The Black Tie Guide: Everything You Need to Know about Tuxedos

Before you start hearing words like placket, cutaway and notched, read our comprehensive glossary of every tuxedo term.
by Elise Proulx
Groomsmen in tuxedos with bowtie
photo by Amy Arrington Photography

classic tuxedo will never go out of style, especially for your wedding day. Whether you’re buying or renting your tux, deciding on the color of your outfit may be the easiest decision you’ll make. The list of decisions range from the type of fit, lapel, cuff and placket to picking out accessories like bow ties or cummerbunds. For the formalwear novice, we’ve put together a list of every tuxedo style and term you’ll hear once you’re ready to get your wedding day ensemble.

Jackets

Tuxedo or Tux

This is by far the most common, most classic jacket, and is worn at formal and semiformal events. There are a surprising number of choices to make when picking a classic jacket. You can go single-breasted (with a one- to four-button front) or double-breasted (with a two- to six-button front, where the flaps are overlapping). Plus, there are three types of lapels: peaked, notched or shawl (see below for more lapel info).

Full Dress, or Tails or Tailcoat

This style of jacket is cropped in front, with two tails in the back and a two- to six-button front. It’s generally worn at ultra-formal evening weddings.

Mandarin or Nehru Jacket, or Mao Jacket

This jacket features a stand-up collar with no lapel and is worn with a Mandarin-collared shirt. (Hint: This combo provides a sneaky way to avoid wearing a tie.)

Lapels

Notched Lapel

This lapel features a triangular indentation where it joins the collar and is considered the least formal type of lapel. You may seem them on tuxedos but they’re more common on suits. Look for the notch to line up with or just below your shoulders.

Peaked Lapel

The peak lapel is the most popular of the three, so you’ll see it the most. Its broad, V-shaped lapels point up and out, just below the collar line. Peak lapels are usually formalwear staples since they’re the most stylized of the three.

Shawl Lapel

The shawl lapel is considered the most formal compared to the notch or peak. It has a smooth shape that’s completely rounded with no notches. Lankier body types will find the shawl lapel very complimentary.  

Trousers

Classic tuxedo trousers feature a single strip over the side seam of the trousers. If you choose to wear those types of pants, the jacket should always match in style and color. If the tux jacket has satin-faced lapels, the stripe is satin; if the jacket has grosgrain-faced lapels, the stripe is grosgrain.

Shirt Collars

Wing Collar

The most formal choice and the collar style most often worn with tuxedo jackets, this stand-up collar has downward points.

Mandarin Collar or Band Collar

This collar stands up around the neck and is the most contemporary-style tuxedo shirt.

Spread Collar

This resembles a standard button-front shirt but features a wide division between points in front. The wider collar looks great with a Euro tie or a standard necktie tied in a Windsor knot.

Cuffs

When you’re deciding on a shirt, there are two options to familiarize yourself with. One-button rounded cuffs are the standard option for most shirts but if you want to wear cuff links, look for a French rounded cuff. For formalwear, cuff links are a must so stick to a French rounded cuff.

Neckwear

Bow Tie

The thing to wear with a classic tux. Bow ties come in several colors besides basic black. White is reserved for super-formal events, and colored or patterned bow ties are suitable for any occasion.

Necktie

You can also wear a classic tie with your tux, to create a more casual, yet still elegant, wedding look. Pick a silk tie in black or navy blue, which will be dressy enough to stand up to a tux.

Ascot Tie

This wide, formal tie is often patterned, folded over and fastened with a stickpin or tie tack. This style is usually reserved for ultra-formal daytime weddings and worn with a cutaway coat and striped gray trousers.

Bolo Tie

If you're having a Western-themed wedding, live in Santa Fe or are a working broncobuster, this stringy tie is for you. But if your partner has visions of Breakfast at Tiffany's dancing in their head, think again before breaking out your bolo tie for the wedding and choose something more classic instead.

Euro Tie

This is a hybrid between an ascot tie and a regular, run-of-the-mill necktie. It's a long, square-bottomed tie knotted at the neck and worn with a wing collar or spread collar shirt. The Euro offers a more formal look that's not as all-out as an ascot.

Accessories

Vests or Waistcoats

For an ultra-formal evening wedding, clad yourself in a white tie and waistcoat. Or choose a colored waistcoat instead of a cummerbund, which is a popular look in Britain. Vests lend a bit of personality to your or your groomsmen looks.

Suspenders

Wear suspenders in lieu of a belt to keep your pants up and also add a touch of sartorial elegance. Choose one with adjustable straps to customize it for your height.

Tie Bar

A tie bar is meant to fasten your tie to the placket of your shirt and should sit right between the third and fourth button. It should be an accent not a focal point, so stick to neutral colors like gold or silver.

Cummerbunds

These are pleated swatches of fabric worn around the waist when you're not wearing a vest. Usually basic black, but you can choose a colored cummerbund to match the bridesmaid dresses or wedding colors.

Cuff Links

In addition to serving a practical purpose, cuff links can also add a personal touch to your wedding ensemble. For a more playful vibe, try a set of cuff links in fun shapes. If simple elegance is your style, stick with neutral colors for your cuff links.


Looking for a suit or tux? Shop styles here.


Up Next
Groom with blue tie and boutineer
6 Fashion Rules for Grooms
You want to look as stylish as your partner on your wedding day—so follow these rules.
by Jennie Ma