Which Suits You Better: A Tux or a Suit?

Do I wear a tux or a suit? This is often the first thing men ask when they receive an invitation to an event with a dress code. Will it be fine to wear a suit to a black-tie event? Are tuxedos the only option for formalwear? Which is the best option for your wedding day?

Your choice between a tux or a suit boils down to the occasion and your personal style. A tuxedo, often characterized by peak lapels, a black bow tie, and crisp tuxedo shirts with french cuffs, is a quintessential part of a formal dress code. An elegant choice is midnight blue, which can be coupled with dress shoes or even a sophisticated pair of loafers. On the other hand, a business suit, comprising a blazer, regular suit shirt and suit pants, offers flexibility for both formal and semi-formal settings. Whether you opt for a dinner suit or a regular suit, menswear is open with possibilities, allowing you to express your individual style.

Here, we give you the lowdown on both so you can figure out what the difference is between a tux and a suit. Then, you’ll finally learn how to decide which one to wear for which occasion.

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The Clean and Sleek Tux

When we hear the word tuxedo, the image of James Bond instantly comes to mind. That dashingly handsome look in a clean and sleek outfit. We’re reminded of the quintessential black and white ensemble that all men desire to wear at least once in their lives.

But did you know that the tux was shunned when it made its first appearance in a public event? That infamous moment in history is credited to Griswold Lorillard who, along with a few friends, wore a short dinner jacket to a long-tail tail event in Tuxedo Park. He and his friends were kicked out of the event for wearing such a jacket to a formal event but surprisingly made waves in the news and inadvertently popularized what was then coined a tuxedo.

Now, the question is, what makes a jacket a tuxedo? Does it always have that flamboyantly bibbed dress shirt paired with a cummerbund? Should it always be in black? Can you wear any dress shirt with it?

The characteristic features of a tux

Traditionally, the tuxedo was a cross between the formal long-tail dress coat and the casual lounge jacket. It always came with a black jacket, a white dress shirt with a wing collar, and black pants. You can tell the classic black tuxedo apart from other suits by the presence of satin details on it. It has satin-faced lapels, satin buttons, and satin side-stripes down the entire length of the pant legs. Modern designs tend to minimize the use of satin with just thin trims on the lapels and skinny strips on the pants. Nonetheless, satin is still a ubiquitous feature in all tuxedos.

The classic tuxedo jacket

The tuxedo jacket has a shawl lapel, a single closure button design, and jetted pockets with discrete satin pocket trims. It’s always worn with a white shirt dress that either had a wing collar or a turndown collar. Since it’s designed to be worn with a bow tie, the wing tip collar is more common. Only accessories such as French cufflinks and white pocket squares that maintain formality are used with the shirt and jacket.

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Traditional tuxedo pants

Tuxedo pants are sewn from the same fabric and color as the jacket. Aside from the characteristic satin stripes on the sides, you can easily tell them apart from other trousers by their lack of belt loops. They’re kept in place using suspenders or side-adjusters. Either a waistcoat or a cummerbund is used to keep the waistband hidden and the shirt flat and smooth at all times. The entire look is completed with a pair of black patent oxfords.

What to look for when buying a tuxedo

Modern conventions are not as restrictive as those decades ago. You now have a little bit more freedom in style when wearing a tuxedo. You can inject some of your personality and unique preferences as long as you maintain a level of formality that’s required of the outfit.

Basically, you’d want to get a tuxedo jacket with a peaked or shawl lapel faced with satin, silk, or any similar material that’s different from the rest of the jacket. The same material should be used to cover the single button at the center or both buttons in a double-breasted tux. Similarly, the breast pocket and the two jetted pockets in the quarters should also be lined with it. Check also if the jacket has a buttonhole on the left lapel where a boutonniere can be placed when necessary.

Unless you’re going for the all-white tux look of Sean Connery and Daniel Craig, your trousers should be in plain black or the exact same color as your jacket. The outer seams must be covered by a braid in the same material as the lapel. There should be no cuffs, pleats, or belt loops. The waist should also be higher than regular trousers.

You have a bit more leeway in choosing the accessories you wear with the jacket and pants. You can choose between a waistcoat or a cummerbund, wing, or turndown collar, pleated or textured shirt bib, and other accessories that enhance your appearance.

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The Versatile Suit

Essentially, a suit is a tux without the satin details. Or you can also put it the other way, a tux is a suit with a satin lapel. Whichever sounds better for you, there’s no doubt that a tuxedo is much more formal than a suit. However, a suit definitely trumps a tux when it comes to versatility.

A classic suit will have a lapeled jacket and pants made of the same material. The best ones are made of 100% wool but less expensive fabrics such as cotton, linen, and polyester can be used as well. Standard suits typically have notch lapels while those meant for more formal occasions may have peak or shawl lapels just like a tux albeit without the satin face.

The suit jacket has one to three bone or plastic buttons. The buttons can also be covered in the same fabric as the jacket. Pockets are either patched or jetted with flaps. The back of the jacket can have two, one, or no vents.

The suit can be worn with virtually any shirt. Use it with a white dress shirt and bow tie for formal occasions or a light-colored shirt and long tie for business events. You can even use it with turtleneck shirts for dinner dates and other semi-formal events.

While having the trousers and jackets in the same material and fabric creates a sleeker look, suit trousers don’t always have to match the jacket. They can be of a different color or fabric as long as they complement the jacket. The same goes for the shoes you wear with your suit. They can be whatever style or type you prefer but must complete your entire look and not stand out like a sore toe.

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What to look for when buying a suit

The first step in buying a suit is setting your budget. All other details can be tailored to fit what you can afford. You can get one under $100 at a thrift store or spend over $10,000 for a luxury bespoke set.

After setting your budget, find the best fabric in that range. Wool is among the best choices but you can use almost any other material. Whichever fabric you choose, make sure it fits you perfectly. A well-fitted $100-suit will look ten times better than an ill-fitting $1000-suit.

Sleeves should be about to your wrist bone and shoulders just in the right place. The back of your jacket should cover your backside. Choose the double vent over the single vent. It creates a more streamlined look and won’t show your backside when you put your hand in your pocket.

Your trousers should also fit you well especially around the hip area. It should neither be too tight nor too loose. The length would pretty much be up to your preference but never have it reach the floor.

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Which is Better? Tuxedo vs Suit

Suits are versatile, tuxedos are sleek. Neither is better than the other. But one is a better choice on certain occasions.

Tuxedos are perfect for white-tie events, black-tie weddings, red-carpet events, charity galas, proms, and other formal events. They give off a special vibe that’s ideal for commemorating special occasions. This makes them suitable for grooms even at daytime weddings as it sets the groom apart from the groomsmen on his big day. However, they may be too formal for other daytime events. Also, they’re definitely not appropriate for business meetings and dinner dates. For these casual occasions, suits give you more flexibility. They can be dressed up or down, matched with various shirts, and paired with different pants. They can also be used at any time of day.

In terms of price, tuxedos are quite an investment. A good set would cost you around $1000 or more. You’d also need to buy shirts, shoes, and accessories separately. You can always rent one out at just around $150 to $250. But if you’ll need one for several other occasions, it’s best to invest in a high-quality tux tailored specifically for you.

On the other hand, a high-quality three-piece suit would cost you just around $200 to $800. If the budget is tight, you can use shirts, neckties, and patent leather shoes that you already own so you can buy just the suit. Also, suits offer more value for your money since they can be used several times and for different occasions.

To be ready for any occasion, have one of each in your wardrobe. If you can afford to do so, have them custom-made for you so they fit you perfectly. Most importantly, remember that the confidence of the wearer pretty much creates the dashing vibe that both jackets offer. So, whichever one you’re wearing, wear it with confidence.

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