What Is the Proper Way to Wear a Tuxedo?

George Clooney sports a well-fitted tux with classically proper accessories.
... Andreas Rentz/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

You don't need an invite to the Oscars to rock a tux -- this timeless look lends itself to proms, weddings, black-tie affairs and all sorts of formal galas. Because you rarely have need to break out a tux in day-to-day life, questions about the ins and outs of proper tux wear can naturally arise. Fear not -- just keep it classic and simple and follow time-tested tips to make your tuxedo a surefire hit no matter the occasion.

1 Foxy Fits

If possible, visit your local tailor and have your tux custom fitted -- nothing age-proofs your tuxedo more than a tailored fit. Your jacket should feature a high armhole and gently hug your shoulders; it should not drape off of the shoulders or squeeze the shoulders inward. Choose a tapered, French-cuffed shirt to show just the right amount of cuff, which is about 1/2 of an inch. Stick with white for a safe look, and ensure you can fit a finger or two between the shirt collar and your neck. As far as the bottoms go, never cuff your tux pants -- the trouser's bottom hem should lie right at the top of your shoe. To trend-proof your tux, steer clear of fad fits, such as overly slim cuts or flared bottoms.

2 Arresting Accessories

The tie truly completes your tux, and you can't go wrong with a black bow tie -- just avoid clip-on models. Never wear a belt with your tuxedo. If your pants need a lift, go with black suspenders -- again, no clip-ons here. For a classically refined look, you can also opt for a cummerbund instead of suspenders, though it's not a necessity, except for at a black-tie formal event. Choose thin, black dress socks -- ideally silk or wool, but any fine fabric will do -- rather than thick, bulky socks or any other color. Keep your cuff links simple and subtle, and stick with silver or black hues. Likewise, accent your jacket with a black or white pocket square. For a simple, flat pocket square, fold the hanky once horizontally and once vertically, and leave just a bit of the square peeking out of the pocket. To complete your tux, wear a pair of black patent-leather shoes or Oxfords. If you like sporting a watch, keep it slim and made of a white metal, such as steel or silver.

3 Timeless Tips

For tuxedos, the devil truly lies in the details. Before taking your tux out for a big night, have it pressed at the dry cleaner. Mind the details of your footwear, as well, by giving your shoes a good polish before stepping out. On a two-button tux jacket -- the most common modern style -- always leave the second button undone. For a three-button coat, leave the bottom button undone -- buttoning the top button is optional, but keep the center button closed. These old buttoning traditions allow for greater freedom of movement and give your jacket a slight flare at the hips, which gives you a more natural silhouette than a constricting coat would.

4 Tweak Your Tux

Fashion thrives on individual expression. Although the tux certainly dwells in uniform territory and adheres to historical fashion rules, you do have a little room to add your own personal twists. For more modern, less formal affairs, you can sub a straight, black necktie for a bow tie, as long as it is satin or silk and doesn't feature prints. You also won't be booed out of the room if you choose to wear a dark midnight-blue tux rather than a black suit. To add interest to your look when you open your jacket, opt for a waistcoat. In cool weather, add a sleek, edgy element to your tux with a black chesterfield coat or a trim-cut wool topcoat. When rocking a tux at the prom, feel free to add a pop of color by matching your tie, cummerbund and buttonaire to your date's dress.

5 Black or White

The basic rules of wear change a bit when going from a black-tie event to a "black tie optional" event. In the latter situation, you're free to sport a dark suit -- it doesn't have to be a tuxedo -- and, despite the confusing name, a conservative tie. To be perfect at a black-tie event, you should always have a black cummerbund, but you can wear a white tux jacket in the summer. On the most formal end of the spectrum, white-tie events call for even more formal attire, including a tailcoat, satin-striped trousers and all-white accessories, such as your bow tie, cuff links, vest and, in this case, gloves.

Dan Ketchum has been a professional writer since 2003, with work appearing online and offline in Word Riot, Bazooka Magazine, Anemone Sidecar, Trails and more. Dan's diverse professional background spans from costume design and screenwriting to mixology, manual labor and video game industry publicity.