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The Tuxedo: Formal Fashion
Whether he buys it, rents it, or gets strapped into it by a power-hungry tailor, chances are every man will wear a tuxedo at some point in his life. When it comes to black-tie apparel, it’s the subtle details that set a suit apart. Read on to learn about the fashionable options of black tie.
The Jacket: The classic jacket is single-breasted with silk-faced lapels, of which there are three types. Notched lapels can flatter a slimmer frame, but the style is generally frowned upon for evening wear, since the look can come across as a bit too businesslike. Peaked lapels—in which the notch forms a “V” shape—are almost always a smart choice, offering an eternally fashion-forward look that’s serious but not somber. The continuous curve of shawl lapels (think Sean Connery as James Bond) are probably the most daring option, a dashing effect often emphasized with a flashy color palette.
The Tie: A tuxedo is probably the safest situation to rock a bowtie, but even then it’s easy to misstep. Consider the color, for instance. Formal situations demand a black tie, while looser events may allow for white or—if the evening’s more carnival than opera—bright colors. Bowties aren’t always the accessory of choice, however. A nice necktie can often help balance the formal appearance.
The Cummerbund: Without something covering the lower torso, a bowtie can seem adrift and alone. Enter the cummerbund, the wide, pleated belt that sits just above the waistline. Cummerbunds should always be worn with the pleats facing up. (Why? Traditional wisdom says that the pleats are meant to catch crumbs, but the real reason is more dignified: men used to hold their opera tickets in the folds.) Other alternatives may include a waistcoat or vest, but in every case, the purpose is to conceal the section of the tuxedo shirt that lies just above the trousers.
The Trousers: Traditional tuxedo pants have neither cuffs nor belt loops, instead finding support in a pair of classic suspenders. Probably the most distinctive feature of tuxedo pants is the single braid of silk—or whatever material matches the lapels—running along the outer seams.
The Shoes: Patent leather used to be the one and only option for black-tie occasions, but standards have changed. Shoes can either be shiny or matte, oxfords or opera slippers, comfortable or made of solid obsidian. The choice is yours. One detail is non-negotiable, however: they must be black.