A young fashion rebel by the name Griswold Lorillard created a stir by wearing a tail-less jacket to a white-tie-and-tails ball at an exclusive country club event.
The location was Tuxedo Park, New York.
However, Lorillard's jacket kickstarted a new trend.
The tail-less adaptation of the jacket grew in popularity because society was tired of the fastidious tail coat.
Today – the tuxedo is accepted as the norm for evening wear. However, there is still confusion about what constitutes a tuxedo and how it differs from a suit.
A gentleman from Saudi Arabia asked me this question – what is the difference between a suit and a tuxedo?
For some of you – that’s a simple question. But, a majority of men are still confused by the basic details between the two.
I'm going to list three ways to easily tell the difference between suit and tuxedos, along with some useful infographics.
Let’s define them first.
A suit constitutes a jacket and trousers made from the same material. There are leisure suits and there are velvet suits. You'd be surprised to know there are denim suits too… certainly not to be worn in a business environment.
Tuxedos are technically a suit. The garment is better known as a dinner suit in England.
All references to suits in this article are in relation to dark-colored worsted wool suits and not leisure suits.
#1 Tuxedos Are More Formal Than Suits
Tuxedos are the expected to be worn at black tie events. They are considered evening dress and supposed to be worn only in the evening.
It is considered inappropriate to wear a tuxedo before 5pm.
Suits can be worn at any time of the day. They are less formal than tuxedos and can even be considered casual wear if worn without a tie and in light materials such as linen.
You can go to the grocery store wearing a suit and nobody will consider it strange. If you wear a suit to a wedding or a on a date, there’s a strong chance you won’t be the only man around wearing one.
A tuxedo, however, requires a special occasion. The point of wearing a tuxedo isn’t just to dress up and look great. The message you are sending by wearing a a tuxedo is that the moment is special
Here are some differences that make a tuxedo a more formal choice of attire:
- Color – Suits can be made from a lighter color fabric – they can also be made from a casual fabric. Black is a bold indicator of class and culture, hence most classic tuxedos are made in black or midnight blue. Classic colors for suits are versatile colors like navy blue or grey.
- Pockets – Flapped pockets on suits add fabric to the jacket, making it less sleek and dressy. This is why tuxedo jackets feature jetted pockets – making the whole appearance of the jacket more formal.
- Pocket Square – You could wear them in a wide variety of colors with a suit. With a tuxedo – you need to stick to a classic plain white.
- Shoes – Suits are worn with leather shoes that complement the suit's texture. A tuxedo requires patent leather slippers.
- Jacket Lapel – Suit lapels are made from the same fabric as the jacket and are either in a notch or peaked style. Tuxedos are made with either a shawl or peaked lapel. The material of the lapel is either satin or a rougher weave grosgrain silk.
- Trousers – Tuxedo trousers feature a braid down the side of the leg that matches the jacket lapels.
- Shirt – Suits are worn with a casual or button-up dress shirt. They could be in solid colors or with a variety of patterns. Tuxedos are worn with solid white button-up shirts with studs.
- Neckwear – Suit shirts can be worn with ties, bowties or plain. Tuxedos are to be worn with bow ties and cummerbunds or waistcoats.
#2 Suits Are More Flexible To Wear & Style Than Tuxedos
A tuxedo has a rigid form. If you are planning on wearing one – stick to the basic formula.
Your can change maybe one thing on a tuxedo – black or midnight blue, satin lapel, stripe down on the side of the leg, waist covering choice between a waistcoat or a cummerbund.
There’s not much flexibility with tuxedos.
With suits, you have more option to dress up or down. A waist covering is not required and the wearer can sport a wide variety of colors and patterns through neckties and pocket squares.
Tuxedos are meant to be worn with tuxedo shoes. The pants have a black or midnight blue braid along the leg, made from the same material as the jacket lapel.
A waist covering is essential for tuxedos. You don't even have to wear a tie with a suit – giving you more flexibility to dress casual or semi-formal.
You can also wear a wide variety of styles – ranging from fashion suits to classically designed suits. With tuxedos you’ll find that you stick with classic styles. It is something that can you don't have a lot of flexibility with.
If you are wearing a tuxedo a few times a week – you’re probably rubbing shoulders with people who can tell the difference between an average tuxedo and one of high quality.
If you are in such situations often – it would be worth your while to invest time and money in getting the best quality tuxedo you can afford.
With suits – you can compromise on fabric if the fit is perfect. A well-fitting suit in a poor quality fabric is going to look far better than an ill-fitting one made with a higher quality material.
A tuxedo has to fit, of course. But it also has to be made from high quality material. The trousers are made without belt loops as the expectation is that you will be wearing suspenders if required.
If you need a tuxedo for a single evening, say for a prom night – it is best to rent one. At that level, quality is not a big issue.
Anytime you wear a suit or a tuxedo – ensure you are dressed appropriately.
The gentleman from Saudi Arabia who asked the question was probably looking to do business perhaps in London New York and he wants to make sure when he goes to a black tie event, he's dressed appropriately
Need more information on how to make the best suit or tuxedo purchase? Refer to these articles for details: