Tips of the Trade
Attiring your groom and groomsmen is daunting, as so much has to be taken into account. Etiquette, tradition, weather, bridesmaids’ attire, the vibe of your reception, and simple personal preferences can throw the brightest men for a loop. Bowties, straight ties, belts, shoes, and shirts? Pocket squares, suspenders, cummerbunds, and vests?
To top it off, traditional tux rental is an inelegant, outdated business, and companies like The Black Tux and Indochino (think a pseudo Birchbox or Stitch Fix for tuxes + suits) are so new to the scene that we can’t speak for them- yet. Fine suits cost upward of $800, so that can be a tough route when you want a crisp, bespoke look for your wedding party. We spoke with mens’ clothiers across the country and dug deep into our own social morés and beliefs about what looks sharp, and we have laid it all out below to ease your pain.
Nothing beats a man in a tux. Don’t give us that ba-lo-ney about it being hot (same as a suit!) or expensive (less so to your groomsmen than any other option!)- just bite the bullet; the ladies will love you for it. It is almost a wash to rent vs. to invest, so we advise that you buy custom for a bespoke fit + beautiful hand. Go-tos include Brioni, Armani, Zegna, + Brooks Brothers.
1. A peak lapel is classic, easy to source, and flattering. Both boys are wearing point-style turn-down collars, classic + crisp. 2. A cummerbund is imperative for covering the area where the dress shirt meets the tux pants. Always wear them with pleats facing up. 3. A shawl collar is another flattering + somewhat old school lapel, albeit harder to rent. 4. Another shawl collar for your perusal- dapper, no? 5. Proof that it’s not weird for your groomsmen to wear peak lapels while you wear shawl collar. Also, follow the “always/sometimes/never” rule on buttons: always button your collar button, sometimes button your top jacket button, never button your bottom jacket button. 6. Wing tip collars are ugly + dated; technically, they’re not even supposed to be worn with a tux (only with tails for white tie).
1. The semi-butterfly tux bow tie- as classic as it gets, and will never go out of style. 2. The straight end bow tie- aka “batwing” or “club” tie . . . great on Bradley Cooper, maybe a bit too hipster for your tradish Southern wedding. 3. The pointed bow tie- great with angular features and peak lapel jackets; a runner-up to the semi-butterfly. 4. The cardinal rule of wearing a tux: never, ever rent or buy or wear a pre-tied bowtie. EW. We also eschew long ties because it looks very mobster or Prom 1995. 5. Not a white knight: never wear a white bow tie with black tie- save it for white tie (tails) or dismiss entirely.
1. Opt for a pocket square or a boutonnière- both is often overkill. 2. Tom Ford can pull off a bout + a pocket square because for starters, he’s Tom Ford (think Gucci). Secondly, his bout is small + white and properly placed through his lapel hole like ALL bouts (aka lapel flowers) should be. Boutonnière is French for buttonhole, which should help you remember never to pin it anywhere other than through the lapel hole. 3. We prefer a hand-rolled white linen pocket square in a straight fold for the most formal + classic look. 4. If you want to puff your pocket square, you must choose a white silk one over a linen one. This guy can pull it off- many can’t. 5. Daniel Craig is wearing a shawl collar jacket, a straight end bowtie, and a slightly-messily-stuffed pocket square: perfection.
1. Suspenders are sticky. Never wear the clip-on kind, only the button-on kind as seen here. They are not meant to replace a cummerbund, ever (mutually exclusive uses). They are the “underwear” of the classic tux- never meant to be seen; if you’re gonna ditch your jacket, skip suspenders- but remember, a gentleman never removes his jacket at a function. 2. The plain toe Balmoral formal lace-up oxford is the go-to shoe for timeless tux attire. Anything else may be dated, informal, or inappropriate. 3. We love a monogrammed French cuff + interesting cuff links- this is where you can have a little fun, boys. If you want to play it safe, stick to black + gold or mother-of-pearl stud sets. 4. The dress watch (L) is acceptable, the sport watch (R) is not. Technically speaking, it’s ill-bred to wear a watch with a tux because you’re presumably being entertained to the hilt, and thus needn’t have use of a time piece!
People often mistakenly call this “white tie”, which it is not. The warm weather black tie (i.e. “white dinner jacket”) is reserved for summertime affairs in the country and worn typically in the sub-tropics (think Charleston or Savannah or Lyford Cay). A white jacket should never be worn in the city “unless one has a napkin over his arm or a saxophone up to his lips”, per Esquire. It is almost impossible to rent the buttery ivory color one should have, so bear in mind that this is an out-and-out purchase on all fronts. Outside of these social morés + folkways, the white dinner jacket is simply for 6 pm or after, as it is technically black tie.
Any wedding invitation involving a ceremony at 5:30 pm or earlier warrants a dark suit as seen above, with the exception of a morning coat + tails (click here for more on that attire). When people say “just wear a black suit”, that’s a misnomer- a true black suit would not be traditional or Southern in any way. A super dark navy, dark gray, or subtle pinstripe are all in keeping with this attire. Pair a single breasted 2-button jacket and flat front un-cuffed trouser with a fabulous tie and you’re off! Suggesting dark dressy bit loafers + a dark belt (dark brown or black) is highly recommended for getting groomsmen to look like a cohesive bunch.
One of our favorite looks for ceremonies before 6:00 p.m. is the cotton poplin suit, which you can snag in khaki (above), navy, olive, and stone (lighter than above). Our go-to sources are M. Dumas and Grady Ervin. I love the khaki paired with a cordovan belt + cordovan bit loafer, and this is the perfect opportunity to rock a little color via pocket square, bowtie, or both. Great sources for ties include Southern Proper, Vineyard Vines, and High Cotton.
A second close to a man in a tux is a man in full seersucker- it screams Southern, and it’s perfectly lightweight + versatile for summer weddings + parties. The hard + fast rule is not to break out your seersucker until Memorial Day, which is about 8 weeks into the heat of Spring for the South (eek) . . . then you are supposed to tuck it away by Labor Day or risk an upbraiding by a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist. Although blue is the classic, this suit comes in taupe, gray, pale green, and butter yellow and all of them are a great choice. Pairs nicely with a pastel bowtie, a bright bowtie, a beautiful necktie, and Smathers + Branson needlepoint belts.
Finally, check out the New York Wedding Guide for a fabulous resource for custom suits and tuxes.