A custom tuxedo is always considered a must for any serious gentleman's wardrobe. So why does it seem like so many professionals don't have one hanging up in their closets? One of the most widespread myths that circulate in the professional world is that renting a tuxedo is always cheaper, and because tuxedos are normally worn with much less frequency than suits, it is simply easier to rent them only when they are needed for special occasions. But of course, this is oftentimes not the case.
There are times when renting does make sense. Prom tuxedos are the most obvious example of when renting might be superior, as the gentlemen in question may still be growing and will have different size requirements from one year to the next. Renting a tuxedo may also be the only option if you really find yourself in a bind, where the tuxedo in your closet doesn't fit at all or it drastically needs alterations at the last minute that will be impossible to squeeze into a custom tailor's appointment calendar. Another situation that comes to mind where renting might be superior is receiving an invitation to an event that may require more outrageous color schemes, as not many people own orange or hot pink tuxedos, given their limited practical uses.
With the exception of the aforementioned scenarios, purchasing a tuxedo can actually save you money in the long run. Rental tuxedos are designed with disposability and multiple uses in mind, so the material isn't always up to a high standard. By purchasing a tuxedo from a custom tailor, you will receive the benefits of a better material as well as a better fit, as any small adjustments you may have to make over the years can be done by whomever you choose, not just the overworked and hard-to-reach tailors through a tuxedo rental company that may not be able to fit you into their busy schedules. But aside from renting vs. buying—where buying is obviously the superior choice—there are other things to watch out for so you can ensure that you're making a wise investment when you purchase a tuxedo. In this article, we'll go over these finer points in detail.
One hundred percent wool and wool/cotton blends are going to be by far the most common materials for premium custom tuxedos, save the silk satin accents, stripes, and lapels. As such, the ideal thread count for woolen materials is going to be between 100 and 170. A thread count between these numbers will maximize both comfort and durability, and this will ensure that you get the most out of your tuxedo over a period of many years without having to worry about premature wear and tear. While wool is generally considered the superior fabric for suits and tuxedos, it is certainly not the only one that is available.
Linen, while less common in the tuxedo realm, is a viable alternative, especially in balmier climates and during the summer months. An ideal thread count will skew lower with linen, so anything measured between 80 and 150 is perfectly acceptable even though other materials may need additional threads for a tuxedo to retain its structural integrity.
Velvet these days is making a bit of a comeback in some circles, and while it is a trendy, stylish option, it's normally not a gentleman's first choice for an initial tuxedo purchase. Nevertheless, it can add a bit of flair to your ensemble, especially at holiday parties. As it is a blend of silk, cotton, and nylon, thread count on velvet tuxedos—if it's even advertised—seems to follow the same rules for wool and wool/cotton blends.
You won't find too many custom tuxedos from reputable tailors made exclusively from synthetic materials such as polyester, and there is a good reason for this. While they are prevalent in off-the-rack stores and tuxedo rental shops, polyester tuxedos are not manufactured with style or longevity in mind, and we would recommend that synthetic fabrics be avoided in all but the most urgent last-minute situations.
Other tuxedo materials, such as flannel and full silk, are far less common than the ones mentioned previously, but they still follow similar guidelines as wool in terms of thread count. And while a silk tuxedo is generally considered cost-prohibitive for most applications, it's something to consider if you really want to stand out.
One last thing to keep in mind for tuxedos in terms of thread count is that you may want to stay closer to the 100 range as opposed to higher 170 thread counts, as this will normally mean that your tuxedo is more durable and therefore last longer, especially if you need to dress up for black-tie events on a frequent basis.
Shawl lapels are the gold standard for tuxedos that conform to the black-tie standard. However, certain style preferences and tuxedo manufacturers occasionally deviate from this. If you're not too keen on the appearance of a shawl lapel, peak lapels are a viable alternative, and they may even give your personal style an extra edge over everyone else in a room at a black-tie event. Peak lapels are more commonly seen on double-breasted suits, but more custom tuxedo manufacturers are favoring this type of lapel over the standard shawl lapel, as many people do prefer the increased prominence in the shoulders that peak lapels can provide. Even notch lapels—once generally discouraged for use in tuxedos and black-tie fare—are becoming more common. They are, however, still discouraged for very formal events with rigid black-tie dress codes. As with anything, however, it is ultimately a style preference that is negotiable in most cases.
The buttons on a tuxedo are normally made from the same material that comprises its canvas, and this is also true for most custom suits. However, some lower-end rentals use plastic for the buttons, and you should be wary of any tuxedo fabricated in this way when you're shopping around for one to actually purchase for yourself. While it may not be much of an issue on a rental, plastic buttons tend to chip with repeated use and trips to the dry cleaners, so opting for buttons made from the same canvas material will increase your tuxedo's longevity.
Traditional tuxedos to be worn at black-tie events usually have only one button in the front, but increasingly manufacturers are opting for two buttons instead. If you settle on a tuxedo designed in this way, make sure to keep only the top button fastened in the same way you would follow etiquette rules for a suit. Most tuxedo pants will also come with buttons on the inside for fastening suspenders, and whether these are plastic or made from the same material as the tuxedo is less of a concern because the buttons are not visible.
This is perhaps the most important aspect to consider when you're shopping for a tuxedo. It is common for many retailers to upsell their slim-fit jackets and pants, but be cautious when they try to do this. While these may look better on gentlemen of a leaner build, oftentimes they are not quite tailored correctly off the rack and have the tendency to be uncomfortable; this is especially true the longer you have the tuxedo, as alterations and adjustments to a tuxedo made with a slim fit tend to be more difficult to do. If you opt for a tuxedo with a more classic or standard fit, you will have the added benefit of comfort and an easier time with any adjustments you may need. As black is generally a slimming color anyway, a classic fit tuxedo will still keep you looking sharp, and a custom fit is always going to be better than a slim fit off the rack.
It is unfortunate that tuxedos sometimes come with a bad reputation for being uncomfortable, but this doesn't have to be an expectation. A tuxedo customized to your dimensions and body type will leave you looking sharp and feeling as comfortable as possible at your next black-tie event.
Pants are many times overlooked since they tend to have fewer style variants than the tuxedo jackets, but they are just as important in terms of fit. The last thing you want to happen during a black-tie event is for your pants to slowly sag downward, or worse, have the fit too tight to the point it's difficult to stand up. Fortunately most tuxedo pants come with a hidden adjustable strap on the inside of the waist, so you can make minor alterations on the spot when you need to. And while many gentlemen opt to wear a tuxedo without a cummerbund or vest, we would at the very least recommend suspenders that button into the inside of the pants, as this will prevent most dance floor mishaps.
The Finer Details
Classic black-tie tradition mandates that tuxedo dinner jackets come equipped with no vents at all, although many manufacturers these days see this once-ironclad rule as more of a guideline. Many modern tuxedos are modeled after standard suits, and sometimes they will come with one or even two vents. Sticklers for details will always say that this is unacceptable, but the tradeoff here is that a tuxedo jacket with vents will fit more comfortably. It's a matter of style preference that will, in most cases, largely go unnoticed, but if you're a traditionalist through and through, consider going with the classic no-vent jacket. It is the most formal, after all. If you find a good tailor, a vented tuxedo jacket can be easily converted to one with no vents, so this is just another thing to keep in mind when you're finally ready to add a full tuxedo to your wardrobe.
When it comes to pockets, they should always be jetted on a tuxedo; that is, the pockets are sewn into the fabric rather than to the outside. Although a very subtle detail, this inevitably accentuates the more contoured fit of the jacket and will keep you looking sleek, uniform, and stylish for black-tie events.
One more obvious yet sometimes overlooked aspect of tuxedo shopping is the absence of cuffs on the trousers. Tuxedo pants are never to be cuffed, and this is certainly an absolute rule rather than merely a guideline. If you're browsing around and you see cuffs on a pair of pants, they are not meant to be worn with a tuxedo. The same goes for any pair of trousers with belt loops on them, and while belts are a great way to accentuate the style of a suit, they are never appropriate to utilize with a tuxedo.
Hopefully, you've nailed down all the finer points in considering what to look for in a custom tuxedo, and our expert clothiers here at Enzo Custom can get you fitted into one that will last you many black-tie events and galas. Feel free to stop into one of our physical showrooms, or peruse our website to discover which styles best suit your individual needs.