Tuxedo Shirt vs. Dress Shirt: Everything You Need to Know
Tuxedos are the crème de la crème when it comes to formalwear for men, but donning the proper gear to a black tie event may seem a little daunting or overwhelming – especially if you’re not familiar with all the do’s and don’ts of formal dress clothes. If you have a formal event coming up and you’re not sure whether to bust out your best tux or keep it more casual with a suit, you’re in luck, because we’ve broken down all the details about tuxedo shirts and dress shirts in one handy guide to help you look your best for all of your upcoming events.
What is a tuxedo shirt?
Let’s dive in and start with the basics. A tuxedo shirt is typically a long-sleeve, button-down shirt that’s worn with – you guessed it – a tuxedo. In fact, you should only wear a tuxedo shirt while sporting a tuxedo, because otherwise, your fancy ensemble will look sloppy, mismatched, and totally not put together.
Tuxedo shirts are key to streamlining your black tie look, and while it may seem like tuxedo shirts are a boring, one-style-fits-all type of garment, we’re here to tell you to throw that idea straight out the window because there are a ton of subtle differences within the tuxedo shirt realm that’ll help you take your formalwear style to the next level.
How is a tuxedo shirt different from a dress shirt?
Tuxedo shirts and dress shirts have a few key differences between them, the most important (as previously mentioned) being that you cannot under any circumstance wear a dress shirt with a tuxedo. Save your dress shirts for semi-formal to casual wear, and wear them to the office, meeting your partner’s family for the first time, or attending your buddy’s wedding (unless it’s specifically a black tie event). When it comes to dress shirts, you usually have a bit more freedom when choosing the color/pattern, fit, and style, and you can also choose to wear a colorful or printed bow tie, necktie, or no tie at all for an ultra-casual vibe.
Tuxedo shirts are essentially a more elegant version of a dress shirt and are meant to be worn to uber-formal events, like a gala, your wedding, a formal dinner party or reception, the opera or ballet, or a symphony – just to name a few. And despite what you see celebrities wearing on the red carpet, tuxedo shirts should almost always be a crisp, white color to ensure your look stays elegant, classy, and timeless.
Tuxedo shirt vs. dress shirt fabrics
For both tuxedo shirts and dress shirts, you’ll want to look for something made of cotton, as it’s one of the most breathable and comfortable fabrics around. However, when on the hunt for the perfect tuxedo shirt, there are two weaves in the cotton family that you should look out for: twill and broadcloth.
Twill fabric is generally thicker than broadcloth, and while it may not keep you as cool in your fancy getup, it’s less prone to wrinkling, gives the shirt a very subtle texture, and has a bit of a sheen to it. Broadcloth, on the other hand, has little to no texture and sheen, wrinkles a bit more easily and poses the risk of being a tad bit sheer, but is lightweight and will keep you cooler than a twill tuxedo shirt will.
Basically, your choice of fabric when it comes to picking out a tuxedo shirt is completely based on preference – just be aware of the slight differences between the two.
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Tuxedo shirt collar types vs. dress shirt collar types
Believe it or not, the collar of a tuxedo shirt frames your face, so it’s way more vital to your overall formal look than you may think it is. While dress shirt collars come in many shapes – like a classic straight collar, a button down collar, a windsor spread collar, or even no collar at all, which is referred to as a band collar – there are just a few tuxedo shirt collar types you should choose from, depending on the look you’re going for.
Semi-spread collars are modern, versatile, and look best on dudes who have long necks or slender faces – of course, though, anyone can wear a semi-spread collar as long as you wear one with confidence, and thankfully, both bow ties and neckties work with this style. Another popular tuxedo shirt collar type is a classic wing-tip collar, which should be worn for the most formal of events you attend – or if you just want to subtly stand out and be the dressiest one at the event.
If you’re opting for a wing-tip collar, be sure to only wear a bow tie, though, as neckties look absolutely wack with this collar style.
Tuxedo bibs and plackets: they’re more important than you think
A bib is the rectangular panel that runs up the middle of a tuxedo shirt, and essentially doubles up the fabric, ensuring that your shirt isn’t see-through. Bib-front shirts should only be worn with bow ties and tuxedos, so you shouldn’t even bother trying to sport a bib-front shirt with a necktie or a plain old suit – it’ll look out of place and sloppy.
There are a few different tuxedo bib styles, including a pleated bib, which is a more traditional style of tuxedo shirt. If you’re looking to add even more texture and personality to your tux, opt for a ruffled bib; however, keep in mind that ruffled bibs give off a more casual vibe, so they may not be best for the most formal events. If minimalism is more your vibe, grab a tuxedo shirt with no bib, and if you need something that screams formal, be on the lookout for a pique bib, which offers a thicker, stiffer fabric and won’t wrinkle easily.
A placket is the strip of fabric that runs down the middle of the shirt and basically conceals the buttonholes on the tuxedo shirt, giving the shirt a clean, streamlined look. Plackets can either hide the buttons altogether or feature studs – typically where the top four buttons are, that can add to the overall look of your tuxedo shirt. If you’re going to sport studs on your shirt, be sure to only wear a bowtie with your ensemble so you’re not covering them up.
Finally, one rule of thumb when it comes to the details of the front of your tuxedo shirt is that there should never, ever be a breast pocket on it. If there is, it’s not a tuxedo shirt – it’s just a dress shirt.
Cuffs, cufflinks, buttons, studs, and other accessories
When it comes to tuxedo shirts, there are two popular cuff styles to choose from: French cuffs and barrel cuffs. French cuffs are folded back and held in place with cufflinks – an accessory you should definitely invest in when sporting a tuxedo shirt. Barrel cuffs are not folded over, do not require cufflinks, are held in place by a button, and are most common on regular dress shirts.
Bottom line: if you want to up your formalwear game, opt for a shirt with French cuffs and find some unique cufflinks to set your style apart from everyone else.
As mentioned above, you can add a little more flair to your tuxedo shirt by adding studs to where the top four buttons lie. And if you can pull it off, you can always add a pair of suspenders to your outfit, which will pop against the crisp white color of your tuxedo shirt and give you a timeless look.
Can you layer an undershirt under a tuxedo shirt?
You can definitely layer an undershirt under a tuxedo shirt, but you should never wear a white tank top under it. Instead, look for a white tee that fits close to your body and make sure the sleeves don’t bunch up under your tuxedo shirt, or else you’ll look a little unkempt and messy.
At the end of the day, the tuxedo shirt should be worn only when attending formal events, while dress shirts can be worn for any occasion, from weddings to dates to a few beers with mates on a weekend.
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