Figure 1.--More and more boys are wearing tuxedos at weddings, cut just like adult tuxedos. Ring bearers some times wear short pants tuxedos. This boy wears black kneesocks. Tuxedos are also worn with white kneesocks.

The tuxedo is one of the two basic styles of formal wear. It is esentially an adult fashion dating from the 19th century. Thus the history of the tuxedo deals with its development as men's wear. As in many areas of men's fashion, the Prince of Wales, in fact two princes of Wales< played a key role in the development of the tuxedo. The term tuxedo, however, is an American innovation. One of the principal role of the tuxedo is in a formal wedding. At these weddongs boys for many years did not wear tuxedos. Only recently in the 1980s have boys begun wearing tuxedos for formal occasions. Boys now wear them mostly with long pants. Some ring bearers, however, wear short pants tuxedos.


The term tuxedo is an American one and developed after the tuxedo had developedin America.The dinner jacket made its debut in the United States in 1896, when a celebrated dandy named Griswold Lorillard wore it to a white-tie-and-tails ball at an exclusive country club in Tuxedo Park, New York. Tuxedo Park, founded in the 1880s by a group of prominent and wealthy New Yorkers as a residential club colony, was an "informally formal" community. Gradually the term tuxedo became commonly used in the United States for dinner jacket. Aeader writes, " I believe that term only came into use during the 1920s. The standard term used to be 'dinner suit' or 'dinner jacket'. My parents, who often dressed for dinner, never used the term "tuxedo" or "tux". My father always referred to a 'dinner jacket' or 'dinner clothes'." The use of the term "tuxedo," sometimes lamentably abbreviated to "tuck," or, even worse, to "tux," is pretty much confined to the United States. The garment is known abroad, and generally in this country as well, by its correct name of "dinner jacket," or (frequently in the New York area) "dinner coat." It is probably seldom, if ever, called a "tuxedo" in Tuxedo Park.

19th Century Origins

The notion of a man "dressing up" after the sun goes down, whether it be in top had and tails or simply in his best finery, has been with us for centuries. Initially there was no association with black.


In the great European opera houses of the 18th and 19th centuries, the "dress circle" meant just that, with no one allowed in unless he or she was properly attired. Evening wear in the 18th century could be quite coloful.


The idea of wearing black for evening wear was according to the English clothing historian James Laver, first introduced by the 19th-century British writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who utilized it "as a romantic gesture to show that he was a `blighted being' and very, very melancholy." It was Bulwer-Lytton who gave further impetus to this notion of black as the color for formal wear by writing, in 1828, that "people must be very distinguished to look well in black." Naturally, the moment this statement was noted by would-be dandies, the style became decidedly de rigueur, and it wasn't long before black became popular for daytime wear as well.

Dinner jacket

Although for years white tie and tails were the traditional mode of formal attire, the introduction of the dinner jacket added another viable alternative from which the well-dressed gentleman could choose. The original dinner jacket was simply an adaptation of the "Cowes" jacket--a sort of compromise between a mess jacket, a smoking jacket, and a dress coat - invented for or by King Edward VII (then Pribe of Wales). Edward VII both as a boy nd as a adult had a hige impact on fashion trends. This dinner jacket was wsorn by Edward first at dinner aboard his yacht at Cowes and then later at other semi-formal evening gatherings away from London. The original single- breasted model was simply a tailcoat without a tail, worn with white piqu‚ vest and later with a matching black vest of the same fabric as the jacket and trousers.


Apparently, American society had had enough of tails, which had traditionally been worn for formal evening wear, because Lorillard's "invention" was immediately accepted in even the stuffiest of circles.

Mid-night Blue

The dinner jacket remained just as its inventor intended until the 1920s, when the next Prince of Wales (later to become for a brief period Edward VIII and then the Duke of Windsor) - ordered a new dinner jacket (by this time, Lorillard's tuxedo had taken the name of its American birthplace), and specifically requested that the fabric be not black, but blue - midnight blue, to be precise. Under artificial light, midnight blue appears black - blacker than black, in fact - whereas black, under the same artificial conditions, tends to take on a greenish cast. The new color caught on, and is now counted among the great sartorial inspirations of that bygone era.

Jacket Styling

The dinner jacket was initially and for years always double breasted. The Prince of Whales in the 1930s once again tinkered with tradition, appearing in a double-breasted dinner jacket. Although the double-breasted dinner jacket was first ordered from a Savile Row tailor by the English song-and-dance man Jack Buchanan (who also wrote extensively on fashion), it was most certainly the prince who popularized this style. Worn with a soft-front pleated evening shirt, this innovation brought a new level of informality to the traditional dinner jacket - but with no lowering of the standards that separated those who dressed correctly from those who simply dressed up.


We note a number of formal outfits for younger boys that seem to be rather like tuxedos. A good example here is an American boy, Roy Chapman Hodgson in the 1890s.

Modern Experimentation

Throughout the remainder of the 20th century, the tuxedo has undergone various stylistic changes, including the excesses characteristic of the decade of the 1960s. And yet, fashion aside, the proper tuxedo, whether it be single-or double-breasted, still endures as the most elegant attire for any man.


For a man, no other form of dress is as steeped in such a ritualistic sense of propriety as formal wear. Thee is something so elegant about the simplicity of black and white, with its stark contrast and lack of pattern, that when the elements are properly put together, they present a man at his most debonair.

Basic Formal Wear

After dark or 6 p.m. - whichever arrives first - there are two ensembles that can properly be called formal: white tie, which means tails, or black tie, better known as the tuxedo. The more formal of these ensembles is white tie, which includes a tailcoat with matching trousers trimmed by two lines of braid on the outside of each trouser leg, white piqu‚ tie, white piqu‚ single-or double-breasted waistcoat, and wing-collar shirt with stiff piqu‚ front. With the exception of a man's wedding day, or occasions of state, a man will probably never be called upon to wear white tie. Nevertheless, anyone residing in a city, large or small, will probably find himself attending affairs requiring black tie at least several times a year, as more and more people today are reexperiencing the pleasures of dressing up. Thus, a properly styled tuxedo is one of the smartest and potentially most enduring investments a man can make for his wardrobe. Unfortunately, though, like most solid investments, a fine tuxedo is not easy to find.

Tuxedo Styles

There are variatioins in the styling of the tuxedo, both in the jacket and trousers.

The Jacket

There are two proper styles for the tuxedo: 1) the single-or double-breasted with a peaked lapel with grosgrain facing on the lapel, or 2) the single-or double-breasted shawl collar with either satin or grosgrain on the lapel facings. (As the two basic styles are done in single- and double-breasted forms, some dscribe four styles.) These are the only proper choices. Yet American manufacturers, in order to save on costs and increase profits, have taken to producing a notched lapel - the same style manufactured for their normal daytime suits - and facing them in satin. This trend which purists consider unfortunate began in the 1960s, when men began experimenting with alternative styles of dress. Once manufacturers realized it was less costly to produce this model, they persisted. Today the man seeking a proper dinner jacket, with either peaked lapels or shawl collar, has his work cut out for him. One might try searching the better men's specialty stores, buteven the venerated Brooks Brothers sells the notched style. The more adventuresome man can explore the second-hand shops. Or, finally, he can have his formal wear custom-made.

Peaked lapels

The most versatile jacket style is the single-breasted, peaked-lapel model. It was the original black-tie model, the direct descendant of the tailcoat, and its angular lapels look best with a wind collar, the tailcoat's original complement. It can be worn with a vest or cummerbund, and even with a turndown collar. Peaked lapels look equally elegant on the double- breasted version of this coat. The double-breasted model offers the advantage of allowing the wearer to dispense with a vest or cummerbund.

Shawl collar

The shawl collar model, either single-breasted or double- breasted, has a more subtle look than the peaked-lapel models. Because of its Old World image and the fact that it is a jacket style worn only for evening wear, it is especially factored by the most sophisticated dressers. However, if one's build is on the portly or rotund side, one might want to avoid the shawl collar, as it tends to accentuate the roundness.


Both single-and double-breasted jackets are at their best either without vents or with moderate side vents. Whichever style one chooses, the pockets should never be in the flap style, which is traditionally associated with day wear.


The color should be black or, if one is lucky enough to unearth one in this color, midnight blue, in a finished or unfinished worsted. In summer or at a resort, a white or midnight-blue dinner jacket in a tropical-weight worsted is always correct.

The Trousers

Tuxedo trousers follow rules identical with those applying to day wear. Made of the same fabric as the jacket, they should have a natural taper, following the shape of one's leg. The bottoms should be plain-never cuffed-and break just on top of the shoe. On each trouser leg, there should be a satin braid, a remnant of detail first introduced on military uniforms to cover the exposed outside seam. White plain-front trousers are more common, pleated trousers add a touch of elegance. If one chooses pleats, be certain that their folds open toward the center for proper fullness. In either case, the waistband must never be exposed. It is the job of the vest, the pleated cummerbund, or the closed double- breasted jacket to keep it hidden. And the recent invention of an all-in-one waistband-cum-cummerbund is simply no substitute for the real thing.

Boys' Tuxedos

The tuxedo is basically an adult garment. Tuxedos are rarely worn by boys. These formal 19th century costume for weddings are nmot commonly worn by men wither. Except for the upper class, tuxedos are usually worn by most men only at their high school proms or at their wedding and only if formal weddings. Normally boys only wear tuxedos if attending a formal wedding. And even at these wedding if he is the ring bearer or in the grome's party. There are very limited other opportunities for a boy to wear a tuxedo. Even in formal weddings there are other options for boys. In Scotland he might wear a kilt outfit. In America, Eton suits, commonly worn with short pants, are probably the most common choice for boy's formal wear. Many boys, even quite young boys, however, now insist on dressing like the adults. Thus it has become increasingly common to dress them just like the groomsmen in small tuxedos. Boys tuxedos, unlike Eton suits, are mostly worn with long pants. The boys prefer this so that they look just like the other attedants. There are, however, also tuxedos done in short pants. One company indicates that boy's tuxedo shorts are the perfect look for wedding ring bearers. One wedding expert writes, "Styled and proportioned for the young man, these formal short pants give a delightful accent to his tuxedo outfit."


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Created: December 4, 1998
Last edited: 6:37 AM 6/10/2009