My wedding is quickly approaching (October 12, 2013) so I’ve finally decided to get serious about buying my tuxedo, which is what’s prompted this post where I’ll share tips for buying a tuxedo.

Granted, I set myself up for failure several months ago, but I’ve since bounced back. Let me explain.

Living in New York City provides a decent amount of tuxedo choices, but for some crazy reason my very first stop was at Bergdorfs, and that’s where I tried on a Tom Ford tuxedo. And it was expensive. As in, really really expensive.

For some reason I became fixated on wearing a Tom Ford tuxedo, which would be great if I were Justin Timberlake and didn’t have to pay for it myself, but I’m not. This sucker was pushing $5,000. And then I still had to buy shoes, the shirt, a bow tie and other accessories. By the time I was done I could have practically purchased three Vespas!

Fast forward to last weekend, and I still didn’t have a tuxedo.

Tips for Buying a Tuxedo

My First Tuxedo

The idea of forking out the money for the Tom Ford just didn’t make sense, so I convinced myself to look for something a bit more affordable.james-bond-skyfall-dark-blue-tuxedo

And not just affordable, it also had to fit well off the rack to position me to have a great fitting tuxedo after alterations were made. Many stores had fine selections, but in the end Hugo Boss had a great option that fit my body type well. I originally tried theirs on one month ago, but when I finally went to buy it over the weekend the specific tuxedo I originally looked at was not available.

While the original Hugo Boss option wasn’t available, they had a very similar one, but it had two major differences: they added a ticket pocket (small pocket on the left side above the normal pocket placement) and it was a dark charcoal grey.

The style itself worked, and it again fit well, but the charcoal bothered me. The sales person convinced me it would be OK, so I bought it and told him I’d come back in a few weeks for alterations.

Upon leaving the store, my mind just wouldn’t leave the charcoal color alone. It didn’t seem classic. And when it comes to a tuxedo, in my opinion, pulling off an amazing classic look is important; you just don’t screw with a look that has lasted the test of time.

As I walked home later that day I passed a couple outside of The Plaza Hotel; she was in a fantastic red dress and he was in a tux. His tux just looked perfect. That’s when I thought, “He can wear that thing 10 years from now and it’s still going to look amazing.” Based on that thought,  I knew that the charcoal tux was a mistake and that I didn’t want to make a purchase based on modern design elements that very well could be out of style in a year. The Hugo Boss option had to be returned. And so I did exactly that the very next day.

My Second Tuxedo

I had a tux, and then I didn’t.

But what I did know is that I wasn’t going to sacrifice what I wanted based on an extra $500 – $1,000. And no, I’m not Moneybags McGee or anything along those lines, but it’s my wedding and I need to do it up right. Not to mention, based on what I’ve heard, my fiancee has a stunning dress, so I can’t stand next to her looking like a hot mess. This thing has to be fantastic!

I opted to bypass smaller stores and immediately had it in my mind that I would visit the higher end department stores (Barneys, Saks etc) to get this sorted out. As I walked along Central Park South, originally heading to Barneys, I decided that I would first stop at Bergdorfs. It’s an all around fantastic store that has wildly helpful sales people, and they almost always have amazing options. And before you go thinking I’m Moneybags, when I go to Bergdorfs I always wonder who can buy a $500 this and a $750 that, and what they do for work. But darn it, this is my wedding outfit and I’m making it happen!

So there I was in Bergdorfs. Tom Ford. Ralph Lauren. You name it, it was there. And they all looked like they would work for James Bond. But I’m not James freaking Bond! I’m an average height guy that is fit up top, and blessed with a little more butt and thigh muscle than the average designer plans for. Clearly they’ve yet to figure out I have the perfect body type.

After trying on a few options and deciding on the lapel style I wanted, I found THE tuxedo. It was classic, it was black, it had an amazing fit, and it just all around looked wonderful. There is of course a “but.”

But the problem cropped up when I went to put the pants on. For this particular designer I wore a 38 Regular for the jacket, and the 32 inch waist pants fit me like freaking spandex. Ugh! Something had to give, literally.

They can’t mix and match tuxedo jackets and pants, so I was fearing that I was going to have to start from scratch again. This also made me finally understand the pain women can go through when trying to find a bikini that works on the top and bottom.

Made to measure would have been an option two weeks ago, but the wedding is too close to make that happen. As the situation seemed to be getting worse, an idea came to mind.

They were going to have to let the 38 Regular out in a couple spots, so I said, “What if I bump up to a 40 Short, and then alter it to tighten things up. Ding, ding, ding!

I slapped on the jacket and it fit pretty well. Then you add a pinch here and a pinch there, and it basically had the same exact fit as the 38 Regular. The pants fit perfect, and that’s when I said, “Ok, this is my tuxedo!”

I’m not going to share all the details about the tux until after the wedding (sorry, it feels like good luck to wait), but it did cost more than I originally wanted to pay. Let’s just say it was more than $1,500 and less than $2,500. While the price did sting a bit, when I left Bergdorfs I was 100% confident that I made the right decision. And when you walk down the isle, the last thing you need to worry about is if you made the right tuxedo decision.

Six Tuxedo Buying Tips for Men

1. Be honest with yourself about your body type. If you know sizing is going to be an issue, pass Go and start looking for made to measure options. You’ll also want to make sure you give yourself at least 2.5 months to have it made and altered. It very well may take less time than that, but various factories shut down for various reasons, and you don’t want to get in a bind.

2. Decide on the lapel. Tuxedos generally come in three lapel styles: peak, notch and shawl. Peak literally peaks towards the top, notch is just a notch (kind of like a cutout triangle) and shawl is a bit more rounded in nature. Once you determine the type of lapel you like, that will guide you in the right direction from a look standpoint. A sample of the various lapel types can be seen below.

tuxedo_lapel_styles3. Material matters. I’m not going to reference various types of fabric, but if you put the tuxedo jacket on and feel like your body temperature just jumped 20 degrees, abandoned ship! Some fabrics breathe more than others, and you’re going to have this sucker on for a while, so you need to be able to maintain a remotely normal body temperature. Imagine wearing a warm tuxedo when you’re walking down the isle or saying the “I do’s.” Or if you’re like me and terrified of dancing, that first dance could become a sauna!

4. Be smart when buying the shirt. Bergdorfs had a stunning tuxedo shirt, but it was $600. No joke. $600 for a shirt. That you might only wear once. That’s a bit to rich for my blood, so I found a very similar option elsewhere for less. You can get wrapped up in quality and all that jazz, but the reality is that your shirt, for the most part, is covered up. You’ll want to make sure it has a good fit just in case the jacket comes off at some point during the night, but you certainly don’t need the finest material known to man. This is an area you can save a couple bucks.

5. Neck wear is important. Tie or bow tie? If you’re feeling a bit more traditional like I am, you’re probably going to go with a bow tie. If you’re going with a standard tie you don’t have a ton to worry about because they aren’t overly complicated. Again, if you’re like me, you’ve not tied many bow ties. If that’s the case, don’t be ashamed for getting a pre-tied bow tie. And no, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. People will notice your overall package of an outfit on the big day, but I guarantee you that they’re going to  look at your lapel, your shoes, and yes, your bow tie. If you don’t go with a pre tied option, make sure you are a pro at tying it so that it looks great. Get the knot right. Get the bows right. You’ve been warned. And before  you feel ashamed about wearing a pre-tied bow tie, you should know that the Tom Ford bow tie is pre-tied. As in, he doesn’t give you any other option because he wants his bow ties to have the perfect look.

6. The damn shoes matter. Guys are notorious for thinking the shoes don’t matter, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I promise. If you ignore the shoes you’re going to look back at your wedding photo and regret not shelling out for better shoes. Some will tell you that you can get away with a standard pair of black shoes, but if you’ve made it this far in this article, you’re committed to looking good, so don’t drop the ball and wear standard black shoes. Patent leather shoes are your friend! You’ll need to decide if you want lace up or slip ons (a classic look), and then find a pair that are comfortable. Keep in mind you’ll potentially be on your feet for several hours, and dancing, so you need something that’s not going to be super uncomfortable. Get the right pair and you’ll feel like a million bucks.

So there you have it. My little story about buying my first tuxedo, and six tuxedo buying tips for men that will help you buy your first, or next, tuxedo. Yes, there are many other tips that could be provided, but these six were very important to me as I look back on the process.

Written by Ryan
Ryan is a southern guy now living in New York City. From business to casual, his style covers a broad spectrum. He loves a great suit, but also appreciates the freedom of an un-tucked shirt and letting loose. Find him on Twitter at @RyanShell.