This page will focus on the elements of a proper semi-formal evening shirt, also known as a tuxedo shirt. You can of course read it in its entirety, or you can jump to the section that interests you most by clicking one of the links below:
- Tuxedo Shirt Collars
- Tux Shirt Cuffs
- Styles Of Tuxedo Shirt Fronts (Bibs)
- Colors For Tux Shirts
- How To Wear A Tuxedo Shirt
- Tuxedo Shirt Studs
If you’re curious about how to flex a tuxedo t-shirt into your wardrobe, we have an entire page dedicated to that! Click the preceding link for more.
Tuxedo Shirt Styles
When we think about shirts for men, we tend to think about them in three elements: color, collars, and cuffs. If you need a primer on men’s dress shirts, we strongly advise you to click the preceding link, which is chock full of information on the elements of a shirt.
From a high level, traditional tuxedo shirts are white. They always take French cuffs (double cuffs for our British readers), and there are two collar styles to choose from: the traditional wing collar or the soft turndown collar (also known as a spread collar). A shirt with a turndown collar must have a pleated bib to make it formal enough to wear with a tuxedo, otherwise it’s simply a white French cuff shirt.
Wing Collar Shirt
The wing collar is the more traditional shirt for semi-formal evening wear. It’s important that the bow tie sit in front of the wings as opposed to the collar’s wings resting on top of the bow tie.
Note that your bow tie’s band will be visible with one of these shirts.
Spread Or Turndown Collar Shirt
Spread collar shirts are easier to come by, but remember that they must also have some kind of “bib” in front to designate the shirt’s formality. These shirts can be found in higher-end men’s stores and can always be ordered from custom shops as well.
Cuffs For Tuxedo Shirts
The only appropriate cuff for tuxedo shirts is a French cuff. A barrel cuff is too casual, and the elusive single cuff shirt is reserved for white tie occasions only. You do have some choice, however, in terms of the style of French cuff; it may be the standard square shape, mitered at the corner, rounded, or cutaway. Some of these options will only be available on custom shirts.
Tux Shirt Fronts
Wing collar shirts take plain fronts, whereas turndown collar tuxedo shirts require some sort of bib. Typically this is a vertical pleat like you see in the graphic below, but there are some other options that are available through higher end makers like Thomas Pink or Brooks Brothers, and of course custom haberdashers.
White Vs Black Tuxedo Shirt
Though it’s somewhat rare, it’s theoretically acceptable to change the color of your tuxedo shirt if you keep everything else standard. Throwing too many different colors into the mix or doing things like matching your bow tie to your shirt are overkill with a tux and dilute its formality. Below, we offer pros and cons of different color tuxedo shirts.
White: Pros / Cons
- Pros: Traditional, correct for any black tie event, easy to find when shopping
- Cons: Dirties easily, not great for eccentric men who might prefer something else
Black Tuxedo Shirt: Pros & Cons
- Pros: Perfect for a monochromatic look, fashion forward, sleek
- Cons: Non-traditional, too “Hollywood” for many black tie events
Other Popular Colors (But Use Caution)
Though you’re getting away from traditional black tie and into creative black tie, it’s technically appropriate to wear a different color tuxedo shirt. Our suggestion is to avoid light colors. These scream prom in all the wrong ways.
Purple Tuxedo Shirt
In a dark plum color, a purple tuxedo shirt can be a sartorially smart choice. If you’re going to be so daring, we advise the following:
- Select a turndown collar as opposed to a wing collar
- Wear this to creative black tie events unless you’re 100% sure that you can get away with it at a regular black tie soireé
In general, if you’re going to wear a non-white tuxedo shirt, we suggest that they take turndown collars and pleated bibs, as you see below:
What Is The Best Tuxedo Shirt?
In our opinion, the best tuxedo shirt is the simple turndown collar with a pleated bib front. It’s simple, elegant, and timeless. Introduced by the Duke of Windsor in the first half of the twentieth century, it was his response to the stuffiness of dinner clothes, which he hated. It allows the wearer to feel a bit more natural and comfortable, which will always equal greater style.
How To Wear A Tuxedo Shirt
It may seem obvious, but you should wear a tuxedo shirt with a tuxedo.
To expand on this a bit, it’s helpful to note that you shouldn’t wear a tux shirt with a regular suit, and certainly not with any business casual clothes or streetwear. It is far too formal to make sartorial sense in those contexts.
Your tuxedo shirt should fit exactly as your normal dress shirts do. If you don’t know how a shirt is supposed to look, see our guide to shirt fit.
Tuxedo Shirt Studs: How To Fasten The Tux Shirt With Style
One defining factor of a tuxedo shirt is the absence of buttons coupled with the presence of buttonholes. This is to accommodate studs. Why?
For the same reason that outseams and pocket seams are faced with grosgrain, so do tuxedo shirts avoid buttons. The ideal tux values cleanliness and a lack of bulk over everything else, and placing jewelry where buttons would typically go is a way to amp up the formality factor.
Tuxedo studs are typically onyx with a silver backing, but may also be mother-of-pearl.
Studs Vs Buttons: What’s Correct?
Technically, a tuxedo shirt should take studs. This is traditional and always correct.
With that said, dress codes nowadays have become quite lax. Even a cursory Google search of the Met Gala’s worst-dressed will tell you that not many people bother with the ins and outs of formal dress codes anymore.
In that spirit, it makes sense to wear a plain white French cuff shirt in a pinch with your tuxedo if you need to. This is a decision that should be made mostly by budget and timeline; that is, if you either can’t afford a tuxedo shirt or don’t have the time to get one and have it altered properly.
A shirt with barrel cuffs is a tough sell for black tie and really should be avoided to the best of your effort.
Parting Thoughts & More Reading
Whether off the rack or custom, a tuxedo shirt should fit perfectly and have the necessary aesthetic details to separate it from the average dress shirt. It’s our hope that the information above is helpful to you as you find and wear one of your own.
Now that you understand the ins and outs of tuxedo shirts, there are other things to consider. For example, what’s the right type of fit for your body type? What collar style works best for your face shape? What fragrances should you wear for a black tie event? We have answers to these questions and more, just click on the preceding links.
For more information on tuxedos, take a look at the other pages in our tuxedo series: