Tuxedo vs Suit – Your Ultimale Fashion Guide to High Style

In the tuxedo vs suit equation, a lot comes into play. Most people are unable to tell the difference between the two. In this short guide, you will learn about the various physical differences between suits and tuxedos, the non-tangible differences between the two, as well as a couple of exceptions to the general rules for styling and wearing tuxedo vs suit.


History of the Tuxedo

On the 10th of October, 1886 one Griswold Lorillard created quite a stir by attending an exclusive country club event dressed up in a tail-less jacket to a formal white tie and tails ball. The location for this occasion was Tuxedo Park, New York.

The rather conservative host of the ball was so appalled at the blatant disrespect to tradition and due decorum that he immediately kicked Mr. Lorillard and his band of fashion rebels out of the party.

However, the jacket that Lorillard wore to the event ended up kick-starting a new trend that no one had seen coming. Due to society’s tiring of the fastidious and all-too-formal tail coat, the tail-less adaptation of the dinner jacket increasingly became popular even in high society.

Today, tuxedos are considered perfectly normal for evening wear. Still, the general masses are unaware of the main differences between a tuxedo and a suit.

There are a couple of ways to automatically differentiate between tuxedos and suits. Before we jump right into the differences, let us first define the two:


Basically, a suit constitutes a pair of trousers and a jacket made using the same material. There are velvet suits and there are leisure suits. Similarly, denim suits are increasingly becoming a norm – although they are never to be worn in any business environment.


Tuxedos are also suits because the jacket and the trousers are also woven of the same cloth. However, this particular garment is better known in England as a dinner suit.

In this article, all references to suit/suits are in relation to the dark colored worsted wool suit and not the leisure suit. That said, consider the following differences between tuxedos and suits:

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For starters, tuxedos are far more formal – both in appearance and function – than suits. As such, they should only be worn to black tie events. In some societies, they are considered the norm for evening dress, meaning you should only dress up in a tux in the evening. In fact, it is inappropriate to be seen in a tuxedo any time before 5 pm.

On the other hand, suits can be worn at any time – both during the day and at night. Suits are also less formal in comparison to tuxedos. If worn in such light materials as linen and without a tie, they can even be considered to fall in the class of casual wear.

As mentioned in the first part of the tuxedo vs suit series, you can even visit a grocery store in a suit and no one will think you strange. Similarly, if you adorn a suit on a date or a wedding, chances are that you won’t be the only one around in one.

Tuxedos, however, should only be worn to special occasions. The entire point of adorning one, therefore, isn’t to just look great by dressing up. In fact, the message one sends by wearing a tuxedo is that that particular moment is of special meaning to them.

A couple of differences that make tuxedo more formal than suits include:

a) Colour

Suits are made from all manner of fabric and color. In most cases, they are of a lighter color and in others they are tailored from casual fabric. Classic colours for suits tend to be versatile, such as grey and navy blue.

Since black happens to the bold indicator of culture and class, most classic traditional tuxedos will typically come in midnight blue or black.

b) Pockets

Suits come with flapped pockets on the jacket. These pockets make them look less dressy and sleek.

Tuxedos, on the other hand, feature jetted pocket, making the entire appearance of their jackets look more formal and elegant.

c) Pocket Square

You have some level of freedom with regards to the variety of colours of the pocket square if you are in a suit. With a tuxedo, however, you have to stick to classic plain white pocket squares.

d) Shoes

Suits are typically worn with any leather pair of shoes that complements the texture of the material. Tuxedos, on the other hand, require patent leather slippers.

e) Jacket Lapel 

The lapels on a suit are made from the same fabric as the trouser and the jacket. They are also either in a peaked or a notch style.

However, tuxedos are tailored with either a peaked or a shawl lapel. The material used on the lapel is either a rougher weave of grosgrain silk or satin.

f) Trousers

Suit trousers are plain in one color while tuxedo pants feature a braid running down the side of the legs and matching the material used on the jacket lapels.

g) Shirt

Suits should be worn with button-up dress shirts or casual shirts. The shirt could be in a variety of patterns or in one solid color. However, with tuxedos, the shirt should be a solid white button-up type with studs.

h) Neckwear

The suit shirt can be worn plain, or with bowties/ties. Tuxedos are only to be worn with waistcoats/cummerbunds and bow ties.

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In terms of flexibility, suits are comparatively more flexible to style and wear than tuxedos. The tuxedo comes with a very rigid, formal form. Therefore, if you intend to wear one, always stick to the traditional formula.

The only thing you can change with a tuxedo is choosing between midnight blue and black, the satin lapel, the stripe running down the side of the leg, and the choice of a waist covering (either cummerbund or waistcoat). You should also wear tuxedos with slippers or tuxedo shoes.

With suits, there are more options in case you are looking to dress down or up. The waist covering is not a requirement and you can sport a wide variety of patterns and colours through pocket squares and neckties. The choice of footwear, however, should match the material of the suit.

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Physical Differences

a) Satin

The main physical difference between a suit and a tuxedo lies in the presence of satin in one. Basically, tuxedos have traditionally always had satin facing embedded to the pocket trim, the buttons, and the lapels. Additionally, tuxedos come with a satin side strip running all the way down the length of the trouser legs.

Suits, on the other hand, are less ostentatious. As such, they don’t have any satin on them. Typically, they have buttons faced with fabric similar to the coat (referred to as self buttons) or ordinary plastic buttons.

A couple of modern tuxedos now minimize the use of satin material to a slim trim added to the lapels as well as a thin satin bead running down the trouser legs. Anyway, the primary difference to look out for when buying tuxedo vs suit lies in the fact that tuxedos have satin sewed on while suits don’t.

b) Accessories

The other physical difference between a suit and a tuxedo lies in the type of accessories that should be worn whenever you wish to attend a traditional black tie event. For most modern functions calling for tuxedos – such as weddings and proms – the lines between what you should wear with a suit and a tuxedo are increasingly blurred.

However, it is common to wear high stance vests and long ties with tuxedos – even though this is increasingly less so. Traditionally, this look is only appropriate to follow with suits. This is because tuxedos were originally only worn with waistcoats or cummerbunds (low stance vests) and bow ties.

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Exceptions to the Rule

Like with any other rule for appropriate dressing, there are a couple of exceptions to the rules above. There are only a couple of formal tuxedo options – both modern and traditional – that do not incorporate any satin. These include:

a) Tropical Black Tie

Better referred to as a white dinner jacket, this style involves traditionally dressing in a white shirt with a turn down collar, a white dinner jacket, black pants, and black accessories. The jacket in this case should only have 1 button the front as well as a self-shawl lapel and self flap pockets. This is an exceptional tuxedo that does not incorporate satin.

b) Commercial Tuxedo Lines 

In the same way, there are a couple of modern tuxedo options that exists in styles designed to cater to the growing demand especially in the wedding industry. The Allure Men Tuxedo line, for instance, is made by Jean Yves.

It comes with identical tuxedos but in different colours. While the heather grey, the steel grey, and the black tuxedos in the line incorporate satin, the slate blue and the tan options do not. Since this is a large line of popular tuxedos, the products are considered tuxedos. They are typically used for daytime weddings and proms.

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Other Differences

Apart from the physical differences between a tuxedo vs suit, both of them send different messages. Most people today tend to dress in jeans and a t-shirt on a daily basis. Others rarely, if ever, change from their sweats staple.

Therefore, at first hand, it would seem that anyone who rarely dresses up would think that wearing a suit would send a message just as strong as wearing a tuxedo – primarily because both of these options are quite rare. However, this is not always the case.

Consider the following:

The greater majority of people wear suits on a daily basis. This is a societal norm that does not consider the fact that the job market is evolving to cater for more casual, laid back working habits.

However, if you think about it, you will realize that some people visit the grocery store in a suit and no one thinks that this is strange at all. If you get invited to a wedding and you attend it in a suit, there are high chances that you won’t be the only one in a suit.

The point of wearing a tuxedo, therefore, isn’t to just dress up and feel nice about how you look. This is just a part of the whole equation but not everything there is to a tuxedo.

The reason why you ought to wear a tuxedo is to commemorate an occasion so special that it would be ruined unless you are in a tux. This way, you will get to dress up in something you would not wear in any other situation.

As such, a tuxedo informs the world that the moment means a great deal to you, and feels special. It shows that you are where you want to be and that you would look completely out of place in any other place but there.

This is, perhaps, the main difference to note while weighing in on the decision to pick a tuxedo vs suit. It is also the reason why even though you would look amazing in a suit and that you hardly ever make the effort to suit up, the two ensembles are not equal in any way. As such, the truly special occasion should be honored by dressing especially in a tuxedo.

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Concluding Thoughts

Over and above everything else, you need to be able to discern the difference between a suit and a tuxedo especially when you are out shopping. You certainly don’t want to show up at your office on a regular day dressed up in a tuxedo. In the same way, you wouldn’t want to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and attend the ceremony in a suit.

Your ability to pick what you wear will go a long way in making a statement – about who you are, your preferences, your personal style, and your knowledge of what is appropriate and what is not. Use the guide above the next time you need to make a choice between a tuxedo vs suit.

The last thing to note between the two is that tuxedos tend to be more expensive than suits. Dressing up in one means you are attending an event where the other personages present can tell the difference between a high quality and an average tux. Therefore, if you don’t have the money to buy a new one, consider renting one out. For suits, anything goes as long as you get the perfect fit.


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