Ah black tie. Once upon a time it was something so elegant. Think of Vegas in the 1960s with the Rat Pack running wild on the Strip. Think of the Jazz Age of the 1920s. Black tie invitations typically include weddings and charity fundraisers these days. With that, here are 7 things you need to know about the dress code that is black tie.
- Black Tie does not mean "Just wear a black tie"
If only it were that easy, eh? But no. When you receive a black tie invitation it does not mean just throw on a suit with a black tie.
- Wear a REAL bow tie (Yes that means tie it yourself)
You are an adult. It's time to ditch the cookie cutter look of a clip on bow tie and get a self-tied bow tie. Yes you can tie it. To quote one of the legends of menswear journalism, G.Bruce Boyer in his book "True Style" - "You can tie a bow tie, If I hear another grown man say he can't, I'll shoot myself."
- Cummerbund Not Necessary
A cummerbund, once a necessity has fallen out of favour in this age so it is perfectly acceptable to not wear one. Of course, if you're somewhat of a traditionalist as I am, you'll still want to wear one and that's perfectly fine too.
- Shoes Need Not Be Patent Leather
There are many options when it comes to footwear for black tie nowadays. While patent leather is still the traditional go to, you can wear regular black oxfords, just give them a highly polished shine. You can also wear some very comfortable velvet slippers as I did for my wedding.
- Cufflinks Always, Studs Not Necessarily
Yes, you need to wear a french cuffed shirt with a tuxedo. But a shirt with studs is not necessary. You have the option of wearing a shirt with a covered placket. James Bond did it, so can you.
- Never a Belt, Always Suspenders, Never Clip-Ons
Please please please don't ever let me catch you wearing a belt with a tuxedo. First of all, if you are wearing proper tuxedo trousers, there will be no belt loops. Second of all, you're too old for clip on suspenders. You need a real pair of suspenders. I prefer ones especially made for black tie, made from silk/satin with the attaching piece being made of fabric instead of leather. They can be in any colour but black or white are the most obvious. See example below.
- Peak or Shawl, but never a Notch!
There are only two acceptable lapel styles for black tie, peak or a shawl. I know they sell tuxedos with notch lapels but notch lapels should be reserved for business suits and have no business on a tuxedo. End of story.
So next time you have a wedding or black tie event, don't hesitate to come back to this guide. Feel free to share it with others especially if you know someone getting married soon or even graduating high schoolers. It's never too early to set them on the right sartorial path!