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Despite the uniformity of its look, there are many tuxedo styles.
Differing in cut, lapel, colours and fabric, it can be difficult to know what all of your options are, and which you should be wearing to a specific event.
Luckily, this guide will cover all of the different styles of tuxedos, their benefits, and which and why you should wear them!
Tuxedo Styles Fast Track
- Tuxedo Alternatives
- Jacket Buttoning Configurations
- Proper Tuxedo Fit
- Different Types of Tuxedo Fabric
- Different Types of Tuxedo Colors
- Different Types of Tuxedo Lapels
- Different Types of Tuxedo Lapel Material
- Buttonholes on Tuxedo Jackets
- The Tuxedo Jacket Cuff Styles
- Tuxedo Waitscoat styles
- Which Tuxedo Style is Best?
Before we even start looking at the styling options such as lapels, we have to take a step back and explore the broader tuxedo styles. In most of these cases, these aren’t technically tuxedos, but can be worn at the same formality, so are worth mentioning.
Full Tuxedo Outfit
Briefly, an actual tuxedo is a combination of a jacket and trousers, made from the same fabric, usually 100% wool, woven in a barathea weave.
However, it is different from a suit as it should have:
- One button on the jacket, or be double breasted
- No jacket vents
- Either a peaked or shawl lapel
- Lapels made from satin, or grosgrain
- Jetted pockets, with no flap.
- A satin stripe running down the side of the trousers
- No belt loops, with side adjusters in their place
It is traditionally a formal dark colour, such as midnight blue or black, but doesn’t have to be to still be considered a tuxedo.
To read more about what a tuxedo actually consists of, check out this helpful guide here.
Dinner Jacket Outfit
In this outfit, you would still wear normal tuxedo trousers and black tie accessories (bow tie, cufflinks, tuxedo shirt). However, instead of a matching jacket, you would introduce a jacket that deliberately contrasts with the trousers, in colour, fabric, or both.
This jacket should still follow the rules of a traditional tuxedo jacket, as mentioned above, and act as its replacement.
The result technically isn’t a ‘tuxedo’, as the jacket and trousers don’t match, but is still appropriate for the dress code, and is a great alternative tuxedo style to many.
A good example of this is the above photo of Daniel Craig at the Skyfall premiere. He wears traditional black tuxedo trousers and all of the accessories you would expect to see with a normal tuxedo, but switches it up by introducing a contrasting navy blue jacquard weave dinner jacket.
This example is relatively tame, as dinner jackets can frequently be found in brighter colours, and in more luxurious fabrics, such as velvet.
Patterned Trousers (Sub Type, Specific to Dinner Jackets)
Though people usually wear normal black tuxedo trousers with dinner jackets, you can also introduce patterned trousers into a dinner jacket outfit.
The most popular example of this is a dark tartan trousers, which were famously worn by Colin Firth in Kingsman: The Secret Service – the Kinsman are notorious for ‘dope dinner jackets’, so to find out more about these tartan trousers, and other awesome dinner jacket looks, I would recommend my ultimate guide to dressing as well as the Kingsman in tuxedos.
Smoking Jacket Outfit
The smoking jacket is worn in the same way as a dinner jacket would, as a replacement for the ‘full tuxedo’ outfit’s jacket. However, it is a more distinct and rare style compared to just wearing a contrasting dinner jacket.
Unlike the above mentioned styles, smoking jackets are exclusively found in cotton velvet.
Bespokenuit has a great post on what the difference is between a dinner and smoking jacket.
Now that we’ve covered each sub ‘type of tuxedo’, let’s look at the different details that you can find within, and which ones you should wear, for what.
Like with normal suits, there are many different buttoning styles for tuxedo jackets. However, the only two that I feel you should should pay attention to are:
- Single breasted, with one single buttoned
- Double breasted, with six buttons in ‘Y’ formation. Though, especially fashion forward guys might be able to pull off a six buttoned ‘V’ formation tuxedo jacket.
Single Breasted With One Button
My favourite tuxedo buttoning configuration is the single breasted jacket with one button.
It’s clean, simple and classic – you can’t go wrong with it.
On top of this, as there’s only a single point of fastening, it’s a lot easier to play around with the button height, which can give you slightly different looks. This is compared to tuxedo jackets with two buttons, which are more limited in this respect, as there’s less space you can play around with.
A standard six buttoned Y configuration is also a great classic look for a tuxedo jacket.
However, as it’s less common, it is definitely more of a statement, so I wouldn’t recommend going for it for your first tuxedo.
But, as the fastening allows the jacket to cover the waist, you don’t require a waist covering, which gives you one less thing to worry about.
Other Single Breasted Buttoning (Not Recommended)
I would strongly advise against any single breasted tuxedo jackets with more than one buttons. This inherently makes the jacket more casual and less traditional, which is what you want to avoid when going for a super formal look, such as tuxedo.
If possible, reserve this for regular suits, sports coats, and blazers.
Other Double Breasted Buttoning
I’ve seen the six buttoned ‘V’ formation coming back into style recently, and it’s one of those rare occurrences where I’ve changed my mind about a style after seeing it done properly.
Popular in the 80s, the baggy V formation blazer is a simply horrible look. However, with a trim fit and a confident personality, I feel that you can really pull it off.
I’m mentioning this in this guide because, in some cases, people deliberately go for more generously fitting tuxedos, to give a more ‘traditional’ look.
Personally, I, and many others, believe that your tuxedo jacket and trousers should fit the same as a suit – that is, with a slim fit, but not restrictive, fit.
A good post on how your tuxedo should fit has been made by generation tux.
Like most garments, tuxedos and dinner jackets can be found in many materials. However, they are appropriate for different climates and times of year. On top of this, they carry with them slightly different formality levels, though in most situations, this isn’t a concern.
Worsted wool, woven in a barathea weave, is the most standard fabric used for tuxedos, and is the prefect choice for your jack of all trades first tuxedo.
This is because wool is:
- Medium weight, making it easy to wear.
- Appropriate for wear in all seasons, as it’s breathable, but not too thick.
- The most formal tuxedo material choice, so you don’t have to worry about it being too informal.
- Drapes well.
On top of this, wool is also a popular fabric for some dinner jacket styles, notably those in white and ecru colours.
Additionally, in some higher end tuxedos and dinner jackets, Mohair wool, from the hair of the Angora goat, is used, as it has a subtle shine.
Velvet is a great choice for the colder months, and is most commonly found in dinner jackets. On top of this, it is the exclusive material for smoking jackets.
This is because it is:
- Heavier weight
- Most appropriate to wear in the winter, as velvet clothing is generally thicker, and more insulating.
- Worn alone as a dinner jacket, it is still a formal choice, but one step down from a full matching tuxedo.
- Catches the light really well. In fact, the master Tom Ford even wears velvet in the summer for this reason, because it likes it so much
Full velvet tuxedos do exist, and look great. However, they aren’t as formal as a full wool tuxedo, or a dinner jacket outfit, so if the event you are going to is super formal, I would probably skip the look.
Linen is rarely seen within tuxedos, but it does exist. Like velvet, it is most commonly seen in dinner jackets, and not as a full tuxedo.
As with normal linen clothing, it is most appropriate in warmer climates, and in the summer months.
This is because linen is:
- Very breathable
- However, depending on the weave, it can be the most casual tuxedo fabric.
- If it has a tighter weave with no visible texture, then this is considered more formal.
- However, I have seen linen dinner jackets with a more open weave (like the one above), which makes it more textured, and, if it doesn’t have a lining, slightly transparent. This makes the garment more casual, and not appropriate to wear to very formal events.
A popular fabric blend for summertime dinner jackets in particular is linen-silk. This fabric combines the breathability of linen, with the lustre, and softness of silk. On top of this, the addition of the silk makes the jacket less prone to wrinkling than a pure linen garment.
As it’s a less expensive material, polyester us usually found in cheaper tuxedos, to help lower the price. The garment is either comprised 100% of polyester, or is usually made from a blend of wool and polyester.
In any case, it can be made to imitate the previously mentioned tuxedo material types, so assumes the formality level of what it looks closest to.
However, the fabric is generally moderately insulating, so can be worn all year round.
It isn’t my preferred choice of tuxedo fabric, as it doesn’t have as nice a drape as the natural fabrics mentioned above, and the use of a polyester fabric implies that other parts of the garment, such as the construction, may be of a lower quality.
However, I have seen some tuxedos with a wool polyester blend, which can work well as a lower price point alternative, depending on the rest of the styling, construction, and brand. But I would encourage you to, if you have the funds, invest in a tuxedo that you love, even if it costs a bit extra for 100% natural fabric.
In my opinion, full tuxedos should exclusively be made from wool, or if you’re on a budget, a wool-poly blend.
Though in their own right they can work for dinner jackets in specific climates, full linen and velvet tuxedos are too casual compared to the full wool ensemble, which is versatile enough to work in any situation.
For white and ecru dinner jackets, stick exclusively to wool, leaving off the usual silk lapels and trimmings – this is a special case.
In most other cases, I love a good velvet dinner jacket. They’re totally awesome, and work to enhance the contrast between the regular tuxedo trousers, and the alternate top half. However, due to their weight, I would only wear them in the winter… unless you’re Tom Ford.
Although I’ve seen them around, I would personally skip pure linen dinner jackets, as they can sometimes be a bit transparent and textured, making them less formal – they would be good for a escape to Miami, though.
Smoking jackets should always be made from velvet.
Like the fabric, the color of a tuxedo has a huge impact on its formality, and how it’s perceived.
Black is the most ‘expected’ and classic tuxedo colour, and is the color I would recommend going for if you’re in the market for your first tuxedo.
It’s has high formality, which allows it to be worn to even the most formal events, making it the ‘safe’ option – you can’t go wrong with a black tuxedo.
On top of this, it is appropriate all year round.
Back is also sometimes found in velvet dinner jackets – the difference in fabric is instantly noticeable, and produces a super cool and unique look.
Midnight blue is the second most popular color of tuxedos, after black. However, it is just as versatile and formal, and is also a traditional colour that has been worn for decades.
It was initially introduced to produce a color blacker than black, as, when good quality midnight blue fabric hits the light, it can produce a hue darker than regular black tuxedo fabric.
Traditionally, midnight blue fabric should be as dark as possible, to try and emulate and surpass actual black fabric. However, in recent years, tuxedos made from fabric with a ‘more blue’ hue of midnight blue have become very popular.
Like black, midnight blue is appropriate all year round, and for any black tie event.
It’s up to you how far you go from a dark, black like color – personally, if you’re looking for a midnight blue tuxedo, try and find one as dark as possible, and stay away from the brighter shades, as this can make the look more casual.
White and Ecru
White and ecru is commonly found in dinner jackets, and have famously been worn by the likes of James Bond, such as in the pre title sequence of Goldfinger.
Though introducing the color into your dinner jacket is one step down in formality from a full tuxedo, I feel that it can still be worn to most black tie events, and is a classic and accepted option – finish it off with a red carnation boutonnière for an extra Bondian touch!
Moreover, due to the lighter colours, it is most appropriate to wear in the warmer summer months, and in more tropical climates.
Garments in these colours are usually exclusively found made from wool, linen, or a silk-linen blend (though, as I’ve previously mentioned, I feel you should stick to wool), and traditionally shouldn’t have contrasting lapel facings, in color or texture.
This is especially true, as in some cases, ecru and white dinner jackets have black satin lapels and trimmings – this isn’t traditional, and in my option, should be avoided.
On top of this, full tuxedos with matching white or ecru trousers make the whole look more casual, so should generally be avoided for general use.
Classic Navy, Burgundy, Brown, Grey, and Bottle Green
The above colours are rarely seen in full tuxedo outfits, which tend to stick to either black or midnight blue colors.
However, these more more adventurous colours are commonly found in velvet dinner and smoking jackets, which complement the slightly more playful nature of the fabric.
They work to break up a uniform look, and inject some personality into the mix, while still remaining classic and smart.
As these colours are dark, they retain formality, and are only one step down from a full black or midnight blue tuxedo, meaning they can still be worn comfortably to most occasions.
Brighter Colours, such as Orange, Red, and Pink
You can also find velvet dinner jackets in bright colours, such as orange or pink. I love these, and really display your confidence to the crowd, and allow you to stand out.
However, though you can still wear them to formal events, they can be very ‘in your face’, so are the least formal colours – Therefore, unless you’re super confident and have that ‘personality’, I feel they should mainly be reserved for more ‘casual’ black tie events, perhaps where you know the host well.
Full tuxedos in these colours should be avoided, as they are super casual and tacky – if you’re going to wear them, wear them to Halloween parties.
For your first full tuxedo, I would personally recommended sticking to black. If you really want, you could look at introducing midnight blue, but there’s more opportunity to go wrong – and you can’t go wrong with black.
Similarly, regardless of if it’s your first tuxedo or not, if you are looking at wearing a full tuxedo outfit, stick to either black or midnight blue – don’t bring in a full tuxedo in any other colour, as, in my opinion, it looks tacky.
Dinner Jackets and Smoking Jackets
For dinner and smoking jackets, it’s completely up to you.
I would personally recommend sticking to the classic colours, such as ecru (in a woollen fabric), navy, burgundy and green (in velvet). They are all super classic and sophisticated, but you will need a slightly higher level of style to pull these off.
If you decide to go down this route, note that all of these colors are slightly less formal than black and midnight blue, so should be avoided for events that strictly require full formal tuxedos only.
As for brighter dinner jackets, you can also wear these to most events, however, their boldness can be uncomfortable for some, and are usually too memorable to be worn frequently.
The tuxedo lapel is a very important part of the whole outfit, as it’s front and centre, and can make or break your look. However, given that there are many different tuxedo lapel styles and materials out there, it is difficult to know which one you should be wearing.
There are two accepted tuxedo lapel styles, a shawl collar, and peaked lapel, and can be found in varying widths. They are traditionally made from a different material than the rest of the jacket, and are usually found in silk satin, or grosgrain fabric.
Read on for more information about these tuxedo and dinner jacket lapel styles, the different variations of each lapel, and which one you should wear!
A peak lapel points outwards and upwards to the shoulder, and is regarded as the most formal tuxedo lapel type.
Due to its sharply pointed nature, it works to accentuate the wearer’s shoulders, giving the illusion of a greater shoulder to waist ratio, and a more masculine look.
But like all tuxedo lapel styles, the peaked lapel is open to slight variation, most notably it’s peak angle.
Some lapels have a greater peak angle than others, which changes the look of the jacket. Personally, I feel that, when the angle is too high, it leads to the jacket looking strange, with a ‘pulled up’, wedgie look.
I personally aim for my peaked lapels to have a 90-95 degree peak, like the photo above, which I feel look well balanced, and classically understated.
Shawl lapels are again a traditional black tie lapel type, and are characterised by a continuous piece of fabric that curls, uninterrupted, around the wearers neck and front.
It is the only tuxedo lapel type to feature ‘no gorge’, which is the stitch where the lapel meets the jacket collar. Because of this, I feel it provides a more seamless and elegant look.
A notched lapel is characterised by a inwards grove in the wearer’s neck area, and is the least formal of the mentioned lapel styles – it is most commonly, and correctly, founds on suits.
For this reason, it isn’t frequently seen in tuxedos or dinner jackets, and shouldn’t be worn.
In every case, you should stay away from notched lapel tuxedos because, as we have discussed, the notched lapel is the most informal, and most typically seen on regular suiting. The two other types, peaked and shawl lapels, are formal enough to be worn in the evening.
Though many enjoy a peaked lapel, I personally prefer shawl collar tuxedos and dinner jackets; as the collar type sees its main use in black tie, you don’t have the opportunity to wear much elsewhere.
On top of this, it looks very elegant and refined on most physiques.
Like with regular suit lapels, tuxedo lapels can be of varying widths – and it’s just as, if not more, important to get it right here.
Even if everything else is perfect, an incorrect tuxedo lapel proportion could throw off your whole look.
This is especially true with an unforgiving tuxedo, as it’s so simple, that one incorrect detail could sabotage everything.
You are going to want to follow the general advice as to how wide your lapel should be:
- If you’re broader, wear a wider lapel.
- If you’re slimmer, wear a slimmer lapel.
Of course, this can be objective, and factors such as height and your style preference can play a big part, which is why I’d advise you to check out this dedicated guide to lapel width.
Historically, there have been different ideas concerning the material a tuxedo’s lapel is made from.
These days, it is generally accepted that contrasting silk satin is the material you should be looking for on your lapels: silk is the material, and satin is the weave, which produces the unmistakable elegant glossy look.
Luckily, most tuxedos will have this, or a synthetic silk substitute.
Does a Tuxedo HAVE to Have Satin Lapels?
Despite it being the mainstream choice, a tuxedo doesn’t have to have satin lapels – there are a few other choices available:
Ribbed Silk: Grosgrain/Faille/Ottoman Ribbon
A popular variation of silk tuxedo lapels sticks with the material, but switches out the smooth satin texture for a rougher and matter ribbed texture.
The three main ribs are:
- Ottoman – Has the largest ribs. Large and round.
- Grosgrain – Slightly finer ribs than Ottoman, but still round.
- Faille – The finest ribs, that are less textured and raised.
Here is a good destination that looks at these, and different ribbed fabrics, in more depth.
However, in the sea of silk satin lapelled tuxedos, introducing one of these can be just enough to set you apart from the crowd, and bring some variety and texture to your look.
In some cases, a tuxedo jacket lapel can be self-facing, and inherit the same material as the rest of the jacket. For example, a jacket might have woollen lapels, if the rest of the jacket is made from wool.
I have only ever seen this done tastefully on dinner jackets, namely in ecru, which I feel this should be reserved to – luckily, the distinctions of the tuxedo jacket style already differentiate it enough from a regular sports coat.
For any other arrangement, I would personally bring in a silk contrasting lapel.
Though this is technically covered in the above point, it’s worth mentioning that it’s common to see velvet tuxedos and dinner jackets with matching velvet lapels.
Velvet jackets don’t exclusively have velvet lapels though, and can take other lapel materials, such as the aforementioned silk satin.
Personally, I feel velvet dinner jackets should have contrasting satin lapels, as it allows them to stand out more, and actually get closer in formality to a traditional tuxedo outfit.
It’s up to you to decide which material you have on your tuxedo jacket lapel facings – it’s mainly down to personal preference.
That said, contrasting satin or ribbed silk are both accepted as ‘proper’ facings, and I would encourage you to stick to these, as they are the most traditional.
- For a safe look, stick with silk satin.
- For an alternative, but still traditional, look, look at introducing ribbed silk.
However, in some situations, you may prefer the other two options:
Self-faced lapels work in cases where you feel a silk lapel looks out of place or flamboyant, like on the aforementioned ecru dinner jacket. It could mean that your jacket may border on looking like a ‘regular’ sports coat, so you should ensure that it has enough tuxedo jacket features to differentiate it, such as no vent, jetted pockets, and one button.
I would personally never wear velvet lapels; a velvet jacket is awesome, but I feel that it needs to be finished off and ‘formalised’ with some form of silk lapel facing. However, Tom Ford produces some dinner jackets that are made entirely from velvet that look rather good, so you could pull it off if you wanted. Never wear a jacket with velvet lapels, that doesn’t also have a velvet body.
Most tuxedo jacket lapels don’t have a buttonhole, and is the norm – however, some may have one on the left lapel to allow for the non-invasive wearing of a boutonnière, like the previously featured Goldfinger ecru dinner jacket.
Though, in some cases, people love buttonholes so much on tuxedos, that they have one on each side!
Should Your Tuxedo Lapels Have a Buttonhole?
It’s up to you if you look for a tuxedo jacket with a button hole or not.
If you do, it will mean that, taken you’re looking at purchasing a traditional black tie garment that has all of the expected features, it’s just another item to worry about, and could seriously limit your options.
Though I’m sure they do exist, I haven’t personally come across any good affordable tuxedo options in this category – it’s likely you will have to go to high-end or custom for this feature.
But finding a tuxedo with a button hole will allow you to more easily wear lapel decorations, which could take your outfit to the next level.
If you don’t, you avoid the problem of having an extra requirement, and will have a more seamless look that isn’t disturbed.
A surgeon’s cuff is what you might find on a regular suit, with the distinction that you can unbutton the buttons, and roll up your sleeve.
Most tuxedos will have this standard non-decorative cuff finish – some may even imitate it, without working functionality.
A rare styling option found specifically in black tie are silk turnback cuffs.
They are most frequently seen in black silk satin on full tuxedos, but adopt the same material as a jacket’s lapel facing, and provide an extra contrast.
It’s a very elegant style that is only really found on high end or custom tailoring, and is seen frequently worn by James Bond, in films like Dr No, and No Time to Die.
One element of the tuxedo that shouldn’t be skipped, though frequently is these days, is the waist covering.
And, if you’re not a big fan of the cummerbund, that leaves you with one option, a waistcoat, which comes in a few slightly varying styles.
Single breasted tuxedo waistcoats aim to expose as much of the dress shirt first as possible, and shouldn’t intrude on the top three – four buttons that take studs. For this reason, proper single breasted tuxedo waistcoats should always be low cut.
They usually feature shawl lapels, and a straight cut bottom, however this isn’t always the case.
In the above examples, the left photo shows a tuxedo waistcoat style with squared off shawl lapels, and a pointed bottom. Though this is slightly less typical, it is still correct, and produces a nice moderately alternative look.
The right photo shows a more typical tuxedo waistcoat, with a rounded shawl lapel, and straight cut bottom.
Tuxedo waistcoats can also have no lapel, as long as they follow the rest of the rules.
All tuxedo waistcoats are usually found with 3-6 buttons and, despite the standard buttoning rules of waistcoats (really great post on waistcoats in general, would highly recommend), you should fully button any tuxedo waistcoats with four or less buttons.
Tuxedo waistcoats can also be double breasted. They should retain a low cut, but don’t have to be as low as single breasted waistcoats, and can show only two or three studs, instead of three or four.
They frequently lack any lapels, though some can have an elegant, but slightly loud, shawl collar.
Which Tuxedo Waistcoat Style Should You Wear?
I would personally recommend sticking with a single breasted waistcoat with 3-4 buttons, and some sort of shawl lapel. If you’re brave, you could try and bring in a double breasted number.
The main things to ensure is that:
- It has low cut.
- It is made from the exact same fabric as the rest of the tuxedo – you shouldn’t mix and match the color or fabric. This usually means buying the waistcoat at the same time as the jacket and trousers. Even close matches can look off.
On top of this, you should only wear a tuxedo waistcoat with a matching full tuxedo – you shouldn’t wear one with a dinner jacket outfit, or similar.
This next section is my opinion completely – personally, I feel a black full tuxedo with silk satin shawl/peaked lapels is the best tuxedo style.
It is classic, easy to wear, and inoffensive. It might not be the most exciting for some fashionistas, but even wearing this basic garment with a killer fit and accessories can probably put you ahead of every other man in the venue
If you’re looking for some stylish alternatives, for someone with my style taste, I would personally recommend:
- Black full tuxedo with silk (satin or ribbed) peaked/shawl lapels.
- Midnight blue full tuxedo with silk (satin or ribbed) peaked/shawl lapels.
- Ecru dinner jacket with black tuxedo trousers.
- Classic coloured velvet dinner jacket with black tuxedo trousers.
- Bright coloured velvet dinner jacket with black tuxedo trousers.
So, now you know everything there is to know about tuxedo styles, and what exists.
Now all that’s left to do is make sure that you use the knowledge to acquire an awesome tuxedo or dinner jacket that works for your personal preferences, and kill it at your next event.