That classic black and white image envisioned when you hear the word ‘tuxedo’, is far from the only style; many now incorporate modern styles, trends, and colours. With tuxedos breaking away from tradition, it can be tough to tell the difference from a suit.
There are two key differences between a suit and tuxedo. The first has to do with physical appearance, the second has to do with the embodiment, the perception, that comes with a tuxedo. Check out the list below for a closer look - we've even included a chart for quick reference!
Tuxedos have satin details. The trim on the lapel, pockets, and pants, and cover on the jacket buttons are all satin. Compare to a suit which will have the same fabric as the suit itself in these areas – often the buttons will be plastic, uncovered.
A tuxedo should be worn with a white dress shirt with a wingtip or turndown collar – tradition calls for a pleated shirt.
A suit can be complemented with any dress shirt, whether it be solid colour or patterned, as long as it coordinates with your suit colour.
Traditionally, a tux is worn with a cummerbund or vest, suspenders, bow tie, cuff links, and pocket square. If you bring a date to your event, the benefit is the ability to colour-coordinate these accessories to match your date’s dress and bring the WOW-factor.
With a suit, your accessories are optional based on personal preference and the type of event.
For a tuxedo, black leather shoes are what you need, unless the black clashes with the colour of your tux, in which case, colour coordinate but keep it classy with leather lace-ups and avoid slip-ons.
A suit is much more forgiving; slip-ons, lace-ups, oxfords, or loafers are all acceptable footwear.
Deciding whether to wear a tuxedo or suit to an event can depend on a variety of factors. Read the invitation for any details regarding attire and consider the event itself – where will it be held, what time of day, what time of year, who will be there, what’s the overall tone and theme? Think about the message you want to send to those around you.
A suit is great for any day and any time of day. It is ideal for less casual events and daily endeavors, like business meetings and lunch or dinner dates.
Without getting specific, evening events for formal occasions generally call for a tuxedo. A black-tie affair will specify on the invitation; in these cases, go with the classic tuxedo look, avoiding modern twists and colours.
PROM: Wear a tuxedo!
WEDDING: If the invite doesn’t explicitly tell you, use your judgement – is it a summer wedding at the beach? Then a tuxedo will likely leave you sweaty and overdressed. You also want to be aware of what the bride and groom will be wearing – it is their day after all, you don’t want to outshine the star of the show! If you have any doubts, ask the bride or groom to be sure you show up in the appropriate outfit.
If it becomes a situation of either is fine, then think of the message you want to send to those around you. What impact do you want to have and what impression do you want to leave?
Quick-Compare Reference Chart
At this point you may be wondering why these differences matter - they seem pretty minuscule. But they do matter and they make a big difference in perception.
A suit is versatile. You can alter your suit to fit your personality and environment. It can be worn with dress pants, casual pants(i.e. Khakis), and even jeans. There are no rules on your shoe or shirt type and if you don't want to wear a tie, the open-collar look works.
A tuxedo is prestigious. When you put on a tux, it’s for a special occasion; it’s to signify something rare and important. You wear a tuxedo instead of a suit because there’s nothing special about wearing a suit. People wear suits every day. They can go to a mall, a grocery store, a restaurant, and no one will think or even look twice; it doesn't matter whether you're someone who never wears a suit or not, it won't have an impact, it's normal.
But a tuxedo?
Now that you know the advantages and limitations of each, you may be thinking your style will be stifled at your black-tie event... just know, that is far from the truth! Check out our article, Pizzazz Your Tux, to find out how you can add your own flare and style to let your personality show through.