by Chris Pierce
First and foremost, let's get one thing straight: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES LET YOUR BRIDE DRESS YOU. You are, in all likelihood, one of the many thousands of men walking this earth who actually dress themselves without the help of a woman. If you can walk down the street without being pointed at and ridiculed by small children, then you're ready to join us as we enter into the intimidating world of men's fashion (Besides, your fiancee would rather you look like some sort of six foot tall "KEN Doll.") This way, please...
Option 1 - Tuxedos vs. All Others:
This is an easy one. When in doubt, pull out any Cary Grant movie, and take a look at the "King of Panache," in his black tuxedo and bow tie. In his day, he was admired by men and lusted after by women. This man had "it." We mere mortals can only hope to capture "it" for that fleeting moment known as our Wedding Day. Cary knew something about how to light the fire within any woman. He did it with a tuxedo and a black tie. If your affair is of a less formal nature (i.e. Morning or daytime wedding, and in particular, outdoors) you may forgo the tuxedo for a suit. The suit should be a solid color, with a solid color shirt and tie. If you are being married poolside at your hotel in Hawaii, you may then invoke the little known "Don Ho" rule, and wear your Hawaiian Shirt and shorts; but please, skip the flip-flops ("Tiny bubbles in the wine_.")
Option 2 - Buying Or Renting Tuxedos.
Renting tuxedos is an extremely popular choice, and requires little or no imagination. Allow me to paint the typical renting scenario: You show up with the groomsmen and the rest of the bridal party at some storefront tuxedos place. The guy with the measuring tape will inevitably be wearing more gold jewelry than Mr. T. and he will only listen to the bride as she proceeds to dress all of you as she sees fit! Remember what it was like to be with Mom in a department store as a child: She'd dress you in clothes that were uncomfortable, ugly, or most likely, both. That's what this experience can be like.
On the other hand, when renting tuxedos, you usually get everything you need in one shot - The tuxedo, the shirt, the studs, the cufflinks and sometimes even those horrible plastic shoes. It's the total package. Now, with this vision in mind, get out a picture from your High School Prom and take a good, long look. If you resemble a young Jerry Lewis instead of Cary Grant, then DO NOT RENT! BUY! For the price of two rentals, you can have yourself a fine, all wool tuxedo that is tailored for your body, that doesn't have an adjustable waist pants and no one has ever thrown up on it.
When it comes to color, your choices are basically Black, Black, and Black. Did Cary Grant ever wear Powder Blue tuxedos? Single-breasted suits are available in either traditional two button jackets or more fashionable one or three button models (JFK Jr. went with a three button; 'nuff said). Remember, only button the top two buttons on a three button and the top one on a two button. The one button jacket is great for the stout gent, while the two button will work for most, and the three button looks good on guys who've yet to gain the "freshman fifteen" (If you don't know what that is, don't ask; you get to find our the hard way...). Double Breasted suits come with either shawl (rounded lapels) or peak (pointy lapels). For most, it's a matter of personal preference. The DB Peak lapel is the most formal tuxedo. If you're extra short or wide, stay with the single breasted.
As far as shirts are concerned, tell your bride how you'll match her dress. Most wear white, so a white shirt is usually in order. Some brides will choose an off white dress, in which case you'll have to look a little harder but you should be able to find an off white shirt. Trust me, on the day of the wedding, it will look much whiter. Whatever you choose, make sure that it is a true tuxedo shirt. The shirt placket should be textured like a pique polo shirt or pleated, and it will usually have the little wing collar. In regards to the pleats, try to remember Cary Grant, not Elmer J. Fudd.
Here's another color choice for you...BLACK! Try and be valiant and go with a self tying bow tie. Cary always did. Make sure it is pre-tied on your wedding day; Invariably, you'll be running late and your hands will be quivering so much that you'll never be able to tie a clean knot. Some super fashion plates (i.e. - JFK, Jr. above) have worn solid color neck ties. I suggest that unless you have the presence and swagger of the aforementioned, stick with the bow tie. Otherwise you might wind up looking like a guest and not the groom.
Yes, my simple friends, these are "suspenders." Cary called them braces, you should too. Black with button loops are safest. Do not go with the "Mork from Ork" rainbow clips.
Vest or Cummerbund.
This one is truly up to you and your personal sense of style. If you're truly "fashionable challenged," use my favorite color recommendation here as well...Black. You're a Groom, not a clown (OK, well, that's a whole other article...). Either way, remember, a vest or cummerbund is worn over your braces.
Shirt Studs and Cufflinks
The simpler the better, tasteful silver or gold. You want these to be quiet and elegant. If you can get your hands on the set of cuff links that 007 got from "Q," you're in luck. You never know when you might need to tranquilize your mother-in-law.
Here's where you must heed my advice: If you rent shoes you will regret it. Purchase a simple pair of black cap toe oxford, take them to a shoemaker and have a "spit shine" done. Bridesmaids should be able to fix their makeup in your shine.
If you are buying a tuxedo, find a salesperson who is dressed well. You also want to be comfortable on the big day, so make sure that you get fitted properly; do not assume your size! Keep all this advice in mind, too - if you give good enough groomsmen gifts you may be taking your tuxedo expertise to a friend's wedding in the future.
Follow these steps and your Bride will be impressed, you'll have your moment in the sun and Cary Grant will smile upon you from the "big soiree in the sky."
Chris Pierce lives and works in New York City. He spends Friday Nights watching rented videos of classic movies and reading GQ magazine.