Suit vs. Tuxedo: What’s the Difference?

Suit vs. Tuxedo

The line between suits and tuxedos has slowly become blurred since the turn of the century. Formal wear fashion always evolves, with each decade putting its spin on black tie classics (think ruffled shirts, light blue tuxedos, & 4” wide peak lapels). But, even with this evolution, what really is the differences between a suit vs. tuxedo? And what are the obvious markers to help you tell the difference? And when is each appropriate?

Read on to find out what we consider to be the major differences between suits vs. tuxedos. Stick around, and you might learn a little somthin’.

1. Lapels

A big difference between a suit and a tuxedo is in the lapel design. To identify a tuxedo, look for a satin lapel facing – it’s a good indicator of the formality that a tuxedo provides. Tuxedo lapels can also be trimmed in satin as well. But just know that when you see silk on a lapel, it’s usually a tuxedo.

Suits almost exclusively have a self-facing lapel – or a lapel with the same fabric & material as the rest of the sport coat.

Additionally, tuxedos typically feature a shawl or peak-lapel style. Tuxedos with notch lapels have recently become more common, but you should still be able to spot the difference between suits and tuxedos.

Suits can feature all three lapel styles, but most suits feature either a notch lapel (definitely the most common) or a peak lapel.

2. Buttons

Another big tip is that the buttons on a tuxedo will also be faced or covered in fabric. Whether a tuxedo has 1 or 2 buttons or buttons on the sleeves, all buttons on a tuxedo jacket will be faced in (usually) the same fabric of the jacket (see example below).

Suits should NEVER feature this subtle detail.

3. Pockets

A typical tuxedo jacket features two front pockets (in addition to a breast pocket), both of which should be jetted or sewed closed. These pockets act basically as decorated slits.

Suits, on the other hand, can feature jetted (piped) pockets, pockets with flaps, or exterior patch pockets in addition to a breast pocket as well. Check out our image below, which shows the different types of pockets and how to differentiate between them.

Suit vs. Tuxedos: How Pockets are Different

Image via Black Lapel

4. Pants

Tuxedo pants will almost always feature a satin braid on the outside seams of the trousers, called a galon (*it’s a French word, oooo la la). This is a pretty good indicator to help tell the difference between suit pants and tuxedo pants.

Tuxedo pants typically feature tracks or adjustable clasps on the waistband of the trouser to allow for loosening and tightening.

Suit pants will NEVER feature the satin galon braid on the outseam of a trouser. Suits pants can feature belt loops or tracks as well.

5. Shirt

Tuxedo shirts can feature pleats and should have extra holes for shirt studs. They should usually only be white, but can also be worn with a black tuxedo shirt as well.

Suits, on the other hand, can feature a wide range of colored shirts with an array of different collars and cuffs.

For more tips on the differences between suit vs. tuxedo, check out this video.