Renting vs Buying a Custom Tuxedo: A Case Study

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The decision of whether to rent or buy a suit or tux for a black tie wedding, gala, or ball is one that most men will have to consider at least once during their lifetime. This post will lay out the pros and cons and hopefully clarify things and make your decision much simpler.  In this feature, we take a look at Scott, who bought an off-the-rack tuxedo (which had also been used for rentals) from a men’s clothing store which will remain nameless. After reading this article, you will have a clear understanding of what to expect when renting or buying and make the best decision for your black tie event.

Renting

Pros

Short-term cost: Men’s Wearhouse, for example, offers tuxedo packages from as low as $200, including a three piece tuxedo, bowtie, shirt, shoes, cufflinks, socks and pocket square. But remember, as the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for.” For some men, this may end up being the best option – whether due to budget restrictions or the procrastination. But for the vast majority of adult men, the pitfalls will likely outweigh the seemingly low price.

Cons

Let’s start with the most obvious: you spend money on something you don’t get to keep.  This is maybe not a big deal if it’s the only time you’ll ever wear a tux in your life. But more likely, you’ll attend several weddings and other black tie events over the next several years, and if you rent even a few times, the value proposition will quickly disappear.

As an example – on average, a man will be a groomsman in about 3 weddings before he even turns 35 years old. And according to the Huffington Post, groomsmen spend about $245.50 per wedding for a tux. Multiply this number by three and you’re spending $736.50. And those numbers don’t account for other black tie events, whether for charity fundraisers, work-related events, or any other reason gentlemen may require black tie attire. If this seems like your reality, a high-quality custom tuxedo is simply a smart investment (without even accounting for the differences in quality discussed below). 

Secondly, hiring a rental can be risky because you don’t know how many other men have done the Electric Slide in those pants. Odds are that a number of people of various shapes, sizes, and scents who have worn that suit. And although the suit will almost certainly have been cleaned, it may show effects of some wear and tear and definitely won’t feel the same as your own newly-created suit.

Most importantly, a rental necessarily uses lowest common denominator off-the-rack sizing and design. Since the rental has to accommodate many body shapes and sizes, the fit will almost always be boxy, even sloppy.  Minor alterations can help, but they only go so far when the fundamentals cut of the suit is off and the style is conservative and roomy. It’s 2020, you don’t want to give the impression that you got lost on your way to the 2003 NBA Draft.

And in Scott’s case below, his SIZE 38 (!) was a complete disaster. In his own words,“this tuxedo completely ruined my night,” proving that the inverse of “look good, feel good” also rings true. 

Disaster Breakdown

As you can see in the picture above, Scott had bought an off-the-rack tuxedo and the outcome wasn’t pretty. Let’s break down the issues with his tux:

#1 Shoulders: In Scott’s case, the shoulders are too big. As we said before, rentals need to accommodate multiple shapes and are usually too large for thinner body types.

#2 Arms: The sleeves are too long.  They should stop at the wrist bone and show roughly 1/4” of  shirt sleeve.

# 3 Pants: For a shorter man (or any man) you don’t want a baggy pant as it makes the suit seem too big.  For a shorter man, it makes legs look even shorter. 

#4 Shirt Collar: If your shirt is too big there will be a gap between your neck and your shirt collar. We’re also not a fan of the wing collar.  For a modern, but classic look, we recommend a semi-spread collar as you’ll see below.

#5 Jacket Length: The longer the jacket, the shorter you appear. For shorter men, the jacket should stop where the thumb meets the hand. Scott’s is entirely too long.

Buying a Custom Tuxedo

Pros

First thing is that you have creative control and can design the tux however you want. Buying a custom tuxedo this way enables you to add your own personality to it, with bold designs and meticulous details like a shawl collar or inner lining. Even if you prefer to go with the timeless class of a black tuxedo and black bowtie, there are numerous options you have to put your unique stamp on it, from choosing from hundreds of silk and satin linings or having your own custom design printed to including a monogram of your choice.

Secondly, the fit will be made to your unique measurements and personal style preferences.

FIT BREAKDOWN

#1 Buttoning: Scott is wearing a one-button jacket; giving him a longer torso, which lengthens sight lines and makes him seem taller than his 5’6 frame. 

#2 & 3 Shoulders & Sleeves: Shoulders are perfect. Very little padding, no puckering,  and the lines flow perfectly down to the tapered sleeves. Observe that his sleeves also allow for a little bit of cuff to show. In this case, we went much shorter, with 1/2 inch of sleeve showing (which works perfectly with French cuff dress shirts that are usually worn with a black tie outfit).

#4 & 5 Pants: Notice that his pants are perfectly tapered; slim but with enough room so that he’s able to move comfortably. He also has a slight break in his pants—if he wears loafers this turns into no break—which is great for a man his size because it avoids the “I’m a high school kid wearing my older’s brother’s hand-me-downs” look of pants that pool around the ankle, and also makes him appear taller.

Cons

Probably the biggest hurdle for those of considering opting for custom is that it can feel like it costs a pretty penny.  However, it’s all relative.  As discussed, if you wear your tux even a few times over a period of years, you’ll have a vastly superior product and pay roughly the same amount or less than the cumulative total of rental costs.

Another concern we’ve heard over the years is the fear of weight gain or loss making a custom tuxedo harder to wear in future years. In our experience, this fear is usually unfounded. Most adult men will only fluctuate a small amount in weight over a period of time, and custom suits will have a bit of extra fabric to give you some literal and figurative breathing room. And this con can become a pro, as knowing you have to fit into your custom tux can provide that extra motivation you need to hit the gym in those weeks and months before your next black tie event.

The Verdict

Unless you have a significant issue that would be caused by spending the additional money, going with a custom tuxedo or suit will be well worth the expense at the black tie event itself, and even more valuable in the long term. The quality difference is night and day. The confidence you feel and the image that will be reflected in the many photos of you that will be taken at your black tie event will make it worth the cost. That the tux will pay dividends through the years and be a solid long term sartorial investment is just the cherry on top.

Moda Matters has outfitted hundreds of men in black tie attire for weddings, galas, balls, charity fundraisers, and anywhere else a positive impression is desired.  Schedule an appointment in our showroom or contact us with any questions you have regarding black tie attire or our custom fitting process.

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