March 16, 2009

More thoughts on dinner jackets aka tuxedos and wedding etiquette

UPDATE - I despair. I just did some additional research on rental tuxedos. Leading Man - who carries a single-button, peak lapel - only offer the classic style with a pinstripe or with a strip of satin on the lapel only, both are the antithesis of classic!

Hi JJ,
Can you please suggest some Vancouver business to rent a wedding suit? I saw your blog on dinner jacket faux-pas and rules to follow.

Thanks in advance, Dave

Hi Dave. Thanks for writing. I love answering questions so keep them coming.
I have to admit, I've rented only once in Bethesda, Maryland, an awful white double-breasted, dinner jacket with a ruby cummerbund. Ugh.

Since then, I don't rent. Instead, I've had my dinner jackets custom-made and later, I bought, an Austrian number in mohair which, because I'm a duffer/tailor, I altered myself. I turned pleated pants into plain fronts. Not easy.

For those, who've never apprenticed, there are good looks to be found in rentals. Outfits such as Tip Top (Freeman's) and Moore's (I think Black and Lee but I'm not sure) have included single-breasted peak lapels, bow ties and shirts with turn down collars. The classic look that looks great in wedding pictures and doesn't date you.

It looks like chains have responded to the demand for more classic looks somewhat. But watch out, apparently notches are still hot...but of course they're not.

OK, I just called around: Black and Lee carries only one type of single-breasted peak lapel and the person on the phone couldn't tell me if it was a slim cut suit or not.

I did find at Leading Man Tuxedos in New Westminster a classic look. Single button, single-breasted, peak lapel. It's called a LM 1.

For contact info, go to:

I noticed at Tip Top at Metrotown a number of full-satin peak lapel. Lapels with just a strip of satin look cheap.

You might want to call there or other Freeman distributors. Ask for the Calvin Klein, style 1000. Single-breasted, peak lapels, all be it, with two buttons.

It is more important to find a cutt style that fits you. Because you're booking in advance, you have to make sure the cut of the suit style (ie model) works for you. They may shorten sleeves and leg hems but they won't alter the basic fit of the suit. The sample you try on may differ from the one you rent in the end. Find out how their policy on rentals works. What you may be reserving is a cut or model of suit, a guaranteed leg and sleeve length, a chest size and that's about it. Looking good is up to you and that means picking the right fit.

That means the right button placement and shoulder width and a smooth back with no gape at the neck. To achieve that, try different models of jackets even if it means having to visit more than one rental line. In short, finding a good fit is more important than a good rental outfit.

I suspect, if they're willing to let you be discerning, then they appreciate your business. If they can't handle it, why rent from them? Leading Man gave me the most personal service and Tip Top did their best to answer my questions even though they were busy. Black and Lee didn't have good phone manners when I called them.

NB I've always wondered what was the advantage of all the men renting from the same joint. It only guarantees conformity not appropriate fit.

Also note: I've liberalized some of my own previous opinions here and here.

I think a cummerbund boils down to good manners. A groom or a best man could make the argument that it should be black.

Same goes for a waistcoat. Black, baby. If playing matchy matchy with the bride and maids is required....pocket squares cut from the same cloth or colour as the accent fabric is a good idea and that's what the groom at my last wedding did when he followed my advice. Tell them, "We are gentlemen and companions,not members of a Doo Wop band."

My "rethinked" advice points would go as below:
  • If there's a space at the back of the neck of your jacket, it doesn't fit you.
  • Try to rent one size smaller and, if that doesn't work, go for one-button jackets which, I've been told, are cut tighter.
  • DO WEAR A CUMMERBUND. BUT NEVER UNBUTTON YOUR JACKET, technically it's considered rude and, while old-fashioned, I never do it, even when sitting at a black tie event. Never unbutton during the wedding service and not before everyone is good and drunk. Photographers will ask you to unbutton your tuxedo (I don't know why) decline to do so ONLY if the groom permits this pig-headed stance on your part. Otherwise, don't ruin their pictures with your own etiquette preferences and put your hands in your pant pockets if they tell you to!
  • Another Exception: If the groom starts gearing down, feel free to unbutton.
  • WAISTCOATS are reasonable when only in black and cut low. Perhaps show one vest button over the jacket button. Otherwise go for a cummerbund. I hate it when a man looks like a black tube and only one stud shows on the shirt. Yuck.
  • SHAWLS AND PEAKS are good - notches are just botches even if Clooney is loonie for them. We're not George Clooney.
  • ALSO, I've never understood why the men need to wear the same style. I think as long as the boys wear black and white, who cares if they vary between lapel, breast types and the waistcoat/cummerbund, SO WHAT? (Ah women! I suspect women have the need to wear the same thing because they had fewer opportunities to wear team uniforms. Perhaps, this analysis is a tad sexist.
  • Rent it if the body fits and the sleeve length don't...sleeves can be adjusted. Make sure they agree to do so and express your wishes when it comes to how much cuff you want to show.
  • ALSO seek out high arm holes and narrow sleeves. Waist suppression, tight shoulders....that's what a good fit means these days.
  • The right hem length: a jacket needs to just cover your bum, no more. Another way of guesstimating the right hem length is to drop your hands to your sides, the jacket hem should just brush somewhere between the mid palm and the pads of your hand - unless you're an orangutan. This is not exact. True and correct hem length can only be done by eye. No measure and bisect system works. Hem length is all about an artistic awareness of proportion. Legs should look long and upper bodies need to look strapping. That's the idea - rules bedamned.
  • Never rent the shirt.
  • Never show more than three buttons or studs on your shirt when your jacket is buttoned. It's supposed to be a shirt not an elevator control panel.
  • Frills and pleats, the bib front action, are acceptable to me these days.
  • If you wear suspenders and a cummerbund, consider keeping the jacket on so they don't show unless you are following the good and drunk, gear-down rule. But note, a cummerbund may peak over the closure of the jacket and that's fine.
  • Show an inch of cuff to flash the man bling of a link. (Admittedly, this is a personal choice, more wise people choose half an inch.
  • Leave your regular wallet behind.
  • Bow ties are meant to be tied, long neck ties are meant to be worn at the office or with a day suit, aka business suit.
  • With dinner jackets, white ties are for waiters, collecting the Nobel, and state dinners, and members of Duran Duran, unless you're marrying into royalty, stick with the black. I have no idea what Barack Obama was thinking.
  • Wing collars look good on people trying to annex neighbouring countries, go with the more modern and softer turn-down. You'll feel more comfortable too. PHEW!


  1. I had no idea that my wedding had burned so many bad fashion memories into my groomsmen. Try and remember that it was the '90s and at least we were not in plaid or flannel...

  2. there is nothing wrong per se with a white dinner jacket. I'm tempted to get one. and a double breasted is my next tuxedo jacket (requires neither waistcoat or cummerbund) and you know how I feel about those the case of the event in question, it was a matter of personal execution, i did not look good and that's enough for me to rue the day. it was mind you the best wedding event EVER so fashion isn't everything. though my conduct could have been more civil. happy bday!