Should I buy a tuxedo?
January 12, 2007 8:07 PM   Subscribe

Is buying a tux worth it? I've got a black tailored suit already, but I'm attending a "black tie" wedding in less than two months, and starting to think I might get enough mileage out of a tux to make it worthwhile. As they say, it pays for itself if you wear it twice.

I've already asked around and the consensus among a couple NYC fashion editor friends is that you only need to own a tux if you're planning on a career in politics. Is that just because they're very fashion forward, or can I really get away with a sharp black suit at black tie events for the rest of my life?
posted by paul_smatatoes to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Should I buy a tuxedo?

Yes. Not because you need to; because you want to and wearing it is fun.
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:17 PM on January 12, 2007

You definitely can't get away without a tux at a black tie event. But owning a tux doesn't make sense - if you shop around you can rent a very nice tux whenever you need it. The better rental places will keep your measurements on file and hook you up properly.

If you want to add something that's uniquely yours to the whole ensemble invest in a nice bow tie, cummerbund and cufflink and stud set.
posted by aladfar at 8:19 PM on January 12, 2007

No, buy a very nice suit.
posted by exit at 8:21 PM on January 12, 2007

Good God, no. What are you thinking?
posted by unSane at 8:22 PM on January 12, 2007

"... can I really get away with a sharp black suit at black tie events for the rest of my life?"

To some extent, this probably depends on where you live. If you live in NYC, with your fashion editor friends, you'll find you can easily get invites to a lot of black tie parties, if you have the uniform. So, if you like such things, buy your formal duds, including a real tux, a couple of formal shirts, decent studs, a couple good ties, and the patent leather shoes, and go every chance you get. Being a reliable last minute substitute at black tie events, because you've got your uniform in your closet, ready to go on an hour's notice, is half the battle for the socially adventurous young rake looking to broaden his circle of formally aware contacts.

On the other hand, if you live in Cheyenne, spend your money on a Stetson, and nobody will question a black suit anywhere you go.
posted by paulsc at 8:49 PM on January 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Keep in mind that the cost of a tux is not just to buy a tux, but to launder it, iron it, and store it (the last is more just 'where do I put this' than money). Nothing too huge, but something that the tux shop would take care of if you rented.

I have one, though, that I bought when I bought my suit - actually, just tux pants, a tux shirt, and a vest/cufflink/stud set. The jacket is cut so it works either way. You could probably get away with non-tux pants, too.
posted by spaceman_spiff at 8:50 PM on January 12, 2007

2nd what ikkyu2 said.

I had to get one for the student orchestra I was in, and I still wear it any chance I get.

I've never made any connection between tuxedos and politics.
Then again, I'm not a NYC fashion editor.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 8:54 PM on January 12, 2007

I work in showbiz and have been to movie openings (of my OWN movie), award ceremonies, Entertainment Weekly parties, you name it... and I have never seen ANYONE wearing a damn tuxedo.

I did spend a lot of money on a D&G suit which I've worn exactly twice but my wife made me, honest.
posted by unSane at 9:20 PM on January 12, 2007

"I work in showbiz and have been to movie openings (of my OWN movie), award ceremonies, Entertainment Weekly parties, you name it... and I have never seen ANYONE wearing a damn tuxedo.

My motto: if it's good enough for Hugh, it's good enough for you.

Full Disclosure: I am totally gay for Hugh Laurie, so this may or may not have an effect on my opinion.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:36 PM on January 12, 2007

I’ve always wanted to own a Tux—it looks so spiffy, and you can wear it over and over again, unlike a suit, which’ll sort of stand out a bit if you don’t at least change the shirt and tie underneath.
Then again, the only people I’ve seen wearing it are the celebs on TV, so I’m not so sure how practical it’ll be, but hey—if you think you can carry it off—go for it. Just make sure before you do buy it though:)
posted by hadjiboy at 9:43 PM on January 12, 2007

That he owned his own tuxedo despite being a San Francisco tech dork is just one of the ways that Mr. Padraigin won my heart.
posted by padraigin at 9:46 PM on January 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh God yes. If you can afford it, get one. Get the absolute best that you can possibly afford. I so desperately want an excuse to buy one...
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:47 PM on January 12, 2007

I bought one for my wedding instead of renting. I don't expect to wear it frequently, but I wanted to own my own tuxedo. A rental is just that: a tuxedo that mostly fits and that's been worn to 20 proms before you got it. Most rental tuxedos won't be as nice as even a moderately priced tux that you purchase. And, most rental tuxedos have a notched lapel; a proper tuxedo should either have a peak or shawl lapel. It goes on. Most people today know next to nothing about men's formal wear - do a tiny bit of research and then go buy one.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:06 PM on January 12, 2007

Full Disclosure: I am totally gay for Hugh Laurie, so this may or may not have an effect on my opinion.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:36 PM PST on January 12 [+] [!]

Motto: Always read the small print
posted by unSane at 10:09 PM on January 12, 2007

The only reason I can think of not to own a tuxedo is if your weight tends to fluctuate frequently. If you're pretty steady, it's worth it.

Considering the number of very nice cocktail and formal dresses I've owned in my lifetime, it seems like a really economical investment in comparison.
posted by padraigin at 10:16 PM on January 12, 2007

As Dogbert put it: "Even I wouldn't make fun of someone who pays 80 bucks to wear another guy's pants."
posted by spaceman_spiff at 10:18 PM on January 12, 2007

Definitely do it. Even if you don't wear it all that often, you'll feel like a rock star every time you do (or so I've been told). Oh, and chicks (among others) dig it.
posted by decathecting at 10:30 PM on January 12, 2007

Buy one. I owned one in high school (a hand-me-down, but awesomely 60's vintage) and then bought one for my wedding when I was 15 lbs heavier than my high school weight. Granted, I am a musician and am paid to wear it at least several times a year for gigs, I just like having one on hand for when social occasions come up. Tuxes are timeless and fun. Overdressing rarely hurts. And they make a great costume. I got 3 bonus points at the local pub trivia night when the theme was The Oscars and I showed up in a full tux!
posted by nonmyopicdave at 10:40 PM on January 12, 2007

I don't wear my tux that often, but it gives me some difficult-to-define pleasure knowing that I could. I am pleased that I bought one.
posted by Lame_username at 10:53 PM on January 12, 2007

Yes, provided you wear it often. I wear suits infrequently, and the sad fact is that I have changed shape too much for either of the suits I have bought in the last 15 years to fit any more.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:18 PM on January 12, 2007

Find a good tailor and have one custom-made. It will never go out of style and you will feel like James Bond. I have a custom tuxedo that I had made for me in Turin, and it is, without a doubt, my favorite piece of clothing. It's from Leandro, the last elegant tailor in the city and the same guy that makes suits for the Fiat board of directors (except for the Agnellis, who go to a tailor Milan). His phone # is unlisted, but I'm happy to share his contact info with people who may be travelling there and want to find him.
posted by charlesv at 11:46 PM on January 12, 2007

Tuxedos are so yummy. I wish there were more occasions for them & that we could all dress like we're living in a Thin Man movie. Hell, I vote for tails!
posted by miss lynnster at 3:15 AM on January 13, 2007

To be very clear here,"black tie" means tux. Which means that everyone is expected to wear a tux.

Not a suit.

If you go in a suit then you'll stand out as the guy that either didn't understand what "black tie" means or was too cheap to hire a tux. You also run the risk of upsetting the bride and groom.

As for buying over renting, I would rent one and if you find yourself being invited to more and more black tie events then you should think about buying.
posted by mr_silver at 4:09 AM on January 13, 2007

Is there no place nearby that sells used Tuxes? Because it would be so cool to own two. PS. If you ever plan to become a Mason you will need your own tux.
posted by Gungho at 6:00 AM on January 13, 2007

Let's get some definition around "black tie."

If its black tie required, you want a tux. Anything else, you can probably get along fine without one.

Here's the way I see it - can you take your NYC fashion editor friends' advice and make do with a black suit? Probably.

Is it always easier (and more noticeable) to be under-dressed than it is to be over-dressed? Yes.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:41 AM on January 13, 2007

Buy that tuxedo. I'm startled by the number of people in this thread that have said no or suggested alternatives to buying one. As a New Yorker tangentially in the media industry, I'm doubly startled that your "fashion editor friends" said it, too.

Renting a tuxedo is a short-term, cost-effective way to clean up for a formal event. Owning a tuxedo is a long-term, cost-effective way to look your best.

Men's formalwear (suits and tuxes) is designed to emphasize a man's physique. The cut of the suit, the width of the shoulders, the lay of the lapel, the drape of the pant--a properly fitted one makes a good impression every time. Rent a tuxedo, and the shoulders might be a bit too big or too small, or the legs an inch too short or too long, or the pants a wee bit stained on the backside, or who knows what else. It will get you through the event, but it's function first. If you purchase your own tuxedo, you'll be able to find a perfect fit that you'll want to wear, instead of a rented shmatte set that feels like an obligation to don. You'll also get higher quality fabric and style, which will add to its overall appeal.

Whether or not the tuxedo pays for itself depends on your situation. Mine certainly did; I spent $399 on an off-the-rack tux in 2001, just before my "everyone you know is getting married" life phase, and saved hundreds of dollars relative to rentals over the next three years. (I then spent considerably more on a terrific tuxedo for my own wedding, and even that one is probably close to break-even by now.) Accessorizing it with shirt, tie, and cufflinks is a little more money, but it too pays off in time, and it allows you to create a personal and contemporary look that doesn't whisper "prom season."

And no, if you're the kind of person that cares about how he looks, a black suit is not a substitute for a tuxedo. There is a noticeable difference between the two.
posted by werty at 6:49 AM on January 13, 2007

Buy a used one.

If you're in Atlanta, go to Stefan's in Little Five Points. If you're not in Atlanta, I bet there's something similar in a largish town near you. The last one I bought ran me about $170.

And remember - suspenders or a cummerbund.
posted by donpardo at 6:59 AM on January 13, 2007

I think if you want one and can afford one, you should buy one. So much of our fashion lives are driven by the demands and taste of others, if you have a way to jazz up and like it you should take it.

That said, paulsc's comments about where you live should be taken to heart. If you're invited to black tie events on a semi-regular basis, great. However, wearing that tux to a non-black tie wedding would be inappropriate, whether or not the elder fashion gods of n'yrk agree. Most people in the rest of the US would think it weird for you to be in a tux when nobody else but the wedding party was wearing one.

Unless you were serving them drinks.

So be prepared to leave it in the closet in favor of a suit for such weddings. Also of note, though I am sure you know, if you were asked to be in a wedding party it's almost certain your tux will not match what is chosen and you'll have to rent one anyway.
posted by phearlez at 7:06 AM on January 13, 2007

Unless you were serving them drinks.

Maybe I don't go to the right parties, but on the West Coast a tux means you are part of the waitstaff.
posted by b1tr0t at 7:48 AM on January 13, 2007

Adjustable pants! Pre-tied ties! Poly-blend shirts!

For chrissakes, just buy one. Rented tuxedoes look even worse than cheap owned ones.

I don't know who your fashion editor friends are, but apparently they don't get invited to weddings or even the occasional formal party. Maybe they would be happier in L.A.
posted by lackutrol at 9:26 AM on January 13, 2007

On non-preview, Mr. "donpardo" is way wrong. You wear the suspenders in any case. They are there to hold up your pants. Whether you wear a waistcoat or cummerbund is your business, but use one or the other.
posted by lackutrol at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2007

I actually just got back from picking up a rental tux for a black tie event tonight (the last time I wore a tux was for my wedding 9 years ago). As expensive as this rental was, the tux still looks a bit raggedy, and I had to make two trips because the pants were too short. I'll have to make another trip to return it. In short, renting is an expensive pain in the ass. Buy one if you have that option. Your future self will thank you.
posted by Otis at 10:33 AM on January 13, 2007

I own 1 suit and 3.5 sets of formal wear. I wear the formal wear far more often. I also prefer it. I purchased mine from vintage clothing stores and the set of tails that was made in the 30's is one of the finest quality pieces of clothing I've ever had the pleasure of wearing. Despite being formal, the jacket is highly practical, and I love the magician's pockets in the tails.

I own two tuxes, one white, one black. I prefer the black, just for looks, but the white (actually pale cream), is great for summer events.

Then again, I play trumpet and there is more call for the monkey suit under gig circumstances.

Also - if you're unsure, you can very often buy a used rental tux then have a tailor fix it up. I did that for my black tux and it's entirely adequate. It might also be convenient in that if you keep it for a few decades, the waistband has usually has room for expansion through inside belts/clips.
posted by plinth at 11:18 AM on January 13, 2007

My motto: if it's good enough for Hugh, it's good enough for you.

Mr Laurie doubtless bought his first dinner jacket very early: if you're at Oxford or Cambridge, there are more than enough black-tie events to justify the expense. (Mine? About £100 from a factory shop that supplies M&S. More than does the trick.)

I will disagree that it's 'timeless' per se: the shawl collar drifts in and out of fashion, as does the waistcoat vs. cummerbund thing. I'd suggest buying vintage over off-the-peg if you can find a half-decent fit: a good older dinner jacket will have room for tailoring.
posted by holgate at 1:46 PM on January 13, 2007

Well, you never know.

Have you thought of going to the Opera or Symphony? That's a nice place to wear a tux. If you are in fact a musician I am downright shocked that you don't already own one.

Fancy party? Awards ceremony? Just plain want to impress the dress off a hot date? All great times for a tux.

I assume you are in a Big City. None of this except the musician comment applies if you are, for example, in Texas.
posted by ilsa at 4:07 PM on January 13, 2007

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