Review: The Black Tux

Posted on February 24, 2014

5


Black_Tux_front

Overall Rating:

  • Price: competitive with national chains
  • Style & Options: very good; excellent if you like modern styling
  • Ordering & Customer Service: very good / excellent
  • Fit: very good
  • Quality: excellent for rentals
  • Value: excellent

Los Angeles-based friends Andrew Blackmon and Patrick Coyne have seriously raised the bar on tuxedo rentals with their mail-order company The Black Tux.  Frustrated with the lack of options and quality available to them when outfitting the groomsmen for Blackmon’s wedding, the pair started the business in 2012 to offer a better product for the same price as national rentals.  They would do this by circumventing the need for storefronts, distribution networks and expensive marketing campaigns and investing their money instead in well-made, stylish merchandise.  The end result is a style selection that is contemporary yet tasteful and garment quality you’d expect from upscale department stores.

Company founders Andrew Blackmon and Patrick Coyne.

Company founders Andrew Blackmon and Patrick Coyne. (Courtesy of The Black Tux)

Price (US $)

Black Tux’s tuxedo rental prices range from $95 to $120 depending on the style.  The web site states that national chains charge $140 to $220 for their tuxedo rentals but that is misleading as those costs are for complete packages.  Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse actually rent tuxedos alone for as low as $60, albeit it of a much lower quality. The total value of the outfit that I reviewed was at the top end of the scale at $195 including a $5 mandatory damage waiver.

Shipping is free both ways. (Note that Black Tux only services the US.)

Style & Options

styles

A primary selling feature of The Black Tux is the choice of slim or classic fit suits.  The web site describes the slim fit as being similar to J. Crew Ludlow (whatever that means) while the classic fit is a bit roomier.

Jackets are available as a classic one-button peak lapel or a contemporary two-button notch lapel but I am told by co-owner Patrick Coyne that a shawl collar will be added very soon.  The peaked lapel model is available in black or midnight blue while the notched is in black only.  Both jackets have side vents as conventional ventless versions proved to be susceptible to ripping at the seams after repeated use during initial testing.   The trousers are a contemporary cut featuring flat fronts and low rises.  They are held up with side tabs although Black Tux will add suspender buttons upon request for customers who have corresponding braces.

While vests are available they are, unfortunately, the suit-style high-cut models that obliterate the dramatic V of formal shirt displayed by the low-buttoning jackets.  (Patrick says that a more traditional style will be released later this month.) Therefore, their cummerbund is the preferable waist covering and pretty much a necessity due to the low-rise trousers.

Shirts come in a choice of wing-collar or turndown-collar.  The former features a pleated bib, the latter has no bib, and neither model has French cuffs, at least for now.  (In order to keep start-up costs low, the turndown-collar model was made to be worn with both tuxedos and suits.) The wing-collar version has removable buttons while the turndown-collar comes with either removable or convertible buttons.

Available neckwear consists of self-tied and pre-tied bow ties and a long black satin tie.  The self-tie bows are offered in a butterfly, straight, or diamond shape which is an impressive array for an upscale store let alone a rental company.

Shoes are plain-toe oxfords in either patent or regular leather.  Both styles are offered with or without brown wood soles although these are obviously suited for Black Tux’s suits, not their tuxedos.

As for accessories, cufflinks, studs, and a white (cotton) pocket square are available for rent as are clip-on suspenders.

Ordering & Customer Service

process

The Black Tux does an excellent job of making the ordering process as simple as possible. Customer measurements can be provided in one of three methods: take your own, have a tailor take them, or just enter your known garment sizes.  The DIY process is very straightforward and includes helpful how-to videos.  Ideally, it would have been nice to have the option of entering special remarks such as one arm being longer than the other (or, better yet, be prompted about such special considerations) instead of submitting this information separately via e-mail.

In general, whenever I submitted questions about the process or the product I received answers promptly.

The outfit arrived nicely packaged, a small but important detail for rental clothing.  Rather than just presenting itself as an obligatory borrowed penguin costume, the shipment’s thoughtful assembly conveys the sense of a sophisticated formal wardrobe.

Rentals are delivered one week before the customer’s event date which allows time for minor alterations to be made by a local tailor or, in a worst case scenario, for Black Tux to send a different size.  For out-of-town groomsmen this is a huge advantage over the traditionally risky process of sending their measurements to a designated rental store and hoping for the best when they show up two days prior to the wedding.

If sleeve or trouser lengths do need to be adjusted by a local tailor or seamstress, Black Tux will reimburse $10 of the cost.  (FYI, in my experience this alteration typically costs at least $15.)  If alterations or a replacement does not satisfy the customer then the company will offer a refund, within reason.

Fit

Shown here is the midnight-blue tuxedo, turndown-collar shirt, self-tie straight-end bow tie, patent-leather shoes.  (For economy’s sake, the trousers have been pinned rather than hemmed)

Shown here is the slim fit midnight-blue tuxedo, turndown-collar shirt, self-tie straight-end bow tie and patent-leather shoes. For economy’s sake, the trousers have been pinned rather than hemmed.

I originally requested the classic fit as that’s what I’m used to but Patrick suggested I try the slim fit as it the most popular with the company’s clientele. As you can see in these photos, the resulting fit was trim without being too tight.  It also felt quite comfortable.

The photos also show that the jacket fit well right down to the differing sleeve lengths that I reported during the ordering process.  Surprisingly, the trouser legs were a good two inches too long although that would have been easily corrected by a seamstress.  (I just pinned them up for the sake of the photos rather than unnecessarily incurring the expense of alterations.)  More of a shortcoming was the trousers’ low rise which places the pant waist so far down from the natural waist that even with a cummerbund the shirt’s bottom button is still exposed when the jacket is worn open (especially on a man with a long waist).  The trouser waist seemed to stay in place fairly well with just the use of the side tabs but I would have definitely ordered suspender buttons if I had known this was an option.

The shirt’s tag indicated it was my usual size but in fact it was one size too small.  The neck was half an inch shorter than my other shirts, the shoulder seams sat too high on my shoulders, and the sleeves were just the right length even though I was sent a sleeve length one inch longer than I normally wear.

As for the shoes, they fit quite comfortably.

a cummerbund is a necessity with low-rise trousers if you’re going to avoid the formal equivalent of plumber’s crack.

A cummerbund is a necessity with low-rise trousers if you’re going to avoid the formal equivalent of plumber’s crack.

the jacket should be kept closed because these trousers sit so low that the bottom shirt button is exposed - even with a cummerbund in place

With these low-sitting trousers the jacket should be kept closed because the bottom shirt button is exposed – even with a cummerbund in place.

Quality

According to Black Tux’s site, their tuxedos are manufactured by “one of America’s top suit-makers” and are offered in stores for $1,200.  Based on my experience I have no reason to doubt them.  The suit is made from 8oz super 150s merino wool versus the 80s wool blends offered by many national renters. Yet despite its fine finish the fabric resists wrinkles very well and a quick steam was all it took to smooth out the suit once it arrived.  The jacket is half-canvassed and the overall workmanship seemed excellent.  The midnight blue colour is genuinely dark, more so than depicted on the site.

Just as importantly, the suit was free of the tell-tale sheen of repeated pressings and other signs of wear and tear normally associated with rental tuxedos.  This, Patrick tells me, is a result of the owners’ strategic long-term decision to channel their profits back into inventory turnover rather than boosting the bottom line at the expense of quality and customer satisfaction.

As with fit, the shirt’s quality was the only part of the outfit not up to par largely due to its attempt to play double-duty for both informal and formal attire. Although the 100% Egyptian cotton is certainly high quality, the lack of a two-ply bosom on the turndown-collar version means the translucent front looks grey against the skin rather than pure white.  Further, the buttonholes on the model with removable buttons were so stretched that the studs kept popping out and the backs of the convertible cuffs looked messy due to the cluster of buttons and link backings.  I would recommend buying your own formal shirt until the company rolls out proper versions.

The quality of the shoes is definitely on the high end for rentals as they are genuine patent leather instead of the plastic used by some companies.  Not surprisingly, my shoes were wrinkled from prior use but that is largely irrelevant as purchased footwear looks the same way after one or two wearings.

The bow tie was 100% silk, as it should be.  I can’t comment on the quality of the cummerbund and jewelry as I supplied my own.

Value

In conclusion, I can’t imagine any onlooker thinking that this outfit was rented.   The attention to detail that has gone into the tuxedo in particular results in an ensemble that’s as appropriate for an upscale gala as for a modest wedding.  I’m not surprised to hear that the company does most of their business through word of mouth and that LA stylists are now taking advantage of their service.  Once the inventory is expanded to include shawl-collar jackets and proper formal shirts I would expect to rate The Black Tux as “excellent” across the board.

Posted in: Formal Fashion