groom wearing tuxedo

Photo: MyLife Photography

If you’re about to get married and you’ve found yourself pondering the difference between a tuxedo and a suit, you’re not alone. Most events today are far less formal—and their dress codes far less rigid—than the days of yore, so many men don’t learn the difference between the two until their wedding day. It’s worth noting that a tuxedo is technically a suit, but a tux is much more formal and should only be worn after 5pm. Intrigued?


Presence of satin
The main physical characteristic that sets a tuxedo apart from a suit is the presence of satin. In short, a tuxedo has it—a suit does not. On a tux, there may be satin on the lapel facing, buttons, pocket trim and down the side of the trousers. There will be no satin on a suit—in fact the whole suit, including pants, jacket and accessories, will be made from the same material—and buttons will be either plastic or covered with the same fabric as the jacket.

Different occasions
Tuxedos are, of course, more formal than suits. You wouldn’t wear a tux to work, but you could wear a suit to almost any office and not look out of place. Tuxedos are also considered evening attire (unless you wear a morning suit, but that’s a different story) and should not be worn during the daytime, whereas suits can be worn at almost any time of the day. To sum up: If you’re having a formal or black-tie wedding, wear a tux!

Suits can also be made from a variety of fabrics, including linen and cotton for warmer weather, and can be any color. Tuxedos, on the other hand, are traditionally black or midnight blue.

Different jacket and pocket styles
As mentioned above, a tuxedo jacket will include satin features, while a suit jacket will not. A tuxedo jacket may also have a shawl collar, peaked lapel or notched lapel, whereas a suit jacket is unlikely to ever have a shawl collar.

The pockets on tuxedo and suit jackets differ, too: On a suit, they can have a flap or not, whereas tuxedo jacket pockets must have satin trim instead of a flap as that creates a more seamless look.

Different ties, accessories and underpinnings
Traditionally, a tuxedo is worn with a bow tie and cummerbund or waistcoat, while a suit is worn with a long necktie and a vest. You can wear a vest and long tie with a tux, but that’s considered more offbeat. With a suit, you could easily wear a bow tie or go without a waist-covering and no one would bat an eyelash.

In terms of accessories, a tuxedo should be worn with a white pocket square, while a suit can be worn with a pocket square made from any complementary fabric.

Different shoes
Suits can be worn with almost any type of shoes. Really! Sneakers, cowboy boots, Oxfords, brogues—they’re all acceptable. With a tuxedo, on the other hand, only patent leather shoes are considered appropriate.

Cost
This one is pretty straightforward: A tuxedo is more expensive than a suit. This will be true whether you’re renting or buying, so factor that into your formalwear decision.