The tuxedo doesn’t normally come with belt loops so suspenders are often worn. Like the waistcoat and the tie, it’s an opportunity to introduce some colour to your outfit if you wish.
Accessorizing with jewellery is a divisive issue and the answer often differs depending on who you ask. Provided you don’t intend to turn up looking like Mr T then you’re fine, but keep it to a minimum. Tradition would have it that the only visible bit of jewellery on your person when wearing a tuxedo ought to be cufflinks and a wedding band, but if you want to wear a bracelet, or a wristwatch, it’s generally considered de rigeur.
With watches, don’t go for any modern, bright or chunky timepieces, and especially not anything digital, but a classically styled dress watch with a slim, black leather band.
Jokey or offensive cufflinks are definitely out. They make it impossible for anyone to take you seriously. And obviously cheap cufflinks can bring down the rest of your outfit as well. You want your wrist adornments to be elegant and discreet. If you don’t have a suitable pair, borrow some, as they will be on show every time you reach for a drink, shake hands or pop a move on the dance floor.
A few little extras you may want to consider – hats are not normally worn with tuxedos, but if you really feel the need to keep your head covered then it should always be a Homburg. You can wear a white scarf if you wish, but at the risk of seeming awfully old-fashioned or trying much too hard. And a pocket square is always a nice touch to finish off with, folded into an irregular shape, or with a straight edge.