Sunday, February 23, 2014

Putting on The Ritz, in a Rented Tux

High-Rent Rental Tuxedos
The Black Tux website makes tuxedo rental a streamlined, sensibly priced and stylish experience


By  LAUREN SHERMAN  Feb. 20, 2014 3:50 p.m. ET

TEMPORARY TUX | The Black Tux rents options in navy (with peaked or notched lapel) and black (notched lapel only, shown above). All styles are made in Super 150s Merino wool and come in classic and slim fits. Tuxedo, $95, Shirt, $15, Studs, $5, Bow Tie, $5, Shoes, $30, all available to rent at theblacktux.com F. Martin Ramin/The Wall Street Journal, Styling by Anne Cardenas

WHEN ANDREW BLACKMON married his longtime girlfriend three years ago at a 250-person ceremony on a ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., he was blown away by her attention to detail. "My wife planned the wedding of her dreams," said Mr. Blackmon, now 28, who lives in Los Angeles. Her vision extended to the men in the wedding party, whom she wanted to wear dark gray suits.

Mr. Blackmon tried to get his groomsmen to buy the $750 suits at a specialty retailer. They respectfully declined. "We ended up renting tuxes for about $220 each," said Mr. Blackmon. "It was a terrible experience." He realized that the traditional tuxedo rental process had serious room for improvement, particularly in the fit (too loose), the material (too polyester) and the in-store experience (too fuddy-duddy). In late 2012, Mr. Blackmon, then working for various tech startups, teamed up with college friend Patrick Coyne to launch an online rental service called the Black Tux.



The Black Tux co-founders Andrew Blackmon (left) and Patrick Coyne. Nathaniel Wood

Their idea: For $150 or so, a man can rent a tuxedo, with all the attendant accessories, that looks and feels just as good as one he might want to own. And, like so much else in his busy life, it can be delivered right to his doorstep with a few clicks of a mouse. The key is a proprietary fit algorithm that Messrs. Blackmon and Coyne believe is almost as good as an in-store tailor. Renters are prompted to enter a series of body-shape details and measurements, from stomach size—flat, average, rounded—to neck circumference. To close up the "almost" gap, they ship the tuxedo a week ahead of the event so that if something doesn't fit, a new size can be sent. For late-breaking problems, renters can take the suit to a local tailor and the Black Tux will reimburse the alteration fee up to $10.

The tuxedos range from $95-$120—not including shirt, bow tie and shoes—and come in midnight blue or black. (The site also rents formal suits in charcoal and light gray.) Cotton shirts are $15; accessories like vests and cuff links are $15 and under. To minimize the ick factor of rented shoes ($15-$30), the Black Tux employs cobblers to clean and maintain every pair. "Once the shoes have reached the end of their life, we won't rent them," Mr. Coyne said.

Within a few weeks of its beta launch last June, the Black Tux beat its projected figure for first-year sales. The site became official last October, and in mid-December, the duo closed a round of institutional funding, raising $2.6 million.

Formal Affairs

Three more options for getting a smart tuxedo at a smart price


J.CREW | The brand's Ludlow suit series has become a staple thanks to its modern, slim fit and Italian tailoring details. The same goes for its black-tie options. This shawl-collar version has a retro vibe. Ludlow Shawl-Collar Tuxedo Jacket, $525, and Pant, $265, jcrew.com


MEN'S WEARHOUSE | The menswear behemoth enlisted bridal guru Vera Wang to update its tux offerings—available for purchase or rental—in 2012. The collection includes two styles, one in traditional black and this notch-lapel gray version. Black by Vera Wang Slim Fit Gray Tuxedo, $800, Men's Wearhouse, 800-776-7848


CLUB MONACO | The company launched a tuxedo option last year. The two-button silhouette, which falls somewhere between slim and loose, is made from fine British wool. Grant Tuxedo Jacket, $498, and Pants, $225, clubmonaco.com