The tux tends to get all the glory - but the tuxedo shirt deserves the credit of co-star rather than a supporting role. From collar to cuff, various tuxedo shirt styles can feature a number of subtle and stunning details. They help you showcase your personality, and serve as a canvas for your - the well-dressed gentleman - finest accessories.
We have prepared a tuxedo shirt guide to help you feel comfortable and confident in your attire and accessory choices - no matter if you’re shopping online or in store.
Tuxedo Shirt vs. Dress Shirt
Before we jump into the attributes of different tuxedo shirt options, we must address a common question: Do I really need a tuxedo shirt? For a classic look, yes; it makes a dramatic difference.
The one instance where you can get away with wearing a dress shirt under your tux is when you opt for a necktie over a bow. Carefully consider the style of the collar and the length of the sleeve, though. If it doesn’t look right, you won’t feel right - which is a terrific shame when you are otherwise dressed to the nines.
Note that the reverse is not an option. Wearing a tuxedo shirt with a suit is a definite no-no.
What defines the Tuxedo Shirt? The Bib
The classic tuxedo shirt style features a bib. Most common is the pleated bib which has vertical pleats, flanking the placket.
The most formal and traditional option is the pique bib - a panel of fabric that adds a layer of sophistication and elegance. Both bib styles call for a bow tie, studs, French cuffs and, of course, cufflinks.
For a more modern and perhaps less formal take, consider a plain front tuxedo shirt. This option is most versatile and is acceptable with French or barrel cuffs, studs or buttons, and bow tie or necktie.
Tuxedo Shirt Fabric Choices
For maximal comfort, cotton is your best bet. It’s breathable and absorbent, durable but soft - all important traits for a garment that will be covered the majority of the time.
Beware of cotton blends that feature synthetic fibers. You might find yourself feeling uncomfortable and restricted - especially once the perspiration meter goes into the red zone!
The Importance of Tuxedo Shirt Weave
Many dress shirts are made from broadcloth and the look can read a bit less formal, or a bit more modern, with a tux. It’s tightly woven, has little to no texture and no sheen, can be a bit transparent and is quicker to wrinkle.
Twill, on the other hand, is a traditional and formal presentation. Typically the weave yields a texture of diagonal lines with a slight sheen. The fabric is opaque and tends to be more wrinkle-resistant.
Is There Any Other Color Than White?
Traditionally, the tuxedo shirt is crisp white.
Modern gentlemen however have been enjoying the elegant play of black on black too. The rules of the black shirt follow the white.
Before going off script, carefully consider the dress code. You want to stand out for the right reasons.
The Finer Points of a Tuxedo Shirt Collar
The shape of your collar is key. Not only does it frame your face but it also sets the stage for your neckwear.
“Spread” refers to the distance between the collar points - and the options are numerous. As a general rule, if you have a narrow face opt for a wide spread. If your features are more round, opt for a narrow point.
The most traditional and formal tuxedo shirt style is the wingtip collar. Featuring two small wings, this collar is the bow tie’s best friend as it shows the full neckband. A popular, more modern choice is to wear a semi-spread collar or one that is most complementary to the shape of your face.
What Type of Tuxedo Shirt Buttons Should You Choose?
Tuxedo shirts typically call for studs in the first four holes, followed by standard buttons that are hidden by a buttoned coat or cummerbund. Studs are often black and made of onyx or mother of pearl.
A shirt with a hidden placket or fly front shows no buttons, making studs unnecessary. Studs are also superfluous when wearing a necktie.
Barrel Cuffs vs French Cuffs
Standard on dress shirts, barrel cuffs - also known as button cuffs - are fitted to the wrist and fastened with buttons. They are well suited for the office and with a suit, but are considered too casual for black tie events.
French cuffs are standard on a tuxedo shirt. They feature a length of fabric that is folded back and fastened with cufflinks. French cuffs are cut square or with a rounded edge and should ever-so-slightly show under the jacket. Be mindful that your links and studs match - gold cufflinks with gold studs, silver with silver.
Polish Your Tuxedo Shirt with a Fine Accessory - or Three
The quintessential black tie look includes a black bow tie or, if personal preference dictates and shirt style permits, a black necktie. A black cummerbund and bow tie is always a win, too. Of course, white tie affairs call for a handsome white bow tie.
Monotone black and white looks aren’t your only options, though. Consider livening up your style with a cummerbund. Cummerbund sets come in a rainbow of gorgeous colors (like gold, red, purple, navy and green) and a large variety of print patterns. They are not only acceptable for most formal events, but are also preferred by many gentlemen who enjoy showcasing their personality through their accessories.
The classic tuxedo look includes a white pocket square - but there are exceptions to the rule. Go with a square that is predominantly white for a subtle diversion, and confidently color outside the lines if you want to make a statement.