Have you received some swanky party invites? If so, then you may have to wear a black tie dress code. Although this can sound pretty daunting, it’s not as tricky as you might think. Here’s all you need to know about this formal look.
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So what does black tie actually mean? Do you just have to wear a black tie, or does the whole suit have to be this colour? There is actually quite a lot to consider when deciding on your black tie attire. Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just picking a black tie out of your wardrobe and throwing it together with the suit you wear to work. We need to think about shirts, accessories, appropriate shoes, and a lot more.
But don’t panic. You’re in the right place. You’re not the first bloke to have this dilemma and you most certainly wont be the last. Fortunately for you, after reading this simple guide, you’ll give James Bond a run for his money.
What to Wear to a Black Tie Event
Ok, so what does black tie actually consist of? Here is a list of essentials that you will need to fulfil the black tie dress code.
- Black dinner jacket (aka tuxedo or tux)
- Matching black trousers
- White shirt
- Bow tie
- Waistcoat (optional)
- Black socks
- Black formal shoes
As well as gathering everything on the list, it’s important how it’s put together too. For example, your waist should not be on show, which is why waistcoats are so popular when attending a black tie event. Of course, you don’t have to wear a waistcoat if it’s not for you. A double-breasted jacket or a cummerbund will also suffice.
Look at Daniel Craig for example. This is a perfect example of black tie in the traditional sense, and proof that sticking to the rules will have a fantastic result whatever your age, weight, height or body shape. As long as it fits well of course.
To achieve this look, combine a black dinner jacket, £74.90, with some matching black trousers, 23.90. Add a black bow tie and some high shine black leather shoes to complete the look. As you can see, you can do your jacket button up to create a more rounded style.
What is Black Tie Dress Code
Many people believe that black tie dress code is the most formal outfit a man can wear. Although it is certainly one of the most stylish looks around, white tie dress code is actually the most formal. However, not many people still wear white tie. Unless you’re part of the aristocracy that is.
Men began regularly wearing black tie during the 19th Century when wealthy gentlemen would wear it as an alternative to the more formal outfits they usually had to wear.
Nowadays you would wear this dress code to social events that take place in the evening, usually after 6 or 7pm. These social functions are typically more formal and dressy. You probably won’t wear black tie to a house party at your mates place.
Does this all seem a bit restrictive? Well, that’s kinda the point. The black tie dress code is a set of clothing ettiequte rules that can’t really be broken. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t be a fun and stylish outfit to wear.
How to Wear a Bow Tie
There is nothing wrong with not being able to tie a bow tie. Other than the odd occasion, you probably don’t wear them very regularly. You can, if you’re feeling lazy, buy a ready tied bow tie that you can just clip around your neck. However, this won’t have the same charm as a proper one. It may take a little while to get the hang of it, but persistence is key when learning this particular skill.
Black Tie Suit
Unfortunately, when it comes to black tie, you can’t just grab your work suit from the wardrobe. A dinner jacket is slightly different to a suit jacket and can be spotted by what materials are used. Traditionally, with a tuxedo, satin will be on the lapels, pocket trim and around the buttons. Bear that in mind when choosing your jacket, or if all else fails, if it says ‘tuxedo’ on the label, you’re on to a winner.
Most dinner jackets will come with a pair of matching suit trousers. If they don’t, then just get a pair of black dress pants and you’ll be fine. You can purchase a dinner jacket suit in most tailor or suit shops. However, the amount that you spend on your suit is up to you. Prices can range from under £100 all the way up to a small fortune.
If you were wondering, lapels are the folds of materials on the front of a jacket, and are very important when it comes to tuxedos. The lapels of a dinner jacket will generally be a different shade or texture to the rest of the blazer. Of course, as with everything in life, it’s not that simple. What sort of lapels should you look for? Well, you’ve got a choice.
For a tuxedo, lookout for peak and shawl lapels. They’re the most traditional and the most flattering. The notch lapel should be avoided as this is generally used for business or work suits.
As already mentioned, your waist should not be on show. With a peak lapel, your jacket will create a deep V shape bringing you in at the waist and then pointing upwards diagonally broadening your shoulders. Shawl lapels are slightly more old school, but just as stylish.
Black Tie Waistcoat
Although waistcoat’s are optional, they are still an integral part of men’s evening wear. If you’re going to wear a three piece dinner suit, then a wearing this item of clothing is completely necessary. They are also a perfect opportunity to experiment with an outfit that is predominantly black or white.
Waistcoats come in many different styles and the wrong style of waistcoat can actually completely change the look from black tie, to casual. Ideally, you want to try and keep a long V shape on your chest. This is the flattering shape that really shows off the the shoulders and also makes you look taller.
If you want to play it safe and be traditional, then make sure that your waistcoat matches the rest of your suit. This is the most classic of three piece looks. However, in today’s world, wearing some extra detail or trim can be a great way to make your look more exciting.
Black Tie Shirt
Picking the right shirt is vital when it comes to black tie. Two things in particular we need to think about are buttons and collars.
Lets start with collars. Your choices are really a standard collar, or a wing collar. I would say this is completely down to personal preference as they are both acceptable for a black tie event. However, if you are unsure, I would suggest going with a wing collar. It’s not very often you get to wear one and they do look superb with a bow tie.
Now, when it comes to buttons, this is also down to personal preference. Basically, you can have your shirt as plain or as fancy as you like.
If you’re going for the ‘less is more’ look, then white buttons will probably be for you. I would suggest white buttons also if you’re opting for a double breasted jacket or waistcoat over a cummerbund. You don’t want too much detail around your chest and mid section because it takes away from your bow tie which can get lost when there is too much else going on with your tuxedo.
If you’re going for a cummerbund, black stud buttons will definitely be the way forward. It is a nice little addition to break up the otherwise very white shirt. Also, because the black studs are vertical, they have a way of making your body look longer resulting in you looking a couple of inches taller.
You also need to decide on whether you want your shirt pleated. Again, it’s a nice way of adding a bit of detail, but sometimes less is more. It’s so easy to go overboard when it comes to tuxedos that rather than looking classic, you can look like you’ve stepped back in time to the 70’s. Avoid ruffles. But pleats are all good. As long as they’re subtle!
Black Tie Shoes
Think carefully when picking out the shoes you’re going to wear. Whatever you do, don’t wear old or grubby shoes. Your tuxedo will look extremely smart and formal, so wearing a pair of old shabby brogues will just not cut it.
Because of the dressy nature of the look, the best shoes you can choose would be patent. The shininess is consistent with your tux and reflects the light fantastically. Although Patent shoes look great, they scuff really easily and can lose their shine. However, there are plenty of products out there, such as patent restorer, that make this an easy problem to resolve.
You don’t need to break the bank by only wearing designer. Plenty of brands sell patent shoes, such as this pair from Dr Martens for £184.90. No one will be checking the label. As long as they’re comfy and look sparkling new, you’re good to go. However, if patent isn’t you’re thing, then wearing a pair of well polished black leather shoes is a perfect alternative.
Black Tie Velvet Jacket
Are you feeling adventurous? Although a black tie dress code doesn’t really allow much space to experiment with different looks, you can definitely bend the rules in exciting and stylish ways. One of the easiest ways to do this is by wearing variations of dinner jacket.
Velvet is classy, elegant, and a fantastic way to add a little flair to your traditional look. It’s enough of a subtle change to make an impact, but isn’t overly loud. Velvet is such a great way to add flare to your look that it is worn by a whole host of stylish celebrities.
When he attends swanky award ceremonies, Eddie Redmayne likes to play around with the traditional black tie look. By adding a velvet dinner jacket he creates a subtle and stylish contrast with his trousers. This produces an excellent balance within the look whilst making it more exciting. Yet, it doesn’t compromise the traditional nature of the look.
Black Tie Midnight Blue Jacket
If you’re really feeling experimental then you could try and wear a midnight blue outfit. You may be wondering how you can wear a blue suit in a dress code that is very specifically got the word black in it. Admittedly, this is going against the rules slightly.
However, rules are meant to be broken, and as long as it’s still a dinner jacket style, then there isn’t much wrong with wearing midnight blue. Be careful when trying this look, stick to a dark navy, and avoid bright colours. Also, as you’re going to be very noticeable, think about whether you want to be the centre of attention.
Experimenting with the colour of your outfit is also a perfect excuse to wear some more interesting shoes. For instance, this pair of textured loafers, £129.90, are a perfect match for this stylish look.
Black Tie Watches
A black tie outfit would be nothing without some classy accessories to go with it. Although this can include things such as a pocket square or some cufflinks, the ultimate accessory for any man is undoubtedly the watch. A good watch is the perfect formal companion, and is a must have for any black tie event.
Now, if you’re a millionaire then you’ll be lucky enough to go and get yourself a Rolex to really look the part. However, we understand that the majority of people can’t afford this. Fortunately, you don’t have to break the bank to find the perfect black tie watch.
With this outfit, it’s probably a good idea to wear a more dressy or classic style of watch. A gold watch is often seen as being too loud to wear generally. Well, a black tie look is the perfect opportunity to wear one and bring some extra detail to your look. This one from Shore Projects, £134.90, perfectly combines a stylish flare with a minimal design.
On the other hand, if you want something that is equally as classic, but slightly more subtle, then a leather strap watch is the one for you. This Daniel Wellington brown leather watch, £178.90, is the ultimate in classic British design and style.
Quick Guide to Black Tie
- Know your body shape and size. Most tailors and suit shops will measure you for free.
- Think about what you’re wearing it for.
- Learn how to tie a bow tie.
- Wear appropriate shoes.
- Experiment. Although you can’t be too adventurous with black tie, there are opportunities to play around with your style.
On That Note
So there you have it. You’ve got all the information you need to take on the black tie dress code. Don’t be scared to break the rules a little. The main thing is that you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing.
The key to really rocking the black tie, is confidence. That’s why adding little personal touches are a good idea. Just remember, every man looks fantastic in a tuxedo. Whether he is short, tall, fat or thin. It really doesn’t matter. It’s traditional, it’s classic, and it’s a seriously suave look. Hold your head high fellas.
Author: Megan Hardy