You’ve got your invitation, you’ve got your tuxedo, but have you got your tuxedo shirt? Wearing a tuxedo is about the details of all its components.
Your tuxedo shirt may seem like a piece that won’t be noticed much, but you would be surprised. In fact, it is one of the essential pieces you will wear with your ensemble.
A good-looking shirt will tie your entire outfit together; it is the foundation to an elegant look. Get the details wrong, and your shirt will stick out like a sore thumb.
The Basics: What is a Tuxedo Shirt?
Tuxedos and bow ties get all the attention for formal events. Have you ever given much thought to the special shirt you must wear along with your special suit?
A tuxedo shirt has different needs and components from a standard dress shirt. It is tempting to think of a tuxedo shirt as just a white dress shirt, but there is a lot more to it than that.
The cuffs, buttons, and accessories are all different from what you wear with standard dress shirts for suits. The entire makeup of the shirt differs, as well, with the front styles and pieces.
To ensure that you are bringing your “A” game with your formal shirt, follow the guidelines below.
Events You Can Wear a Tuxedo Shirt
By now, you probably know the drill: you get an invitation to a wedding or event, and it states “Black-Tie.” You automatically reach for your tuxedo. You will need an appropriate shirt to go along with that!
Besides the black-tie, other formal events and dress codes where a tuxedo shirt will be a wise choice include white tie events, creative black-tie, and even black-tie optional events.
To put it simply, any formal event that requires something more than your standard suit will include a call for a tuxedo shirt.
This shirt stands out from your standard shirt and is not to be worn with a standard suit. Ever. No matter how nice the suit is, you can’t wear a tuxedo shirt with it.
How to Wear a Tuxedo Shirt
Most of the time, when we get dressed, we don’t put too much thought into how our clothing fits us. That’s especially true when choosing casual clothes; if things are slightly large and baggy on us, we don’t mind.
It seems that we prefer it that way for comfort! We wear our pants and our shirt loose for lounging and easy movement.
Formal wear is a very different story, though. If formal clothes are baggy and loose-fitting, it ends up looking sloppy and careless.
Formal clothing demands a perfect fit. Every aspect of your tuxedo must look as though it were designed for only you to wear. Your tuxedo jacket and trousers might be the most noticeable items, but your tuxedo shirt requires attention, too.
First and foremost, wear your tuxedo shirt with confidence. Its purpose is to enhance your exquisite sartorial taste. There are, however, some points you need to achieve to accomplish that:
Fit the Body
Your tuxedo shirt should hug your body while still allowing you to move comfortably. When choosing the best chest size, you should feel like the tuxedo shirt looks both neat and reasonably comfortable.
It should not have a lot of fabric billowing out when you tuck it into your pants. However, if your tux shirt has so little material that you can’t move freely, then it is too small. That’s no good, either.
The tuxedo shirt should be as slim as possible without making you fear the shirt will rip with each move you make. Ideally, look for a tux shirt that is gently tapered at the waist.
To confirm it is a good fit, look at the shoulders. The shoulder seams should end right at the very tip of your shoulders.
Fit the Neck
When you try on your tuxedo shirt, button it all the way up. You should have no difficulty inserting two fingers between your collar and your neck.
If you cannot easily do so, then the neck is too tight for you and should be discarded immediately. A tuxedo shirt that is that tight on you is an awkward sight and very unpleasant to wear, to say the least!
If there is a spare room when you insert your fingers, then the tuxedo shirt is too large. If the neck is visibly loose around the collar, it is too large for you. That extra fabric will bunch up when you put on your tie, looking very unattractive.
Fit the Sleeves
To know if your tuxedo shirt sleeves fit you well, pay attention to the cuffs. Where do they fall when you stand with your arms relaxed at your sides?
They should end right at the break in your wrist. If your sleeve ends too far above your wrist, it looks awkward. Too far below, and your wrist looks sloppy and careless.
The cuff needs to be the correct width as well. It should not be so tight that you can’t push your sleeve up or down or even fit a watch on your wrist. However, it should not be so loose that it droops below the wrist or has a very large opening.
Ideally, when you have your tuxedo jacket on, your shirt sleeve should peek out. If ½” to ¼” pokes out past your jacket sleeve, your tuxedo shirt is a good fit.
Tuxedo Shirt Colors
Wearing a tuxedo does not always mean that you need to be a complete clone of every other man in the room. There are ways you can personalize your look and add little touches of your own style, both big and small.
One big way to set yourself apart is by your color choice for your tuxedo shirt. I’m not talking about crazy colors that were popular in the 60s and 70s. There are more subtle and appropriate ways to incorporate a change of pace.
White Tuxedo Shirt
Before getting excited to have a differently colored tuxedo shirt, it must be said that white is the most formal option. It always looks crisp and bright; it is a classic for a reason. White is a risk-free color that you are most likely to feel at home in.
If the event is entirely formal, you must go with a white tuxedo shirt. A very formal event is not the place to try to shake things up. Stick with tradition.
Solid Color Tuxedo Shirts
Can you guess what the second most popular color is for tuxedo shirts today? It’s black! Black is a very trendy and modern choice for a tuxedo shirt, but not the most formal. It definitely makes your tuxedo more casual.
If you are attending a creative black-tie event, why not try another light shade for your tuxedo shirt? Pale pink or a light blue can be stunning with a black tuxedo.
In either of these instances, you will need to be certain that the occasion is not a standard black-tie event. If your host expects the highest formality, a colored tuxedo shirt is not the right choice.
Tuxedo Shirt Collar Styles
A shirt collar is such a small detail that perhaps you’d be tempted to think that it doesn’t merit much thought. Au contraire! The style of your collar can make a world of difference for your tuxedo shirt.
The collar sits so close to the focal point, your face, that it is important to get this detail just right. One false move here can throw your whole outfit out of whack.
A tuxedo shirt collar is not your standard dress shirt collar. You will find no button-down collars here! Therefore, wingtip and semi-spread are the most common and acceptable choices for a black-tie ensemble.
Wingtip collars are the most formal and elegant option you can wear. The entire collar does not fold down over itself, like a standard collar.
The points on this type of collar fold out, like wings. It is only suitable to wear with tuxedos.
Choosing a wingtip collar for your tuxedo shirt is best for showing off your bowtie. Just remember that because there is no collar folding down around the back of the neck, your entire tie band will be visible.
That means that it is even more crucial that you don’t don a clip-on bow tie.
Spread collars are the most common types of collars on shirts. The term “spread” refers to the distance between the points of the collar.
Points and angles can vary, but a semi-spread collar has a shorter distance between the collar points than a regular spread.
Semi-spread collars are good for all levels of formality. They work for both suits and tuxedos and can accommodate all types of ties.
A tuxedo shirt with a semi-spread collar is a little less formal than a wingtip collar but still a very nice choice to wear.
Tuxedo Shirt Cuffs Styles
The cuff of a shirt is the layer of fabric where the shirt ends on your arm. It involves some bordering so that the fabric doesn’t just come to an unfinished end.
Unsurprisingly, there are different styles of formalwear. Whether you choose the standard barrel cuff or the chic French cuffs for your tuxedo shirt, you are making a safe choice.
Your cuffs won’t be very visible unless you remove your tuxedo jacket. When your jacket is on, you should only get a hint of your cuff if your tuxedo shirt is a perfect fit.
French cuffs are the ultimate style for tuxedo shirts. They are mostly only found on formalwear and are tres chic.
French cuffs are distinguished by their open ends. They are not enclosed at the bottom but rather rolled up one time.
The sides of the cuffs are secured together with cufflinks. This is an excellent opportunity to accessorize and work in a bit of self-expression.
French cuffs are the most formal option for tuxedo shirt cuffs.
Convertible cuffs look like a normal sleeve cuff that most people are used to. However, one key feature distinguishes this tuxedo shirt cuff style from the standard barrel cuff.
Convertible cuffs are, by definition, barrel cuffs that convert into french cuffs. They can have a standard button enclosure or they can be converted to use cufflinks over their modified buttonholes.
The ability to accommodate the cuff for cufflinks is what makes them applicable to the tuxedo code. On the other hand, the standard barrel cuffs are common for dress shirts and are worn with a suit.
Convertible cuffs are certainly a more casual option than the French cuffs but are perfectly acceptable to wear with on tuxedo shirt.
Tuxedo Shirt Plackets
A shirt placket is a fabric strip with buttonholes and buttons running down the center of a tuxedo shirt. This extra fabric is sewn onto the shirt, creating another layer of material.
Who knew that even this small section of a shirt could be stylized? And yet, here we are. This proves once again that when it comes to formalwear, the devil truly is in the details.
This style is also known as a plain front style and is only suitable to wear with tuxedos.
The top buttons on this placket are often removed and left as open buttonholes. This is done so that you may insert button studs instead.
Standard buttons are considered taboo on a tuxedo shirt and are usually either covered up or completely removed.
This is the most common style for shirts of all varieties. The fabric here is folded back on itself and is sewn down. You will see this on almost all business-style shirts.
It is appropriate for tuxedo shirts, too, but considered a lower level of formality.
This style is also referred to as the French front. In this look, there is no extra strip of fabric down the center. It creates a very sleek and clean look. It’s quite modern and plain.
This style is excellent for both casual and formal ensembles. However, it is the least formal of all the placket options.
This placket is otherwise known as a “fly front.” It involves an extra layer of material over the buttons, essentially hiding them. It is a rather ingenious way not to have to worry about your buttons.
A covered placket produces a smooth and clean look. It is on the higher end of the formal scale, so it is always appropriate for your tuxedo.
Tuxedo Shirt Front Styles
Tuxedo shirts often feature a panel of extra fabric down the center. This is known as pleats or commonly referred to as the bib. It is this piece of fabric that sets tuxedo shirts apart from almost all other dress shirts.
In other words, the bib is a feature that adds style to the front tuxedo shirt placket and can be worn only with a tuxedo. For the highest formality, shirts worn with a tuxedo should have pleats.
Pleated Tuxedo Shirt Front
Pleats are folds in fabric that are secured at each end with stitching. You will find horizontal pleats on a cummerbund and vertical ones on some tuxedo shirts.
For this tuxedo shirt style, there are pleats on either side of the buttons. They run up and down the entire length of the tuxedo shirt and are made from the same fabric as the rest of the shirt.
Pleats are a very traditional look, and for a long time have been considered the standard for a tuxedo shirt. For a more modern take on a pleated tuxedo shirt, try one with narrower pleats.
Pique Bib Tuxedo Shirt Front
For a very clean look, try a pique bib front tuxedo shirt. With this tuxedo shirt style, a different and stiffer material is sewn onto the shirt’s front center.
The fabric is heavier than the rest of the shirt and textured. It is usually woven and has dimples in the fabric. It is a very subtle effect.
A pique bib front is a bit more formal than pleats. In fact, it was originally only used for white tie tuxedos.
Plain Tuxedo Shirt Front
For the ultimate in simplicity and minimalism, try a no pleat front tuxedo shirt. Just as the name implies, it is plain and unadorned.
A no pleat front shirt is sleek, modern, and crisp. It is also the least formal of all tuxedo shirts, so weigh this choice against the background of the event.
Ruffled Tuxedo Shirt Front
Ruffles were a major trend in the 1970s. That decade of decadence pretty much ruined the look for an entire generation. The style went way overboard with its oversized ruffles.
However, there is redemption for this style. By adding a modern twist to ruffles, it is a look that is once again fun and brimming with personality.
Ruffles are not for the most formal events. But it is definitely a look to keep in mind when attending an event that is creative and a little bit different.
Tuxedo Shirt Fabrics
The material that your tuxedo shirt is made from is critical. It is important that you get the right fabric in terms of both style and comfort. You want something crisp and good-looking. Different weaves get different results and effects.
Though you certainly have options here, you will want to stay away from synthetics in your tuxedo shirt. They may cost less, but they don’t breathe well so you will end up a hot and sweaty mess.
Cotton is an organic material that is both crisp and comfortable. It is naturally lightweight and airy.
This makes it ideal for situations where you may get overheated. From being outside in hot weather or dancing up a storm on the dance floor, cotton will offer you some relief.
Another benefit of cotton is that it looks stunning when juxtaposed against your tuxedo jacket’s heavy material.
The contrast between the light and the dark and the weighty material versus the tuxedo shirt’s airy cloth creates a beautiful image.
Twill vs. Broadcloth Tuxedo Shirts
Both of these materials are a variation on a cotton weave. The way a fabric is woven can affect its appearance and the way it feels.
Twill is a tight weave, creating a fabric that is heavier and warmer. It has a bit of a shine to it and is textured with a diagonal weave.
Twill drapes very nicely, falling easily over curves. It is also somewhat resistant to wrinkles.
Broadcloth is also tightly woven, but it has hardly any visible texture or sheen. Another, possibly more common, term for broadcloth is poplin. It can be lighter and thinner than other fabrics. As a result, it is a little bit transparent.
Because it is rather thin, broadcloth is quicker to wrinkle.
Tuxedo Shirt Details
The accessories are the fun part of dressing up, and your tuxedo shirt gives you opportunities to add some. They allow you to show off a bit of your sense of style, as well as your personality.
Remember that you are still dressing formally, so your accessories should be tasteful. Gaudy colors and designs may have their place and time, but not at a black-tie event.
Cufflinks are splendid. It’s a perfect piece of ornament, both beautiful and elegant. Cufflinks add style to your overall look and enhance the formality of your outfit.
For those who didn’t know, cufflinks are an accessory that enables you to faster your shirt cuffs. They usually come in many forms and shapes.
While some may appear more formal than others to you, it’s actually a matter of personal preference which one to wear.
You can wear cufflinks with tuxedo shirts that feature French cuffs, single cuffs, or convertible cuffs. Start with metal cufflinks like platinum, titanium, or stainless steel, but always match the cufflinks with your button studs.
Standard buttons on your tuxedo shirt are fine, as long as they are hidden with a covered placket, for example. A beautiful option, however, is button studs.
Button studs are placed into the holes of both sides of the tuxedo shirt so that they can fasten it firmly. You will not find these accessories on standard dress shirts.
They are a great way to up the level of your formality and create a very polished look. As such, they are usually made of stainless steel.
Be sure that they match your cufflinks if you go that route. They can be very simple or ornate; either way, they are always elegant to wear.
Pockets on a tuxedo shirt are a huge no. If your shirt has a pocket on it, it isn’t intended to be worn with a tuxedo. It is too casual, and it’s definitely not a tuxedo shirt.
Monogramming is a very subtle touch to your tuxedo shirt and isn’t really meant to be seen. Usually, it involves a very understated color of thread and is put in a spot that is not very noticeable.
It is more of a status symbol than a useful or stylistic touch.
The Bow Tie is the Best Tuxedo Shirt’s Companion
When you see a black bow tie, I suspect that the first thing you think of is a tuxedo. A black tie is the epitome of a formal event. Why else would it be called a “black-tie event”?
A tuxedo shirt is usually matched best with a black bow tie. Although, there may be times when it’s appropriate to spice things up with a very dark blue.
A midnight blue could work, but a truly formal event requires you wear black. Any tuxedo that is not black can still be quite formal but will be appropriate for creative formal events.
The bow tie’s fabric is usually made from the same material as the lapels of your tuxedo jacket. This fabric will be a recurring theme throughout your outfit, used to accentuate many areas of your tuxedo.
And never, never, never use a clip-on bow tie with a tuxedo shirt. It must always be self-tied.
How to Take Care of Your Tuxedo Shirt
The best way to ensure that your tuxedo shirt is kept in top shape is to have it dry cleaned after every use.
Washing it in your regular machine may only result in fading the crispness of your white shirt. Plus, you run the risk of accidentally setting a stain if it isn’t properly washed.
Instead, pay the little extra cash to let your dry cleaner give your special shirt the care it deserves.
One thing that you can do at home for it is to have a good iron on hand. When you are ready to wear your tuxedo shirt for your big night, go over it with your iron at home.
Be sure to follow your iron’s proper settings to make sure that you don’t inadvertently burn your shirt. After you’ve smoothed out any fine wrinkles, your tuxedo shirt will be in tip-top shape for the evening.
Hi, I’m Alex, and I’ve studied and specialized in styling in Rome. Through my writing, I want to help men dress well and learn the purpose and significance of suits and other formal attire. My final goal is to make men more confident in their wardrobe choice and life in general.
Very enlightening, Mr. Stoicoff. I am sure that your readership is eagerly awaiting your article on the proper construction, parts, fit, and fabric of the tuxedo jacket, and pant.
Thank You, Lester, for the kind words and these wonderful ideas for my next blog posts. Best!