Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Yes, men wear jewelry, too. Our next Black Tie Guide installment looks at the precious metals used to fasten your shirt’s chest and cuffs — and what maybe shouldn’t be on your wrist.
Part 7: Cufflinks, Studs and Timepieces
Rarely do men wear jewelry items and like all jewelry items the price can go as astronomically high as your wallet wants to spend. Cufflinks, shirt studs and timepieces are no exception. 
The standard for black tie is gold and black onyx cufflinks and studs. It seems, however, gold is falling out of favor and silver is becoming an alternative and mother-of-pearl is sometimes used instead of black onyx. Regardless of what you pick, it’s important to also point out that your metals and stones should match. 
The best cufflinks are those which are double-sided, linked in between by a chain or bar. This allows the cufflink to be seen from either side without one looking like the “back” like you see on most modern cufflinks, a.k.a.: the swivel bar. 
A great place to look for cufflinks and stud sets are both eBay and Etsy. If you would rather purchase brand new, I’d suggest Kent Wang, which has a stud set for $75 and dual-sided cufflinks for $25 to $55, depending on the model. 
In regards to timepieces, the tradition is to either wear a pocket watch, but to avoid wearing a wristwatch. Wearing a watch signals to the host that you’re more concerned with the time than the occasion. 
Still, modern “tuxedo” watches exist as an alternative for those who want them. Typically they have a black face with no hour or minute markings and no second hand and a simple jewel at the 12-o’clock position. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Yes, men wear jewelry, too. Our next Black Tie Guide installment looks at the precious metals used to fasten your shirt’s chest and cuffs — and what maybe shouldn’t be on your wrist.

Part 7: Cufflinks, Studs and Timepieces

Rarely do men wear jewelry items and like all jewelry items the price can go as astronomically high as your wallet wants to spend. Cufflinks, shirt studs and timepieces are no exception. 

The standard for black tie is gold and black onyx cufflinks and studs. It seems, however, gold is falling out of favor and silver is becoming an alternative and mother-of-pearl is sometimes used instead of black onyx. Regardless of what you pick, it’s important to also point out that your metals and stones should match. 

The best cufflinks are those which are double-sided, linked in between by a chain or bar. This allows the cufflink to be seen from either side without one looking like the “back” like you see on most modern cufflinks, a.k.a.: the swivel bar. 

A great place to look for cufflinks and stud sets are both eBay and Etsy. If you would rather purchase brand new, I’d suggest Kent Wang, which has a stud set for $75 and dual-sided cufflinks for $25 to $55, depending on the model. 

In regards to timepieces, the tradition is to either wear a pocket watch, but to avoid wearing a wristwatch. Wearing a watch signals to the host that you’re more concerned with the time than the occasion. 

Still, modern “tuxedo” watches exist as an alternative for those who want them. Typically they have a black face with no hour or minute markings and no second hand and a simple jewel at the 12-o’clock position. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Today we go over the only two elements of white on a tuxedo ensemble besides the shirt in our Black Tie Guide. And they’re right next to each other.
Part 6: Pocket Square and Boutonnière 
The great expanse of black of the tuxedo can be visually jarring, so it’s good to have elements of your ensemble that break it up. This is where decorating the lapel and breast pocket comes in. 
Pocket squares should be kept relatively simple in most cases. A linen handkerchief with hand-rolled edges in a simple fold will work just fine. Alternatively, you could attempt to create a “puff” instead if you prefer a look that’s not as rigid and straight-laced. The option is up to you. 
Why not white silk? Frankly, there’s no hard rule about this, but linen won’t reflect light like silk will and your lapels, cummerbund and bowtie already are made of silk. It’s good to have some texture diversity. 
Pocket squares can be found cheaply at The Tie Bar for $8-$10, but I think they’re a bit smaller in size (11.5” square) and I believe their edged are machined. Update: I’ve been told by Greg at The Tie Bar that only their wool-blend and silk-woven squares are machine stitched. Their other squares — including their cotton squares — have hand-rolled edges. So, that makes them a pretty good deal.
I’ve found Kent Wang’s pocket squares ($20) to be really nice and they have hand-rolled edges. They’re also slightly larger at 12” square.
As for decorating the lapel, it’s fairly straightforward: go with a white carnation boutonnière. For this to work your boutonnière hole on the lapel must be functional and opened, which higher quality suits will have already done. If your boutonnière hole is sewn shut, you can have a tailor open it up and make it functional. 
If it’s not obvious, you don’t want the kind of fake boutonnière that’s pinned to your lapel. Not only will it ruin the silk facings but it looks tacky — better to go without. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Today we go over the only two elements of white on a tuxedo ensemble besides the shirt in our Black Tie Guide. And they’re right next to each other.

Part 6: Pocket Square and Boutonnière 

The great expanse of black of the tuxedo can be visually jarring, so it’s good to have elements of your ensemble that break it up. This is where decorating the lapel and breast pocket comes in. 

Pocket squares should be kept relatively simple in most cases. A linen handkerchief with hand-rolled edges in a simple fold will work just fine. Alternatively, you could attempt to create a “puff” instead if you prefer a look that’s not as rigid and straight-laced. The option is up to you. 

Why not white silk? Frankly, there’s no hard rule about this, but linen won’t reflect light like silk will and your lapels, cummerbund and bowtie already are made of silk. It’s good to have some texture diversity. 

Pocket squares can be found cheaply at The Tie Bar for $8-$10, but I think they’re a bit smaller in size (11.5” square) and I believe their edged are machined. Update: I’ve been told by Greg at The Tie Bar that only their wool-blend and silk-woven squares are machine stitched. Their other squares — including their cotton squares — have hand-rolled edges. So, that makes them a pretty good deal.

I’ve found Kent Wang’s pocket squares ($20) to be really nice and they have hand-rolled edges. They’re also slightly larger at 12” square.

As for decorating the lapel, it’s fairly straightforward: go with a white carnation boutonnière. For this to work your boutonnière hole on the lapel must be functional and opened, which higher quality suits will have already done. If your boutonnière hole is sewn shut, you can have a tailor open it up and make it functional. 

If it’s not obvious, you don’t want the kind of fake boutonnière that’s pinned to your lapel. Not only will it ruin the silk facings but it looks tacky — better to go without. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
This portion of our Black Tie Guide dabbles in some luxurious indulgences that some would consider optional. You might not necessarily need them immediately, but consider them things to upgrade as you build your tuxedo ensemble.
Part 5: Hosiery, Sock Garters & Braces
Black tie might be the only time wearing black socks can be considered acceptable. Formal hose should be over-the-calf, as mid-calf socks tend to slouch and expose your bare skin, which looks bad. 
In terms of material, the preference is for silk, which has a sense of refinement and sheen that compliments the silk piping of the trouser and shine of the shoes. 
Socks made of 100% silk do have trouble staying up on their own and can require the use of sock garters. If you’d rather dispense with having to wear those, then you’ll probably opt for the also-cheaper silk socks blended with nylon, which are more common to find.
The cheapest silk socks I’ve found come from Brooks Brothers, for around $40. You can also get pairs from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons made by Marcoliani and Bresciani, who also have pure 100% silk hose. A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store also has pure silk hose for $55. 
If you need sock garters, then you can either search eBay U.K. or go with Brooks Brothers or Cable Car Clothiers, which has them for $38 and $45, respectively.
In regards to braces (commonly called “suspenders”), these are a great way to keep your trousers up and any pair of pants can have buttons added to the waistband to attach the braces. Remember: proper braces fasten using buttons, not alligator-clips.
Braces should be kept simple and discrete, avoiding the temptation of being flashy with bright colors or patterns (you shouldn’t be removing your jacket anyway). Go for solid black or white. I prefer white as it blends together better with the white shirt, but some might like the contrast of black. 
Braces should also be sized properly so the metal adjusters are on the bottom toward the waist, not high on the chest. 
As for where to buy, braces made by Albert Thurston come highly regarded and they actually seem to be very competitively priced at $75 at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store in ivory barathea and both black and white moiré. 
The one thing I want to point out about the items mentioned in this part is that they’re probably not necessary for the most basic of tuxedo ensembles. If you pants are sized correctly to your waist, you can forgo braces. Cheaper socks can be found by going with cotton or wool options from the same high-end makers. For instance, Howard Yount carries several black over-the-calf options from their own private-label and from Marcoliani. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

This portion of our Black Tie Guide dabbles in some luxurious indulgences that some would consider optional. You might not necessarily need them immediately, but consider them things to upgrade as you build your tuxedo ensemble.

Part 5: Hosiery, Sock Garters & Braces

Black tie might be the only time wearing black socks can be considered acceptable. Formal hose should be over-the-calf, as mid-calf socks tend to slouch and expose your bare skin, which looks bad. 

In terms of material, the preference is for silk, which has a sense of refinement and sheen that compliments the silk piping of the trouser and shine of the shoes. 

Socks made of 100% silk do have trouble staying up on their own and can require the use of sock garters. If you’d rather dispense with having to wear those, then you’ll probably opt for the also-cheaper silk socks blended with nylon, which are more common to find.

The cheapest silk socks I’ve found come from Brooks Brothers, for around $40. You can also get pairs from Kabbaz-Kelly & Sons made by Marcoliani and Bresciani, who also have pure 100% silk hose. A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store also has pure silk hose for $55. 

If you need sock garters, then you can either search eBay U.K. or go with Brooks Brothers or Cable Car Clothiers, which has them for $38 and $45, respectively.

In regards to braces (commonly called “suspenders”), these are a great way to keep your trousers up and any pair of pants can have buttons added to the waistband to attach the braces. Remember: proper braces fasten using buttons, not alligator-clips.

Braces should be kept simple and discrete, avoiding the temptation of being flashy with bright colors or patterns (you shouldn’t be removing your jacket anyway). Go for solid black or white. I prefer white as it blends together better with the white shirt, but some might like the contrast of black. 

Braces should also be sized properly so the metal adjusters are on the bottom toward the waist, not high on the chest. 

As for where to buy, braces made by Albert Thurston come highly regarded and they actually seem to be very competitively priced at $75 at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store in ivory barathea and both black and white moiré. 

The one thing I want to point out about the items mentioned in this part is that they’re probably not necessary for the most basic of tuxedo ensembles. If you pants are sized correctly to your waist, you can forgo braces. Cheaper socks can be found by going with cotton or wool options from the same high-end makers. For instance, Howard Yount carries several black over-the-calf options from their own private-label and from Marcoliani. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
The Black Tie Guide moves forward with an argument for the traditional items that many in Hollywood forgo now in the tuxedo ensemble. 
Part 4: Bowties and Waist Coverings
With black tie rules being constantly relaxed in the modern era, men often jettison two classic parts of the tuxedo in favor of contemporary trends: the bowtie and the waistcoat or cummerbund.
Picking which bowtie to buy is simple: it should be black and it should match the fabric of the facings of your jacket’s lapels. 
Avoid wearing a colored bowtie, as it will distract from your face and the whole point of the tuxedo is to frame you face. A bright bowtie will immediately ruin the entire effort the tuxedo makes on your behalf. There is a reason it’s called “black tie”, after all. 
The purpose of a waistcoat or cummerbund is simple: it hides the awkward transition between the edge of the shirt’s bib and the waist fastenings of the trousers. Waistcoats have the additional advantage of discretely covering one’s braces (a.k.a.: suspenders). If one is wearing a shirt with studs, it’s especially advisable to wear a waist covering, as most men should only display three studs on their shirt. 
Despite what you might read in men’s “style” magazines, covering the waist does have purpose and a tuxedo is incomplete without the waistcoat or cummerbund (unless, of course, one is wearing a double-breasted jacket, which would make these coverings redundant). 
Which should you choose? This depends on several factors. Waistcoats look better with the more formal peaked lapel jacket. Formal waistcoats button low and have shawl lapels and a very exposed chest compared to most waistcoats you’ll find with three-piece suits. A lot of modern versions will also be backless, which is nice for warmer weather. 
The downside is that unless you can buy the waistcoat with the tuxedo — its fabric should match the fabric of your jacket and trousers — then you’re probably better off going with a cummerbund. 
If you’re wearing a shawl collar tuxedo, then the cummerbund is the natural compliment. The cummerbund’s origins come from India, where British officers wore it as an alternative because of the heat. 
Cummerbund fabric should match the facings of your jacket’s lapels, meaning they will likely be satin or grosgrain silk and match your bowtie. 
As for where to buy these items, I recommend buying your bowtie and cummerbund together from the same place — not separately — so the silk fabrics will be the same. 
The most affordable set I’ve found is from the Fine & Dandy Shop, which sells a satin bowtie and cummerbund together for $75, which are made in the U.S.A. 
On the next step up, Kent Wang has an Italian made satin bowtie and cummerbund for $45 and $95, respectively. If you need a grosgrain bowtie and cummerbund set, then look to J.Press, which has them for $49 and $95. 
Of course, on the high end you have Ralph Lauren and Drake’s of London, which can also be found at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store. The Drake’s one is especially neat, as it has a hidden ticket pocket built into it.
Regardless where you decide to buy your bowtie or cummerbund, just remember that bowties ought to be self-tie (you wouldn’t wear a clip-on necktie, would you?) and that cummerbund pleats should face upward. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

The Black Tie Guide moves forward with an argument for the traditional items that many in Hollywood forgo now in the tuxedo ensemble. 

Part 4: Bowties and Waist Coverings

With black tie rules being constantly relaxed in the modern era, men often jettison two classic parts of the tuxedo in favor of contemporary trends: the bowtie and the waistcoat or cummerbund.

Picking which bowtie to buy is simple: it should be black and it should match the fabric of the facings of your jacket’s lapels. 

Avoid wearing a colored bowtie, as it will distract from your face and the whole point of the tuxedo is to frame you face. A bright bowtie will immediately ruin the entire effort the tuxedo makes on your behalf. There is a reason it’s called “black tie”, after all. 

The purpose of a waistcoat or cummerbund is simple: it hides the awkward transition between the edge of the shirt’s bib and the waist fastenings of the trousers. Waistcoats have the additional advantage of discretely covering one’s braces (a.k.a.: suspenders). If one is wearing a shirt with studs, it’s especially advisable to wear a waist covering, as most men should only display three studs on their shirt. 

Despite what you might read in men’s “style” magazines, covering the waist does have purpose and a tuxedo is incomplete without the waistcoat or cummerbund (unless, of course, one is wearing a double-breasted jacket, which would make these coverings redundant). 

Which should you choose? This depends on several factors. Waistcoats look better with the more formal peaked lapel jacket. Formal waistcoats button low and have shawl lapels and a very exposed chest compared to most waistcoats you’ll find with three-piece suits. A lot of modern versions will also be backless, which is nice for warmer weather. 

The downside is that unless you can buy the waistcoat with the tuxedo — its fabric should match the fabric of your jacket and trousers — then you’re probably better off going with a cummerbund. 

If you’re wearing a shawl collar tuxedo, then the cummerbund is the natural compliment. The cummerbund’s origins come from India, where British officers wore it as an alternative because of the heat. 

Cummerbund fabric should match the facings of your jacket’s lapels, meaning they will likely be satin or grosgrain silk and match your bowtie. 

As for where to buy these items, I recommend buying your bowtie and cummerbund together from the same place — not separately — so the silk fabrics will be the same. 

The most affordable set I’ve found is from the Fine & Dandy Shop, which sells a satin bowtie and cummerbund together for $75, which are made in the U.S.A. 

On the next step up, Kent Wang has an Italian made satin bowtie and cummerbund for $45 and $95, respectively. If you need a grosgrain bowtie and cummerbund set, then look to J.Press, which has them for $49 and $95. 

Of course, on the high end you have Ralph Lauren and Drake’s of London, which can also be found at A Suitable Wardrobe’s Store. The Drake’s one is especially neat, as it has a hidden ticket pocket built into it.

Regardless where you decide to buy your bowtie or cummerbund, just remember that bowties ought to be self-tie (you wouldn’t wear a clip-on necktie, would you?) and that cummerbund pleats should face upward. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our Black Tie Guide continues to help you find all the elements of an eveningwear ensemble. Today, we discuss finding the right shoes — at the right price.

Part 3: Formal Footwear

I don’t want to introduce hyperbole, but wearing bad shoes can take the sharp look of a tuxedo and throw it in the Dumpster. Few things are as disappointing as seeing a gentleman going to extraordinary lengths to wear a tuxedo to only see he’s slipped on a pair of cheap, sport-hybrid, corrected-grain, bicycle-toed “dress shoes”. 

Here’s some basic guidance on what to look for in formal footwear:

  • Black calf leather (patent leather optional)
  • Laced shoes should be balmorals; no blüchers
  • Plain-toe and cap-toes are acceptable; avoid brouging and wingtips
  • Opera pumps are an acceptable slip-on; avoid loafers

Some traditionalists would consider opera pumps as the only footwear choice for black tie (Jesse is a fan), but I can sympathize with those of you who have hesitation. Unless you find a way to score a pair cheaply (or you have disposable income), it’s probably not a good purchase as you can’t really wear it outside of formal events. As someone who only finds an excuse once a year to don black tie, it’s probably not practical. 

If you’re looking for a pair, Shipton & Heneage has two options for $245. And Brooks Brothers has their pair for around $450.

For most men, you probably will find the black cap-toe oxford to be the most accessible and affordable option. The cap-toe shoe will be versatile in the rest of your wardrobe for when you wear a regular suit, making it a better value purchase. 

The Allen Edmonds Park Avenue frequently turns up on eBay for prices below $150 — if not significantly cheaper. You can sometimes find them new and on sale at around $200, too. A retail budget option would be Charles Tyrwhitt, which has a full-grain cap-toe oxford for around $150. 

If you’re able to find it, the plain-toe oxford, in my mind, is a preferred option for footwear. Not so formal that it can’t be worn with a regular suit, but the cleaner, sleek look fits better with the tuxedo. You can see Fred Astaire’s pair (given as a gift to Dick Clark for his 50th birthday) above. One can only hope they dance in a tuxedo so often that their shoes look so well worn. 

The cheapest plain-toe oxford I can find is also from Charles Tyrwhitt, at around $200 in patent leather. For around $260 you can get patent leather pairs from Herring or Shipton & Heneage. My favorite though has to be from Kent Wang, whose $350 plain-toe balmorals aren’t patent leather, letting you wear them with a suit.

If you choose to go the laced shoe route, then you should consider buying a pair of black silk shoelaces, like on Astaire’s pair above. I only know of two places you can buy them: from George Cleverley (you’ll have to e-mail them) or from A Suitable Wardrobe’s online store. The cost is about $40 either way, but they definitely elevate the look of even a simple cap-toe shoe to something much more formal. 

-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide. 
Part 2: The Evening Shirt
While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 
A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:
French cuffs
Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
Spread or wing collar 
Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)
Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 
As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 
Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 
I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.
Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 
Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 
-Kiyoshi
(Photo via Time/Life)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide

Part 2: The Evening Shirt

While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 

A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:

  • French cuffs
  • Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
  • White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
  • Spread or wing collar 
  • Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)

Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 

As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 

Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 

I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.

Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 

Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 

-Kiyoshi

(Photo via Time/Life)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Our new contributor Kiyoshi Martinez has expensive tastes - but not a lot of scratch. In this series, he’ll show you how to put together a black tie ensemble without breaking the bank.
Part 1: The Tuxedo
It might just be the circles I travel in, but it’s rare I have the opportunity to wear black tie. Still, I find the excuse at least once a year to don the tuxedo for New Year’s Eve. Now’s a good time to start thinking about getting the various elements of a black-tie ensemble together if you want to have everything in place for the end of the year.
Black tie items don’t often go on sale or come cheap, but I’ll still be trying to offer some of the best values that can hopefully be affordable, starting with the tuxedo itself.
First, you’ll want to avoid renting one, as most rentals are polyester monstrosities that drape like a trash-bag poncho. Here’s a few key things to look for in your tuxedo:
Peaked or shawl lapels — avoid notched lapels
Single-button fastening for single-breasted jackets
Double-breasted jackets work fine, too
Preferably jetted besom pockets (if it has flaps, tuck them in)
Unvented or double-vented backs, depending if you want to be traditional or modern
Satin or grosgrain faced lapels and piping on the trousers
Preferably midnight blue in color, but black will do
If you’re on a budget, then I suggest looking at eBay. I prefer to search eBay U.K. using the term “dinner suit” or “dinner jacket” instead of “tuxedo”, which is an American term. You can often find a vintage one for $100-$200. It’s where I found mine. 
If you want to buy off the rack, I’d take a look at Tommy Hilfiger’s slim-fit line. It comes in both shawl and peaked lapel versions, however, it also has flapped pockets and a two-button front. Still, the price is a moderately reasonable $350 and I know several friends who’ve been perfectly happy with this line of suits. 
If your budget is higher, then consider Suit Supply, whose peaked lapel, one-button tuxedo looks like one of the best deals under the $500 price point. I recommended it to a friend of mine who wore one at his wedding and it looked fantastic on him. 
Keep in mind that you’ll need time to ship it to your home and get alterations done, so there’s a bit of a time crunch. Hopefully you have a good relationship with your tailor so he or she can have it ready in time. 
When getting your tuxedo altered, be sure to bring the appropriate shoes and shirt to the fitting so the sleeves show the correct amount of cuff and the pants can be hemmed precisely. 
Finally, keep your tuxedo simple and basic as much as possible. Avoid the temptation of a white dinner jacket, which is only really suitable for warm climates or summer, and avoid straying into jackets with flashy elements, odd colors or too-trendy cuts as they’ll look dated and the tuxedo is only a value when it’s timeless in design.
- Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our new contributor Kiyoshi Martinez has expensive tastes - but not a lot of scratch. In this series, he’ll show you how to put together a black tie ensemble without breaking the bank.

Part 1: The Tuxedo

It might just be the circles I travel in, but it’s rare I have the opportunity to wear black tie. Still, I find the excuse at least once a year to don the tuxedo for New Year’s Eve. Now’s a good time to start thinking about getting the various elements of a black-tie ensemble together if you want to have everything in place for the end of the year.

Black tie items don’t often go on sale or come cheap, but I’ll still be trying to offer some of the best values that can hopefully be affordable, starting with the tuxedo itself.

First, you’ll want to avoid renting one, as most rentals are polyester monstrosities that drape like a trash-bag poncho. Here’s a few key things to look for in your tuxedo:

  • Peaked or shawl lapels — avoid notched lapels
  • Single-button fastening for single-breasted jackets
  • Double-breasted jackets work fine, too
  • Preferably jetted besom pockets (if it has flaps, tuck them in)
  • Unvented or double-vented backs, depending if you want to be traditional or modern
  • Satin or grosgrain faced lapels and piping on the trousers
  • Preferably midnight blue in color, but black will do

If you’re on a budget, then I suggest looking at eBay. I prefer to search eBay U.K. using the term “dinner suit” or “dinner jacket” instead of “tuxedo”, which is an American term. You can often find a vintage one for $100-$200. It’s where I found mine. 

If you want to buy off the rack, I’d take a look at Tommy Hilfiger’s slim-fit line. It comes in both shawl and peaked lapel versions, however, it also has flapped pockets and a two-button front. Still, the price is a moderately reasonable $350 and I know several friends who’ve been perfectly happy with this line of suits. 

If your budget is higher, then consider Suit Supply, whose peaked lapel, one-button tuxedo looks like one of the best deals under the $500 price point. I recommended it to a friend of mine who wore one at his wedding and it looked fantastic on him. 

Keep in mind that you’ll need time to ship it to your home and get alterations done, so there’s a bit of a time crunch. Hopefully you have a good relationship with your tailor so he or she can have it ready in time. 

When getting your tuxedo altered, be sure to bring the appropriate shoes and shirt to the fitting so the sleeves show the correct amount of cuff and the pants can be hemmed precisely. 

Finally, keep your tuxedo simple and basic as much as possible. Avoid the temptation of a white dinner jacket, which is only really suitable for warm climates or summer, and avoid straying into jackets with flashy elements, odd colors or too-trendy cuts as they’ll look dated and the tuxedo is only a value when it’s timeless in design.

- Kiyoshi