Your suit game is all sorted, until the day arrives when the ever elusive letter arrives in the mail with an invitation to a black tie event. As seen on numerous red carpets around the world, such as the recent Cannes Film Festival, Met Gala, Oscars, one would imagine from what we have all seen on the red carpet, is a black suit and bow tie and black polished shoes, you are partially correct and definitely have picked up the right thread however it is so much more than that, a black tie is composed of the above but combined with intricate details that completes the overall look while maintaining a harmony of crafted minimalism.
Let’s look at what the basics of a traditional Black Tie dress code consists of:
Black/Navy dinner jacket and matching pants made from wool
Black bow tie or black neck tie
Black dress socks
Black polished formal shoes
Optional items include a waistcoat or black cummerbund or black buttons on the white shirt. If you are feeling a little more trendy, opt for a dark velvet fabric for the jacket but only the jacket.
We’ve covered the basics of a black tie suit but there’s still much more of the thread to unravel as we delve into the finer details that make the difference.
Traditionally black wool is the colour of choice for all black tie events, however navy is beginning to trend very rapidly, don’t be afraid to don a navy tuxedo. Preferably, select 1 button for a single breasted jacket, 2 buttons is uncommon but is still acceptable. While a double breasted jacket you may choose a 6 button or 2 button variation, whichever is selected ensure the jacket has all the buttons is covered with satin.
It is uncommon to choose a notch lapel for a formal jacket but you will see the odd notch. If this is your first tuxedo, stay true to the traditional peak and shawl lapels; the reason being is that the notch breaks the line that your eyes follow up the lapel, unlike the peak and shawl they create a seamless flow that allows the eyes to sweep up from the waist to the shoulders. Originally dinner jackets were made without vents, deeming it the most formal choice; single vents have a sporting history and also has a bad habit of exposing the rear seat of your pants. While double/side vents is contemporary and acceptable for the time being.
Always match your jacket fabric, unless you’ve chosen a velvet jacket or are trying to make a statement. They should have a single satin braid running down the side of the leg. To maintain a clean appearance, do not choose cuffs or belt loops. Instead of belt loops, to the keep the pants seated at the waist, side tabs should be attached to the pants and/or suspender/braces buttons.
Choose a plain white fabric with a spread collar. Winged collars make appearances for a white tie event, a much more formal statement. Either a pleated or plain front along with french cuffs. The buttons along the shirt should be black, silver or mother of pearl, they can either be shown or hidden along the placket.
Keep it simple and plain. Accompany the tuxedo with black oxford shoes; double monks or brogues are too casual for this get up. If you are an older gent, you may pull off formal pumps. Also don’t forget to polish.
The bow tie, the smallest but most time consuming part of the tuxedo. Every man has to climb this mountain and every man will, with practice. Don’t let yourself down by purchasing a clip-on tie, always wear a self tie black bow tie. Black ties are unacceptable. Cummerbunds which are a sash that wraps around the waist are optional but worn only with a single breasted jacket. Finish off with fresh white cotton pocket square that peeks sharply above the breast pocket.
Pick up that envelope and send your reply with confidence. That may have been a lot to take in, but to boil it all down to one concept is to remember that the idea behind a tuxedo is to keep it simple, clean and minimal.
Enjoy your next black tie event gentleman.