You've never been to a fancy-schmancy party before, and you're really psyched about hobnobbing with the upper crust of society. Then you notice that at the bottom of the invite there are two cryptic words: "Black Tie." Your first thought: "No problem. I have plenty of black ties." Our first thought: "Moron, that means that you have to wear a tux."

Relatively few people buy full-out tuxedo ensembles. They go out of style, your height or weight can change, and unless youre a professional party crasher, there arent many occasions where tuxedos will be required. But when those times do arise (the prom, a fancy party, the Oscars, your indictment, a James Bond look-alike contest . . .), youll be grateful that you came to us for tuxedo-renting advice.


First you should figure out what type of affair you are attending, because not all formal events are created equal. Most occasions will fit into one of the following categories, usually indicated on the invitation:

Black Tie Optional This type of event means that while it is appropriate to wear a tuxedo, there will be many men attending the event in suits and other semi-formal wear. For this type of event you can wear either a tux or a suit. But you've already gone to the trouble of logging on and finding us, so you might as well wear the tux. Tails or other ultra-formal wear are inappropriate for this type of event. Black Tie Invited The same as Black Tie Optional. Black Tie Preferred This event is similar to the one above, but in this case the host or hostess would prefer that you get penguined up for the occasion. While the host will not be offended if you opt to wear a suit, you will be in the minority. Black Tie No option. You either tux it, or you stay at home and watch the Saturday night Cops! marathon. To this type of affair, it is acceptable to wear more formal tuxedos (yes, they exist) including evening tails. Novelty ties, vests and cummerbunds should be avoided at all costs when choosing a tuxedo for a Black Tie event, so put that Garfield cummerbund back in with the mothballs. White Tie This is the mother of all formalwear occasions for men. To this affair, you should plan on wearing only the most elegant and classic styles of formal attire. You are expected to wear evening tails to an affair like this, and get ready for some kick-ass pt.

A prom or other type of formalwear event that does not specifically indicate what type of dress is appropriate can be included in the Black Tie Preferred category. No one will attack you for wearing a suit, but a tuxedo is certainly expected. Choose a conservative but not overly elegant style. (We bet "elegant" has never been used to describe your clothes before. Aww. Youre getting so grown up on us.)

One word of caution: when in doubt, choose conservative and traditionalwear over newer, trendier tuxedos. Imagine looking back over your prom photos years from now and seeing yourself in a Jim Carrey-esque Day-Glo orange tux and top hat. And it seemed like such a good idea at the time . . .