Two guys were chatting at a bar. One told the other that he needed to order a bespoke tuxedo in time for his upcoming 30th birthday. His friend asked him if he had a big event or party he was planning. He didn’t. And this was his response: “My Dad always told me, you should have a custom tuxedo made for your 30th. And you should make sure you can fit into it for the rest of your life. It’s an investment, it’s classic, and it proves that you’re doing well in life to be able to invest in custom. Not only that, it will always remind you what kind of shape you were in when you were in your prime.”
I love this sentiment. There is something about going for the plunge and getting a custom tuxedo that says you’ve made it. And if you’re going to get one (and you really only need one tuxedo) then you’d better get it right. While there are many excellent custom tailored clothing studios in Manhattan and beyond, this week I’m zooming in on the classic yet modern aesthetic at Michael Andrews Bespoke. I sat down with VP of Operations Cory Sylvester to get his take on what makes for a classic bespoke tuxedo that will ensure you’re the sharpest looking man at the party.
Black, blue or white?
“When guys come in looking for a tuxedo they want to go traditional as they know this will be the only tuxedo they will need and they want it to last,” says Cory. “They generally think they want black, which always looks good, but I like to remind them that midnight blue is also a very classy option.”
Actually the first tuxedo ever made was midnight blue, not black, when it was first commissioned by Edward VII way back in 1861. The reason it looks sharp is the subtle contrast of the black satin lapel against the very dark blue, which gives an incredible depth of contrast that photographs well.
And then there’s always the option of a white dinner jacket, for a very Sean Connery James Bond look.
How your tux feels and drapes is also of utmost importance. Though fabrics and styles differ at various custom shops, Michael Andrews offers a barathea weave (which has a very slight knit-like feel as opposed to being completely flat and looks good against the satin lapel and the stripe of satin on down the trouser leg). They had the mill Dormeil make this fabric available in the deepest darkest midnight blue for customers who want to go that route.
A second option is a mohair blend – 90 percent mohair and ten percent worsted wool. You can get this in a ten ounce fabric or for guys who seem to heat up at formal events, a lighter weight eight ounce “super brio” will help you keep your cool. Might be a good choice for grooms when they are waiting at the altar!
A peak lapel or a shawl collar – take your pick – but never, ever, do a notch lapel on a tuxedo. It’s just not a classic look, Cory warns.
“Even though you might see Prada doing a notch lapel on tuxedos to be different or edgy, it’s just wrong,” he says, “It makes me cringe!”
The majority of Cory’s clients opt for a peak lapel and he suggests they go for a slightly fuller, wider lapel than they might wear with a regular suit. The lapel itself can be a smooth duchess satin or a slightly textured grosgrain, depending on what suit fabric you choose. And while velvet can be a very distinct, fashion-forward, look on a lapel it’s generally too seasonal and wouldn’t look right for a summer wedding or event so stick to satin for versatility.
The jacket should always be single button (never two unless you go for double breasted but that’s a whole look, and blog post, of its own). Jetted (aka straight) pockets, no flaps – which are too casual for formalwear.
As for vents at the back of the jacket, while the most classic look is ventless for a tuxedo, Cory believes that two side vents is actually a more flattering look. It creates a higher leg line and is more functional and comfortable for a slim fit.
Below the belt
No belt, no belt loops on a tux. Michael Andrews offer a signature waistband with a slim strip of satin, which means you don’t have to deal with a cummerbund. And the half-inch braid of satin that runs down the leg would match the satin on your lapel.
As for the length of your tuxedo trousers, Cory suggests a light break when it comes to formal wear (meaning the trouser leg just hits the top of your shoe). If you’re wearing a tux there’s a good chance you’ll be getting your picture taken standing up, especially at a wedding, most definitely if you are the groom, so you never want to see the trouser leg bunched up at the shoe.
The Extras: Shirts and shoes and bowties
The most modern but still classic look for a tuxedo shirt is a white textured fabric, classic semi-spread collar and always French cuffs – no bibs or pleats necessary. You can opt for four stud holes or, for a more minimal look, a covered placket where a smooth strip of fabric covers the buttons completely.
Ferragamo makes an excellent formal shoe in black velvet or patent leather – patent leather is a more year-round and versatile look.
And for bowties, hand tied, please, but you knew that already, right?
Feel free to reach out with any questions, and if you need someone to guide you through the process further, give me a shout.