The difference between tux and suit styles is simple, but when it comes to the impact on your look, understanding the suit vs tux rundown is important.
You probably know there is a difference between a suit and a tuxedo, but at first glance, it’s not totally obvious what sets these two formal wear staples apart. Maybe you were invited to a formal event, and you’re trying to choose the right outfit. Good on you, curious person. People like you make the world look, like… way better.
It’s easy to see why so many people just call everything a suit—tuxedos and suits have a lot in common. Both are made up of a combination of a jacket and dress pants, and matched with certain ties, shoes and accessories. That’s where we find the meat of the tux vs suit convo—in the details. Meat is good. Let’s get some meat.
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Tuxedo vs Suit: The Jacket
The two ways a tuxedo jacket differs from a suit jacket are in its lapels and buttons. If you’re picturing a hypothetical suit, you might visualize the notch lapel—a casual lapel shape that’s commonly used in suit design. Because tuxedos are a more formal garment, they tend to feature peak lapels or a shawl collar, but the lapel shape doesn’t actually matter that much. Tuxedos are defined by the accent fabrics used, and where.
Tuxedos feature a silk satin lapel, while suits are designed in one consistent fabric throughout the jacket. If the lapel shimmers, you’re probably eyeballing a tux. Also worth a glance: the buttons. Tuxedo buttons are often covered in silk, and you might even see a tuxedo with a silk satin accent on the breast pocket or waist pockets. Suits feature normal buttons made of horn, and have a simple breast pocket opening.
Suit vs Tuxedo: The Pants
Just like the jackets, the primary difference between tuxedo pants and suit pants comes down to the tuxedo’s silk fabric placement. Tuxedo pants usually feature a satin silk stripe down the outseam (see above).
Most tuxedo pants are also designed with a silk waistband, which means no belt loops. Belts are a casual accessory—too casual for the streamlined design of a tux. Instead, tuxedo pants have waist adjusters on either or side, or they’re tailored to fit the wearer’s waist.
Utility is the name of the suit game—suit pants almost always have belt loops, but lack the satin accents.
Tux vs Suit: The Shirt
Once upon a time, there were a bunch of formal wear rules men had to follow to look correct. For example, tuxedo shirts (with a pleated bib and wing tip collar) would be… an unusual choice for a suit, but were mandatory for a tuxedo. But it’s 2020, damnit, and you should own your style, though some of these rules are easier to modify than others.
The tux shirt advice holds up—we don’t recommend wearing a bibbed shirt or wing tip collar with a suit. Pretty much anything else is fair game for a suit, including patterns and colors. The only wrong choice for your suit shirt is wearing a shirt you hate.
If you’re wearing a tuxedo, the traditional bibbed wing tip shirt is always a safe choice. For a modern look, skip the pleated bib and choose a shirt with a fold-down collar. We offer a few styles that mix and match modern and classic elements of the tuxedo shirt, and both would look great with any tux. (Check them out here and here.) It’s also smart to limit your shirt color choice to black and white when you wear a tuxedo. Colors are riskier, and better left for casual events.
If you’re unfamiliar with formal wear, the shirt cuffs might seem like tux vs suit minefield—they’re not. Cuff design is mostly a personal style thing, but if you want to wear cufflinks, you’ll need to make sure they’re compatible with your shirt cuffs. (All of our shirt styles work with cufflinks.)
Suit vs Tux: The Tie
Tuxedo equals bow tie, suit equals necktie—right? Not necessarily.
The biggest difference between suit neckwear and tuxedo ties comes down to the dress code of the event. For the formal dress codes, you’ll want to wear a black bow tie with your tuxedo, or at least a bow tie in the black and white color palette. The less formal the dress code is, the more freedom you have to sub in a patterned bow tie or even a necktie—all of which works just as well with a suit.
With a suit, you can mix up the colors a little more—a very popular move when couples choose their wedding ties. There’s nothing stopping you from wearing a bow tie with a suit, though neckties are a more common choice.
Tuxedo vs Suit: The Shoes
Oxfords, derbys, loafers, sneakers. There are so many styles to categorize, and which shoes are acceptable to wear with a suit or a tuxedo is always changing. That’s why we’re not going to dive into those weeds, except to say: If you’re going to wear sneakers with a suit or tuxedo, do it with confidence—that’s half the battle.
A simple way to contrast shoes for a tuxedo vs a suit is by the shoe’s material. The classic tuxedo look features a patent leather shoe. Velvet is also a trending shoe material match for a tuxedo, often styled into a loafer. Some tuxedo shoes even mix materials, like patent leather and grosgrain ribbon, or even a matte leather combo. Unless this is a festive, fashionable, or laid back event, stick to black shoes.
There’s no rule that says you can’t wear patent leather shoes with a suit—potentially a big style flex—but suede and polished leather shoes are more common choices when you’re not putting the finishing touches on a tux.
Truce: Suits and Tuxedos That Fit
Once you make your decision between a tuxedo or a suit, you’ll need to find one that fits your bod. Anyone who has shopped for a suit (or went to prom in the ’90s) can tell you that’s no easy task. At least, it used to be pretty tricky. That’s why we made it easy.
Just answer a few simple questions about you and your body, and we’ll tell you your sizes. Simple, right? Then, shop our collection of modern tuxedos and suits to find the right look for your event. Voilà! You accidentally found the perfect suit or tux (that fits!) without leaving your house.