Wearing a Tuxedo? How to Stand Out From the Crowd

When an event require you to wear a tuxedo, you’re probably excited to have the opportunity to dress your best. But you may also feel at a bit of a loss as to how to look like yourself when attending that formal wedding or annual gala. After all, the primary effect of a black tie dress code is that all the men in the room look largely the same, so can you express your personal style while dressed in a tux?

Attending a black tie event, and dressing appropriately for it, requires a measure of respect both for the traditional dress code and for your hosts. So you might think that rules out any expression of individuality. But you’ll be happy to learn that depending on the context, there are ways you can wear a tuxedo and still look like yourself, all while conveying respect for the hosts of the wedding or gala you’re attending. Read on for some useful advice on how to show a little bit of individuality when getting dressed for a black tie event.

1. Choose your tuxedo judiciously

Man wearing a tuxedo

Man wearing a tuxedo | iStock.com

This is the first step of getting dressed for a formal event, and perhaps the most important. While some events will require a classic black tux, others are an opportunity to try something a little more out of the ordinary. Consider a midnight blue tuxedo instead of black, one with a shawl collar instead of a peaked lapel, a double-breasted style (in either a peaked lapel or shawl collar variety), or even one with a subtle pattern to the weave. Choose an unvented jacket or one with double vents, but never a single vent jacket, which is a cheap and casual mainstay of budget retailers and rental catalogs.

2. Hone the fit of your tux

attractive model in black tux

Man in a black tuxedo | iStock.com/feedough

Never has taking a garment to your tailor been more important than with the tuxedo. If everyone is going to be dressed pretty much the same, an important way that you can stand out is to make sure that your tux fits impeccably. It’s especially important to nail the fit of the trousers, which are high-waisted but minimal, with a strip of ribbon that matches the jacket’s lapel and don’t have cuffs.

3. Choose the tuxedo’s third piece wisely

man wearing suspenders and a bow tie

Man dressing up for a fancy event | iStock.com

Once the jacket and the trousers are out of the way, then you can think about the third piece of the tux: the waistcoat or the cummerbund. The waistcoat is cut to show off the shirt worn beneath it, matches the jacket’s material, and can be either double or single-breasted. The cummerbund is pleated and usually made of the same material as the jacket’s lapels. Whichever you choose, most of the time, you’ll need to go with black, but if you have some latitude, you can consider a dark color to add a personal touch to your look.

4. Experiment with the shirt worn under the tux

man cuffing his sleeves

Your shirt matters as much as your jacket | iStock.com

As with the color of the tux, some events are simply going to require you go as classic as possible. That means going for the traditional white tuxedo shirt. But for events that afford you a little more room to breathe, consider swapping the pleated or pique tuxedo shirt for something more modern. Try a white band collar shirt for a subtle change, or for something even more contemporary, such as an outfit you’ll wear to a museum opening, consider a dark shirt or even a turtleneck.

5. Match your tie to your tuxedo’s lapels

a purple and black necktie

Man wearing a playful necktie | iStock.com

There are some subtle details you should get right when wearing a tux, and one of those is the tie you wear with it. To figure out the tie, pay attention to the facing on your tuxedo jacket’s lapels. If it’s a shiny satin, opt for a shiny tie. If it’s a more matte grosgrain, choose a less-shiny tie. You can choose a number of different styles of bow tie, including a butterfly, a semi-butterfly, a straight-end, or a pointed-end tie. Select a style based on your taste and on what will look the most flattering with your build and face shape.

6. Add cufflinks to show some personality

man adjusting cufflinks

Man adjusting cufflinks | iStock.com

If you do opt for a shirt with French cuffs, as most guys do when wearing a tux, there are endless possibilities for a subtle but statement-making personal touch when you choose what cufflinks to wear. You can go for an unobtrusive, utilitarian pair, but why would you when there are plenty of options, both vintage and new, that can better express your personality? If you’ll wear studs instead of buttons on your shirt, make sure the cufflinks coordinate. Choose a set made of quality materials and they’ll be with you for many seasons to come.

7. Consider a watch

man checking his watch

Man checking his watch | iStock.com

A watch was, traditionally, to be avoided with evening wear, but a judiciously chosen one is now acceptable. Vintage or new, high-end or an affordable investment, there’s a watch for just about every sensibility and budget. A dress watch will often be smaller and more refined than the sportier watches guys commonly wear, and you should look for one with a leather band, a light watch face, and metal that matches your cufflinks and/or studs for a classic look.

8. Add some individuality with your shoes

Black shoes of the groom

Black shoes for a formal event | iStock.com/Vadven

Even when everyone looks the same in a tux, the one detail that will be noticeably different is the shoes that each guy chooses to wear. The traditional choices are either a formal pump or a formal lace-up. But if your host isn’t expecting the height of formality, you have a number of other options, including derbies, loafers, or even slippers, when selecting footwear to accompany your tux.