Tuxedo or Suit: Which Should You Wear and When?

Tuxedo or Suit: Which Should You Wear and When?

Posted by Elizabeth Sawyer

Tuxedo or Suit: Which Should You Wear and When?

Most people don't know the differences between suits and tuxedos, and with the changes in fashion trends, it's become increasingly difficult for people to distinguish between them.

Knowing the differences between a tuxedo and a suit, and knowing when it is appropriate to wear each outfit, is essential for any man who wants to look his best at an upcoming wedding or social gathering. When most people think about tuxedos they envision a black tuxedo, but today's tuxedos and suits often include colors like gray, tan, and navy.

Differences between a Suit and a Tuxedo

There are some physical and visual distinctions between a tuxedo and a suit.

A tuxedo includes satins whereas a suit does not. Traditional tuxedos include satins on the lapel, buttonholes, pockets, and pants legs. A traditional suit doesn't include any satin. Modern tuxedos have reduced the amount of satin used to a thinner satin trim around the lapels and a narrow satin strip along the pant legs. Simply put, almost every tuxedo includes satin and almost no suits use it. Suits do not typically have contrasting fabric between their lapels and the rest of the suit.

Tuxedos has specific accessories

Another difference between a tuxedo and a suit is that a tuxedo has historically had accessory options that suits did not incorporate. A cummerbund, a bowtie, and more intricate shirt options are the main items that are associated with tuxedos and not worn with suits.

A cummerbund is not necessary for wearing a Tuxedo, however, if you're going to dress up for black tie functions, your black cummerbund should match your black tie. A cummerbund is a strip of cloth worn around the waist and is often made from silk or satin. There are varying opinions about whether your tie should match your cummerbund when attending less formal, non-black tie events. Selecting a tie that complements your cummerbund instead of matching it exactly can add a little bit of character for less formal occasions. Should you decide to put on a vest or waistcoat, or choose to wear a tuxedo with tails, a cummerbund is normally omitted. Cummerbunds are additionally not generally worn with neckties. 


Suits, on the other hand, can be worn with bowties or long ties. The ties are commonly coordinated with the suit but don't match them exactly. While the vest was a menswear mainstay from the 1600s through the early part of the last century, its popularity has waned since the 1960s  Currently it is fashionable to wear suits with or without vests


For formal wear, a classic tuxedo will require a bibbed or pleat­ed white button-down, whereas a suit will require a classic white cotton button-down. In less formal situations, a suit shirt can be other light colors that coordinate with the suit and tie. Black patent tuxedo shoes are always worn with a tuxedo whereas a classic black leather wingtip or oxford will look good with a suit.

Currently, there's a lot more flexibility when choosing a suit than when selecting a tuxedo. You can choose from a wide variety of colors, fabric types, and even pattern options.


Occasion Appropriate: Suit or Tuxedo

Choose Your Suit or Tuxedo based on the type and time of the event in most cases

Since its origins, the tuxedo has always been considered the evening outfit par excellence. The original purpose of this elegant clothing was to replace the suit worn all day, allowing men to leave behind the dirt and smell of a day spent on horseback.

Unlike a suit, tuxedos require some special occasion if you're going to wear them. That could be a black-tie gala, a wedding, or a charity event. On the other hand, suits can be worn almost anytime you feel one is appropriate. Whether it's to work, on a date, or even a night out at an upscale bar with your friends, a suit has plenty of uses. Tuxedos, not so much.

Tuxedos are, of course, more formal than suits. You wouldn't wear a tux to work, but you could wear a suit to almost any office and not look out of place. Tuxedos are also considered evening attire (unless you wear a morning suit, but that's a different story) and should not be worn during the daytime, whereas suits can be worn at almost any time of the day. Tuxedos are considered the most formal outfit a man can wear. Therefore, they are the standard at all black-tie events.

Should I wear a tuxedo as a wedding guest? 

Look at the wedding invitation for clues. It may tell you straight out that it is a black-tie event. Now you know to wear a tux. Does it say “semi-formal” or “cocktail attire”? Go ahead and choose a formal wedding suit. However, if at all possible, go ahead with the tuxedo. It is advisable to err on the dressier side.

A suit is an absolute necessity when it comes to formal encounters. It's your answer when you are looking for something for business meetings, weddings, formal dinners, job interviews, special first dates, and other special formal occasions. It can be something super formal or more casual depending on how you complete the look.

The easy answer is: A tuxedo is a suit, but not all suits are tuxedos. That's probably not enough info to make a good pick, though. 

Suits will take you almost everywhere - just not to a black tuxedo party. While you may feel a little too formal for certain events, you certainly won't feel out of place, and your suits can easily work as a casual outfit with little worry. Honestly, there's a time and place for both tuxedos and suits, so it's not a question of either being 'better' than the other. Instead, the question is which is appropriate for what you're doing. Treating a tuxedo as though it were a suit shows poor fashion sense.

Choosing between a suit and a tie depends on the type of event and your personal preferences for formal attire. A tuxedo tends to follow a fairly strict set of rules when it comes to styling, but it really stands out if you're looking for something to wear to impress others. Try navy or a rich dark tone to give it some character or choose a tie or cummerbund with a bit of color to show your personality. Regardless of whether you choose a classic black suit or something a little different, a classic tuxedo will always look good at any evening formal event.

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