This might be my most off-season review yet, but I’m going for it anyway. Why? Because although there is certainly a black tie “season,” the beauty of the Black Tie Event is that it can strike at any time. The key is preparedness, because you’ll never have time to create a black tie rig from scratch once the event is on the calendar. It may hurt to drop serious cash on a thing you have no immediate use for, but once a tuxedo is in your closet the opportunities to use it have a way of appearing – that’s just how these things work.
I attend black tie events at least once per year, and I have been planning a tuxedo purchase for a while now. I have had good experiences with SuitSupply in the past, and their classic tuxedo has been in my crosshairs for a good amount of time. Their tuxedo is interesting to me because it is often recommended as the best tux for the price, and yet there is very little information available on it. I’m not sure if the people recommending it aren’t speaking from experience or if the people that own them just keep it to themselves, but either way there is little to be learned about this garment on the internet. I decided to take the plunge; here’s what I learned.
When it comes to tuxedo details, historical black tie is very particular, and SuitSupply hits almost all of these details on the head (here’s some info on classic tuxedo styling if you need a refresher). This is what Suitsupply gets right:
- Generous peak lapels. Shawl is appropriate too, but peak is the classic choice. Black tie is no place for skinny lapels.
- Grosgrain silk facing on the lapel, trouser braid, pockets, and buttons. Satin is a fine choice as well, but grosgrain is the more subtle, and therefore more #menswear, choice.
- One button closure.
- Jetted jacket pockets, no ticket pocket.
- Double vents. Having no vents is the historically correct choice, but it feels rather dated and just doesn’t function as well (it gets bunched up when you sit or put your hands in your pockets). Double vents are a perfectly fine substitute, in my opinion.
- No belt loops. Tuxedos should be held up with black silk suspenders (suspender buttons are included in the SuitSupply model shown here).
- Structured and roped shoulder.
- Black wool fabric without texture or pattern. Midnight blue is another good choice, but black is the modern standard.
These criteria might seem random and unnecessary, but I find them to have more than just historical value. To me, tuxedos should follow two main principles: minimalism (no extra flaps, buttons, etc) and differentiation from business suits (peak lapels, silk trimming, etc). With these ideas in mind, tuxedos make a bit more sense. Essentially, you’re looking to have a simple uniform that allows women to be the center of attention at these formal events, but you still want to show that it’s a celebration and not just business as usual.
Anyway, my point is that most tuxedos on the market – whether $200 or $2,000 – get many of these criteria wrong. Even before the question of quality or value enter the equation, the SuitSupply tuxedo is already looking like a great option.
I had been eyeing this tuxedo for a long time for this reason, but was confused by the product measurements posted online. SuitSupply does a great job of giving detailed garment measurements, so I was concerned to see that the numbers for my usual size of 36R seemed strange. Many of the measurements seemed too big – even bigger than I might expect from a 38R. Fortunately, SuitSupply has a great return policy so I ordered my usual 36R and a 34R as well.
When the package arrived in its classic tombstone box, I tried the 36R on first; I never even put on the 34R because it was immediately clear that 36R was the correct option. The fit is a bit more generous than my Havana fit jacket (the tuxedo is based off the Napoli fit), but not nearly as much as the measurements implied.
The fit is different than my Havana blazer in a few ways. First, I was pleasantly suprised and relieved to find that the button stance and jacket length are both lower on this model, which makes the jacket more traditional. The lower button stance is especially welcome, since a high jacket “waist” gives men a rather hip-heavy look, unlike the strong “V” of a lower stance (and if there’s any jacket that needs to be hyper-masculine, it’s this one). The jacket and trousers both needed a moderate amount of work from my tailor to fit correctly, but these are just natural variations of my body and shouldn’t be taken to mean that the jacket won’t fit well on someone else. All of the measurements seem reasonable and accommodating, and I think that taking your normal size will result in a good starting point for any tailor. For reference – I had the pants hemmed, waist let out 1/2”, sleeves lengthened 1/4”, and the jacket back cleaned up. All told, the tuxedo fit is a bit more generous in the shoulders and chest, but fairly slim in the waist and legs (the legs in particular are quite slim, and may be too much so for some). Take that into consideration when you’re thinking about ordering, but remember that SuitSupply has a great return policy.
The material is a simple black Super 110s worsted wool from Vitale Barberis Canonico in Italy. In all honesty, it feels quite plain, but that is the nature of worsted wool. A bit more sheen – perhaps a mohair/wool blend – would have been a welcome addition, but certainly not necessary. I also would have preferred midnight blue over black, but can’t argue with the choice, since black is the most conservative option. And I often find that midnight blue tuxedos, much like shawl collars, are something that often sounds good on paper but is poorly executed in reality. Black wool is simple and reliable, and I have no problem with that.
To be perfectly honest, I doubt I could pick this fabric out from others like it; nonetheless, I appreciate SuitSupply using a name-brand fabric like VBC to give me assurance of quality, origin, and composition. I have been burned by shoddy fabric in the past, so it’s good to see a familiar name and country of origin on the label.
So, the big question: is this tuxedo worth it? Well, I can confidently say that, quality aside, I have not found another tuxedo at or under the $600 mark that has so many of the ideal tuxedo details correct. Most inexpensive tuxedos are notch lapeled, two-buttoned, flap-pocketed, black shiny suits. The tuxedo should be a strong deviation from a traditional business suit, while remaining true to its minimalist roots. The fact that this garment is very true to the classic details, half-canvassed, and made out of respectable Italian cloth (in China, as would be expected for the price) shows that SuitSupply is serious about getting this garment right.
Right now, this tuxedo is priced at $569. Not too long ago, it was listed at $469, and for that price it was undoubtedly the best option out there. The extra $100 puts it a bit closer to some good made-to-measure options, which usually start entering the field around $700 and go up from there (I am not including online-only MTM services like Indochino, because I feel that getting suits made over the internet is too risky of a venture). I strongly considered getting my friends at Beckett & Robb to make me a tuxedo with specifications virtually identical to this one, but it came down to this – a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Sure, with the additional cost of alterations the difference in cost may have been less than $100. But with Suitsupply, I have a nearly perfect garment ready to go, whereas the other is only the potential for one.
Although I wish this tuxedo still cost $469, I can’t find a better choice for traditional black tie at anywhere near that price. If I had to recommend an off-the-rack tuxedo for under $800 it would undoubtedly be SuitSupply. Now go and join Team Tuxedo – I’ll see you out there.
Photos by Majd Taby