Tux Police
January 28, 2015 9:35 AM   Subscribe

My brother-in-law is turning 50 and is planning a shindig.

Word just came that he is requiring men to wear a tux for the party. I don't own a tux and would have to rent one. That would be 200 bucks that I don't care to part with for this. But it's more than that.

My first reaction is that while I would of course dress appropriately, I will wear what I darn well please. But then there's the bit about upsetting my wife, who is rigid about stuff like this, and perhaps looking out of place -- even though I know there would be many others not wearing the monkey suit.

Tux for a funeral or a wedding perhaps. But a 50th birthday party?

Am I being unnecessary difficult here? Should I just go with the program?
posted by terrier319 to Human Relations (35 answers total)
If it's a formal party and that's the attire, then that's the attire. I'd just suck it up and wear what was asked.

If it is NOT a formal occasion, then you have some discretion.

That being said - $200 seems like a lot. Depending on when it is, you can often get specials. You also might consider looking at a couple of vintage-clothing or gently-used men's clothing places - you might find something you like.

I've been to a couple of black-tie events in the last year where "formalwear" was specified. A number of men attended in what appeared to be black suits. I think shawl lapels and piping on the pants sort of make it a tux, but I'm not up to date on these things.
posted by Thistledown at 9:40 AM on January 28, 2015

This is her brother, she probably knows her family best and has a better idea of what is or is not socially acceptable to them. There are absolutely some people who care about formal dress codes and some situations where you would be out of place not following the dress code requested by the host. If she thinks that this is one of those situations, you should probably not fight about it.
posted by steinwald at 9:44 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

I think it's bullshit to impose a specific dress code, as in "must wear tux," for a party, unless it's a costume party or something and everyone will be in gorilla suits or what have you. Adults can normally be trusted to wear the appropriate clothing.

However, I think it's probably not the hill to die on if it's going to upset your wife and cause family strife. As Thistledown notes, you can probably find a way to spend less than $200, even if you go the all-black-suit route.

(Tux would be waaaaaay out of place at a funeral, btw.)
posted by holborne at 9:46 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

First, I didn't even know tux rentals could be $200 (not firsthand anyway; I'm sure the sky's the limit).

Grown ups don't tell grown ups what to wear.

That's, er... pretty standard with any sort of fancy party or wedding invitation. I mean, not that you won't be let in without a satin lapel, just that dress codes are a thing. Yes, I'm sure you could get away with a black suit, but...

If this is your wife's brother, I'd take her word for it. Is $50-100 worth being underdressed and having her annoyed with you?
posted by supercres at 9:49 AM on January 28, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think it's tacky to have a dress code for a party, but it's also just as tacky to say "Fuck this dress code, it doesn't apply to me", especially if it's your wife's brother who's making the request for a milestone birthday party. If I was invited to that party, and I bothered to get a tux (or a black suit), and I got there and the guy's own brother-in-law couldn't be bothered to do the same? I would be seriously pissed.

If you really want to show up wearing something besides a tux (or a black suit), you're going to piss people off who went ahead and did the thing that the guy having the birthday asked guests to do for his birthday.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:53 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]

Grown ups don't tell grown ups what to wear.

Of course they do. It's called a dress code - and hosts are free to establish one for any type of social event.

Wear a tux, or don't go. Either are fine options. Going and not wearing a tux, or wearing a vintage one just to show your objection, aren't appropriate. This is a birthday party, not a place to make a protest and a statement.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 9:54 AM on January 28, 2015 [40 favorites]

At your age, you should have a wardrobe that can accommodate any sort of dress codes for social occasions. Now, a black tie event for a 50th birthday party sounds like a bit too much, but as an adult, you Will sometimes get an invitation in the mail for an event that says "black tie", and you're supposed to be prepared for such situations and suck it up.

Your options are the following:

o Black suit with black tie. I did this in my 20s
o Rent a tux. Not really that expensive.
o Buy a tux at goodwill or the Salvation Army. There are LOTS of them, and they're cheap. Mine cost $10 + tailoring to get the fit right
o Get a decent tuxedo, shirt, tie, and cummerbund to have in your closet when the occasion calls for it.
posted by deanc at 10:03 AM on January 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

It's a black tie event, so wear black tie, would be my advice. Unless you want to go, be underdressed, be the only guy not wearing a tux like everyone else, feel out of place, upset your brother-in-law, and upset your wife. You probably don't, though.
posted by Busoni at 10:05 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

If it's a financial hardship you should say it's a financial hardship, and find out what the real dress code is. I go to a lot of formal events (at least three per year) and a number of men do just wear a black suit (or even a non-black suit, because to a certain portion of the population a black suit that isn't a tuxedo is strictly for funeral wear). So this may be "black tie optional" and just bad communication, in which you can wear a suit and be just fine, or it may be "black tie requested," in which case you should do what you can to wear a tuxedo (which is where financial hardship comes in), or it may just be "black tie."

Speaking from experience, if you own a tuxedo you tend to get invited to things where you can wear it. If it's not a financial hardship, buy (don't rent), and have fun playing dress-up.
posted by fedward at 10:05 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Black tie parties ARE a thing. It is not rude or tacky to invite someone to a black tie party.
Wear a tux, or don't go. (I've never had to pay $200 for a tux rental. It's usually around $75.)
posted by Mr.Me at 10:07 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wear a black or dark grey suit with a bowtie and satin pocket square - 99% of people will not notice that this is not a "tuxedo."
posted by melissasaurus at 10:11 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nthing that most tuxedo/formalwear rentals aren't $200. If they are, usually it's because they're making people put down a security deposit, and you'll get half your money back when you return the tux intact the next day or whatever.

Formal parties are formal parties, whether they're weddings or not. You might think it's absurd for a person to throw a formal birthday party, fine. I think it's absurd for people to throw formal weddings! We're both entitled to our opinions but not entitled to be rude about asserting them. They set a dress code, you either meet it to the best of your abilities or you decline the invite.

(p.s. and just be glad you're not a woman, navigating "black tie" dress codes for us is about 1000 times more complicated than "rent tux, put on tux.")
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:11 AM on January 28, 2015 [10 favorites]

The black-tie events I attend are populated by academics rather than bankers, so take my advice with a grain of salt. However, if you ask me, there are only three reasons to buy a tux: (1) it sounds like fun and you're looking forward to finding excuses to wear it in the future (2) you're a guest of honor or on stage at a semi-formal event where everyone else is wearing them (3) there are shockingly traditional and very uptight people you can't bear to offend who you know for a fact will notice such things. And there is only one reason to rent a tux: you're going to be on stage at a wedding and the couple has insisted that you must match their party.

Rental tuxes look and feel terrible, and most modern notch-lapel tuxes are very similar in cut to a business suit. Given a choice between a nice suit and a cheap tux, I'd definitely go with the suit.

Assuming you've got (or want to get) a well tailored very dark suit, spend your money on a nice white shirt with french cuffs and perhaps a nice (and not pre-tied) bow tie in a finish that matches the suit. You'll look more appropriate than 90% of the guests, and far better than you'll achieve with a rental tux. Wear the simplest all-black shoes you've got.

If you don't already have (or want to acquire) a nice dark suit, it's time to go thrift-store tux shopping. Leave enough time and money for tailoring.
posted by eotvos at 10:14 AM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

And put your foot down with your wife. "I'm wearing a suit and that's final."

There are so many potential battles to fought, so many possible instruments of marital discord, why create one over a suit? For ONE NIGHT?

Seriously, it's one night. Grow up and buy, rent, or borrow a tux. Your B-I-L has every right to have a black tie party, and to expect that the grownups invited will comply without whining about it. Not only that, but believe me when I tell you that few thngs are sexier than a man dressed in a well-fitting tux.
posted by Dolley at 10:23 AM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

That's a really small hill you're trying to die on. I mean, maybe your brother-in-law is a self-important jerk who just wants to be at the center of attention, but your response is a little extreme here. There is no tux police. You will not be arrested. I'm sure there's a way for you to compromise, but not if you're going to be contemptuous and mocking of her family's more formal approach to parties.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:39 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Can your wife confirm with 100% certainty that he wants you wearing a tuxedo? I only ask because I've attended "black tie" affairs and not a single man wore a tux.

So instead of guessing, just ask, and if he says tux, then it would be polite to wear a tux. This is not the time to draw a line in the sand about "I'll dress how I want." You'll probably look very handsome.
posted by kinetic at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

[Couple comments removed, please keep this more in constructive territory and less in fantasizing-about-showing-that-jerk territory.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:50 AM on January 28, 2015

I don't know why people are so upset about a black tie party. People have ugly sweater parties and other sorts of parties where there is a dress code. FWIW, I attend a few black tie events a year so own my own.

$200 would be a very extravagant tuxedo rental. It's going to be more like $75-100. Just go to a Mens Wearhouse or some other such chain and get one for the night. They often have some sort of deal.

Regardless if other people are going to disregard the dress code, that is not permission for you to do so. Despite the disdain broadcast with terms such as "monkey suit", you will probably find that you had a fun time at this black tie event. Please don't be a grump at the party.
posted by Tanizaki at 10:58 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

What social group your brother in law runs in comes into play a little bit here, but I can tell you that in some circles, the difference between "black tie" and "black tie optional" is a significant one -- a black suit flies at the latter but not the former. And in those circles, it is not true that 99% of the crowd can't tell the difference between a suit and a tux -- they are different things and people notice.

My advice is to buy, not rent, a decent tux. Though people call it a monkey suit, they treat you differently when you're wearing one, and if you get the thing tailored like you should, you get to feel like James Freaking Bond. And then wear the thing 2-3 times a year. Not just to fancy parties, but to date night with your wife or the next time you go see a play. And then weddings, black tie events, etc. can all be handled with less drama and more James Bond.
posted by craven_morhead at 11:37 AM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

You are being ungracious. Dress as requested, or don't go. When you are requested to wear a tux and refuse to, nothing else you wear will be "dressing appropriately" (though it is fine to clarify--once--whether he literally means "tux" or just "very fancy").

Don't wear a tuxedo to a funeral unless you're a super-spy just off a long night of gambling and you're dropping by to assassinate a head of state. Or, as with all things and the actual question, DO wear a tuxedo to a funeral if the guest of honor requested it.
posted by c'mon sea legs at 11:41 AM on January 28, 2015 [11 favorites]

If you don't want to wear a tux, don't go.

But if you do go, then accept that it is not your party, not your day, not your rules.
Don't be the guy who goes to a costume party with no costume.
Even worse, don't be the guy who does wear the costume, but belly aches about it so loudly that they spoil it for everyone else.
posted by Flood at 11:54 AM on January 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

Yeah, a tuxedo isn't funeral wear. It's formal dinner-hour wear, and for a formal dinner party, it's totally reasonable to ask people to dress accordingly. You do not need to spend $200 to rent a tuxedo, even if you want to avoid a super-cheap prom night kind of look. And given that your wife, who is presumably also attending this shindig, is going to have to purchase her own black-tie-appropriate outfit, grousing about the cost of a rental tuxedo is not going to come off particularly well.

If you don't want to be told what to wear to this party, don't go. But don't decide to accept half of the invitation and disregard the other half; the invitation is for a black-tie party, so if you're going to go, dress appropriately.
posted by KathrynT at 12:15 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tux for a funeral or a wedding perhaps. But a 50th birthday party?
Why not a 50th birthday?* This is the thing: because nobody dresses up for anything anymore, your brother-in-law's choice to specifically set a black tie dress code for his party means that it's important to him.

Being at an elegant event where everyone is dressed to the nines is (or should be, at least) really fun and special, precisely because nobody does it anymore. Like Flood said, don't be the guy who wrecks it for everyone else by either showing up in a suit or by spending the whole night being grumpy about having to wear a tuxedo.

A rental shouldn't cost $200 (unless perhaps you're getting raked over the coals as part of a wedding party; prices for everything go through the roof as soon as somebody says "wedding") and there are plenty of places on Ebay and elsewhere who sell ex-rental packages outright. I found my own current dinner jacket at a thrift store for $6, basically brand new. If it helps, try thinking of the cost of renting or buying a tux as part of your birthday present to your brother-in-law. If it doesn't help, then send your regrets and stay home.

*(Definitely no tux at a funeral, and only at a wedding if it's after 6:00 PM)
posted by usonian at 1:06 PM on January 28, 2015 [4 favorites]

yes you are being difficult for no good reason. this is something you are doing for your wife, not your brother-in-law. it doesn't even come close to being too much for her to ask of you.
posted by nadawi at 1:50 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

Nthing you've overestimated the price of a rental tux. Think of it as the tuition you pay to show a measure of loyalty and respect for your wife and her family. It's a bargain.

But then there's the bit about upsetting my wife, who is rigid about stuff like this, and perhaps looking out of place --

Actually you sound pretty "rigid" about this stuff too, OP. You're probably not the biggest fan of your BIL - maybe that's bugging you.

even though I know there would be many others not wearing the monkey suit.

I wouldn't be so sure about that. Time to take this one for Team Your Wife.
posted by hush at 2:01 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can actually buy a tux at JCPenney for about $100-150 depending on sales. They're sold as separates, and you could buy the coat if you already have black pants. Tux pants *should* have satin stripes, but no one would notice.

I wear a tux with a plain non-button down white shirt. Yes, there is a wing collar shirt that is traditional with tux, but if a standard collar is good enough for James Bond, it's good enough for me. Ideally you would also have a black bow tie (about $10) and a cummerbund (ditto), but you could probably get away without the cummerbund.
posted by randomkeystrike at 2:12 PM on January 28, 2015

Do you like your b-i-l? Do you want to wish him well and for him to have a good time? Is this a discretionary cost? If yes, play along, wear the tux and enjoy the occasion.

Are they objectionable folks, with horrible manners and opinions you find odious? Would your wife be ok with not attending or going solo? Would renting/buying a tux be a real hardship? If so, save the money, stay home and watch tv.
posted by bonehead at 2:53 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Personally I hate tuxedos and just wear a black suit with white shirt and black tie. No one bats an eye.
posted by dfriedman at 3:12 PM on January 28, 2015

"Tux for a funeral"...

This is not an area in which you have enough knowledge to consider flaunting rules. "Tux for a funeral" is not a thing that happens. Tuxedo = "dinner jacket," with the rules for time of day that that implies. Wikipedia is not ambiguous on this one: "The tuxedo is a form of evening wear and as such is intended to be worn only in the evening."
posted by kmennie at 4:37 PM on January 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

Don't die on this hill.

Wear the damn tux or don't go.

You can buy a decent tux for less than the rental cost you've been quoted. (I'm not sure where you are, but randomkeystrike's JC Penny suggestion seemed to me a good one. Another option is Marks & Spencers, where I bought a dinner suit (tuxedo) for around £120. Marks delivers to Canada, so I imagine they'll deliver to the States, too. My modest Marks & Sparks dinner suit is still going strong after nearly a decade of use, including near weekly wearings for several years.)

No one whose opinion you ought to care about will mind if you don't have the nicest dinner suit, but at least one person whose opinion you ought to care about will mind if you're aren't wearing one at all. The goal is understated sexiness, not ostentatiousness, nor boorish resentment.

If you have any interest in more than the basics, aim for a modestly priced dinner suit and a much nicer shirt and tie -- there are some very, very cool bow ties out there!

Even when imposed upon you, these sorts of adult dress-up games can be a lot of fun, and most every man looks close to his best in a tuxedo. Go for the self-tie bow tie, learn to tie it, and then towards the end of the night you can undo it and leave it askew -- my wife finds *nothng* in my wardrobe to be as sexy as that look, and I've heard many concurring opinions. Remember: you will look very good in your tuxedo even if you secretly despise it with all your heart.

And don't forget, as has been mentioned, that you have it very, very easy compared to your wife.
posted by alaaarm at 7:35 PM on January 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

I flipping hate dressing up, and I totally sympathize with you here. Whether it's $200 or $20, the idea of having to shell out for some uncomfortable, one-off outfit you don't want to wear for what feels like an arbitrary reason would totally put me off, too. So for whatever it's worth, know that you're not the only person who would feel pretty "ugh" about the tuxedo thing.

However, I have to agree with everyone that your choice here (once you've confirmed that tuxes really are expected) isn't between "tux or no tux" - it's between "tux or stay home." I think the path of least resistance is to just let it go - get the tux, go to the party, and have a good time.

If you haven't yet turned 50 yourself, perhaps you can entertain yourself by fantasizing about your own party's dress code while you're out getting your tux. EVERYONE looks good in a chicken costume ...
posted by DingoMutt at 7:41 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is totally random speculation on my part, but... is your brother-in-law married? Your original post doesn't indicate either way, but part of me wonders whether, if he has in fact never been married, and hasn't gotten to host a wedding (and doubts he'd ever get to at this point), he's using the milestone birthday as an occasion in which to hold a fancy celebration in his honor that is similar in spirit. It can be lousy to see other people arrange their weddings and feel like you will never have one of your own, and maybe he's just seized on his 50th birthday celebration as an opportunity to have his own "special day" without waiting to find someone else first. If so, maybe it would be helpful for you to think of the birthday in those terms, or to treat it as being asked to dress up for a "wedding" or other special milestone event in a loved one's life.

Regardless, I agree with most people that following your brother-in-law's wishes, and doing something relatively minor that would make your wife happy, is worth it in this case. I'm not a fan of dressing up either, and it's frustrating to spend money to attend a party when you're not totally on board, but it is just not worth it to hold your ground for this particular party.

Good luck!
posted by jennyesq at 9:48 PM on January 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

You are being ungracious. My husband and I are going out for a 41st birthday party on Saturday night. The party is comprised of a large group dinner at a restaurant (not a private space), which is my least favorite way to get together with people. I will be stuck talking to the same two people for the whole dinner. It's at 6pm (we usually eat at 8pm). We will certainly drop at least $250 at this meal. It's in an inconvenient location. We'll be paying another $75 or so to the babysitter. We're not rich.

But this is one of my good friends, this is how she wants to celebrate, and we're going. My friend has had an especially hard year, and she doesn't ask for much otherwise. I feel lucky that my husband just raised his eyebrows skeptically and said "okay" when I told him what we were doing.

Consider yourself lucky! And tell your wife sorry that you were being a grouch. This is one of those things that the goodwill payoff from your wife and BIL will far, far outweigh the PITA quotient of getting and wearing the tux.
posted by tk at 7:54 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

You sound rather annoyed, and so I'm imagining what I would do if I were as annoyed in this situation. I'd buck some of the folks here and wear the most obnoxiously colored tux I could find. If it's specifically black tie and not "Tuxedo" I would go all out and wear a mourning suit or top hat and cane. Anything to be brat.

That's how I deal with this petty sort of family anger.
posted by frecklefaerie at 5:44 PM on January 30, 2015

what you say if you wear a tux: I respect your opinion to have your birthday as ritzy ditzy as you please, anyway you want, it doesn't even matter if I think you are spoiled because you are family. also I understand normal social cues

what you say if you wear a suit: you don't deserve my respect / I am unhappy to be here

what you say if you wear jeans: pay attention to me, I am so great, screw you everybody especially you, brother in law, I am an antisocial monster
posted by saucy_knave at 8:51 AM on February 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

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