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Should you wear a tie with a tux? What type is best?

James Bond wore one. All the sexiest male celebrities put them on for the biggest events. They’re considered to be the height of men’s fashion. We’re talking of course about the tuxedo. This is the standard formal wear for all well-dressed men. And it all seems pretty simple on the surface. After all, there’s not much to the tuxedo. You’ve got pants, a matching jacket, a shirt. Add a vest. Wear fancy shoes. Simple. There’s just one big question looming in the background. Can you wear a tie with a tux? Fashion experts have surprisingly strong opinions about what to wear with a tuxedo and there’s a raging debate between whether you must wear a bow tie or whether a standard tie will work. Where do you stand in this intense debate of tradition versus trends? 

The Experts Weigh In

The rules of wearing a tux are pretty strict. It’s about meeting a specific dress code, showing your respect for a certain event, looking your very best. So who better to weigh in on these fashion questions than the experts on all things bridal and formal fashion?

Tuxedo black and white photo

“A slim black or ivory/white tie is definitely becoming a more common accessory for tuxes, especially for people who want a less traditional look while still achieving the level of formality a tuxedo creates,” says Brides

Choosing a tie, rather than a bow tie, is still within the parameters of wearing formal attire. Brides recommends “a slim (not skinny) satin or grosgrain silk necktie.” 

Gentleman’s Gazette, specialists in all men’s fashion, says that the black silk bow tie is still the “gold standard” for tuxedos. However, a black silk long tie is a “popular alternative.” 

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However, they disagree that it actually works as an alternative to the bow tie. “First, a dark solid bow tie has been associated with a tuxedo for a century.  A dark solid long tie, on the other hand, is associated with regular suits.  Consequently, the ‘formal’ four-in-hand actually lowers the dinner suit’s status to that of an informal black suit, particularly when worn with a two-button notched-lapel jacket and plain-front shirt.”

Okay, so it seems that opinions on this topic are surprisingly intense. Either the tie with a tux is trendy style choice…or you’re so bad at dressing yourself that maybe you shouldn’t even leave the house. 

The Debate

Style experts have surprisingly strong feelings bout whether or not a tie is acceptable with a tuxedo, though this is a trend that is seen all the time in weddings and on red carpets. 

Tuxedo hanging up

According to Jos.A.Bank, a famous name in suits, the celebs on the red carpet are wrong. “The daring modifications of the tuxedo that walk the red carpet at the Oscars have led many men to think tuxes can be worn with long ties or no tie at all. However, the best tie to wear is the classic bow tie that you tie yourself,” their website states.

Bloomberg agrees, saying that the bow tie is part of the tradition of the tux. “You’re wearing a tuxedo to show respect for an occasion, and you’re wearing a bow tie to show respect for tradition.” 

Also, Bloomberg insists that the bow tie has to be a “real” bow tie. That means it must be a strip of fabric that is tied into a bow, as opposed to a clip-on design. These are known as pre tied bow tie designs.

So not only are there rules about wearing a tuxedo, there are rules on top of rules for this deceptively simple set of clothing. Who knew that the standard tux could be such a hot topic in the style world?

The Verdict on Wearing a Tie with a Tux

So, if you dare to wear a tie with a tux, there will be people who want to yank it right off your neck. Obviously we kid…but clearly, not a lot. Though some take a very hard stance on bow ties with tuxedos, it has become widely acceptable to wear a tie with a tux for all sorts of formal events and even for black tie affairs. 

Tuxedo standing up outside

But to honor tradition, always wear a black bow tie if you’re going to a very strict, conservative black tie event. If you’re attending a very fancy society wedding, an important dinner or event honoring some important person or anything else that is even a remotely solemn or ceremonious occasion, wear the bow tie. For other black tie events that are more about being fun and festive, to heck with the stuffy style experts. Wear a long, normal tie if you want to. 

A Tale of Two Tuxedos

Who wore the first tuxedo? When did this become the only thing to wear for all formal events in a man’s life? According to one legendary story about the tuxedo, this tradition began in London. The story involves a King, a famous street and a country club in New York City.

Tuxedo top half

As the story goes, King Edward VII ordered a specific set of clothing from the house of Henry Poole on Savile Row. This street is famous around the world as a center of England’s fashion scene. When he wore the stunning set of clothes, it caught the eyes of the world. Specifically, a group of men who lived near Manhattan in the U.S. They liked to hang out at a country club in Tuxedo, New York. 

What was so unusual and innovative about Edward’s clothing? He was wearing a short jacket that had no tails, a severe break from accepted evening wear of the day. It set the style world on fire and gave rise to the “dinner jacket.” And soon, everyone wanted one. Because once a King wears something, it means that everyone else is allowed to wear it, too. Edward was the son of a long-reigning monarch, Queen Victoria. His reign as England’s King has come to be known as the Edwardian Era. 

A Tuxedo Timeline

In the 1700s, dressing up for a man meant wearing a heavily embroidered cutaway coat and a long waistcoat, knee-length breeches, stockings and shoes with buckles. A man named Beau Brummell is credited with popularizing the modern suit in the late 1700s when he wore a more simplified jacket with pants. Brummell was a friend of the royal court and therefore, his eccentric style was trendsetting and not odd. Others copied his simplified style and the modern suit was born.

Tuxedo candid shot

Men wore suit jackets that were short in front with long tails in back, stiff white shirts, elaborate cravats and waistcoats (vests) as formal wear through the 1800s. 

Once the tuxedo rose to popularity in the early 1900s, men’s fashion truly took on its modern shape.  The tuxedo had become the must-have male fashion item by the 1920s, with experts advising that a man needed a tuxedo, which was worn almost every night. Tailcoats, by contrast, were worn only for balls, the opera and formal dinners. 

The tuxedo has been the formal wear of choice ever since. And though the fit, cut and finer points of the design have changed through the decades, the basics of the tuxedo haven’t changed so much since they were first envisioned by Edward VII. 

How Did the Bow Tie Get Here?

The bow tie has been a part of fashion history for a long time. Like the necktie, the bow tie is the grandchild of the cravat. Croatian mercenaries wore cravats around their necks in the 1600s and the look caught on with other militaries and with everyday people.

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Bow tie styles appeared in the 1830s and became even more popular than the cravats of old. Abraham Lincoln wore an early version of the bow tie, being a pretty progressive guy all around. Bow ties had spread around the world by the 1900s, with many people wearing them not just with tuxedos but with their everyday suits as well. Winston Churchill, a prominent political figure in the early 1900s, was a bow tie wearer.

Your Tuxedo Options

There are many elements of the tuxedo that you can pick out in order to make this your own. When it comes to choosing the different features of the tux, you can use it to show off your individual taste and style. Pick out the details of the tuxedo based on what you like but also your own comfort level and what’s going to look best on you. Also, consider the type of formal event you need to wear a tux for. If you’re attending more serious affairs and ceremonial occasions, stick to more classic style choices. But if you’re going to more fashionable and fun galas to have a good time, you can relax on some of those tux traditions and have more fun with your look.

Around the Waist

MYS Mens 3-Piece Suit Shawl Lapel One Button Tuxedo Slim Fit Premium Dinner Jacket Vest Pants & Tie Set Red-Black

Tuxedos always have an additional waist piece, usually a cummerbund or a vest. These items should be in the same color as the tuxedo in strictly conservative formal attire. Otherwise, you can choose something in a different color or pattern. You can only wear one of these items, so choose a cummerbund or vest based on what you like and what looks best on you. The vest has a more streamlining, slimming effect.

Collar

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Choose between two collar types for your tux. The wingtip is the classic look. This collar is a little bit stuff has small points spreading out horizontally. The spread collar is a little less rigid and has softer lines. 

Color

MAGE MALE Men's 3 Pieces Suit Elegant Solid One Button Slim Fit Single Breasted Party Blazer Vest Pants Set. Red

The color of the tuxedo is essential. You can actually wear a tuxedo in any color and it has been done. But for the most part, tuxedos are worn in black, navy and shades of white and near white, like cream. Wearing a tuxedo in any other color is considered to be less formal and more playful. However, this is something that is frequently seen at weddings and events like the high school prom. Colorful tuxes can be worn but essentially, these are the same types of formal occasion events where it’s also okay to wear a necktie with a tux rather than the more traditional bow tie.

Lapels

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There are several different types of tuxedo lapel styles, each with its own slightly different look. The most common types are notch, peak and shawl lapel. The peak style is very formal, while the notch design is very traditional. The shawl is a more modern lapel style. 

Shirt

OmegaTux Mens Formal Wing Collar Tuxedo Shirt, 1/4" Pleat White (OMTX500-15.5-33)

You need a tuxedo shirt to complete the ensemble. This can be a simple dress shirt, though traditionally the tuxedo shirt is a little bit more embellished. If you’re attending a black tie dress code event, err on the side of safety and look for somewhat fancier tuxedo shirts. If the invitation says black tie optional, you can play around a little with the tux shirt you choose. Shirts have many different cuff styles to choose from. One of the most well known is the French cuff style, where the shit folds back on itself to create the cuff.

Shoes

Clarks mens Tilden Walk Oxford, Black Leather, 10.5 Wide US

Formal shoes are a must, of course, when it comes to styling a tuxedo. Black tie attire requires very shiny shoes. Oxfords are a traditional tuxedo companion.

Single or Double

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The single-breasted or double-breasted jacket design is all about the buttons. If there is a single row of buttons, this is single-breasted. Two vertical rows of buttons create a double-breasted look. Men who are more slender in shape should wear the double-breasted design. This adds the appearance of more bulk. Men who are more stout in shape should choose a single-breasted jacket, as this will have a more slimming effect. Either way, only close one button on the tuxedo jacket. Otherwise, it looks too much like a daytime jacket.

How to Wear a Tuxedo Well

Other than this bow tie versus long tie debate that’s so strangely passionate, the tuxedo seems pretty straightforward. However, there a lot of little details to consider when it comes to picking out and styling a tux. There are different types of lapels, single- or double-breasted jackets, cummerbunds and vests. You’ve got to think about shoes and accessories. It’s actually a little scary. Follow a few simple style tips and you will always wear your tuxedo well.

Go Classic

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When in doubt, go classic. A notch lapel with a single-breasted jacket is a very clean, elegant look that’s suitable for any occasion. The pants should have a stripe of silk down the leg and absolutely no cuff at the bottom. The entire tux must fit beautifully. That’s the first rule of style. To look good and feel good, you absolutely must have clothes that fit you perfectly. Finish the look with a pair of very shiny Oxfords and a simple silk pocket square. 

Accessorizing It

Rovtop Cufflinks and Studs Set for Tuxedo Shirts Business Wedding 2 Cufflinks and 6 Studs

You can add a little bit of bling and bring that little something extra to your tuxedo. A sleek watch made in metal, not leather, is just the right addition. You can also wear a pair of cuff links on your tuxedo shirt to include a little touch of something extra.

Wearing a Tie with a Tux

Sometimes, you can wear a tie with a tux. But choosing a necktie over a bow tie is considered to be a modern choice that’s not seen in very formal settings. It’s still a bit of a bold choice and it’s trendy. So if you’re more tradtional, leave the longer ties for your suits and stick to the classic silk or satin bow tie. But if you’re a bit more fashion-forward, the tie is the right option for your tuxedo style.

Sources:

Bloomberg – The 10 Commandments of the Tuxedo

Brides – Everything You Need to Know About Tuxedo Styles

Gentleman’s Gazette – Black Tie History Is More Colorful Than You Might Think

Gentleman’s Gazette – Bow Tie Guide

Gentleman’s Gazette – French Cuffs Construction

WikiHow – How to Wear a Tuxedo