Have you ever received an invitation to an event with a Black Tie dress code, and wondered if that’s another way of calling a black suit?
Of course, it’s not. Black Tie was once an European menswear staple in the past, but today its concept has become much more obscure than it has been. This article does not ask you to do it in absolutes, because the final decision is up to you, we just hope this could help you dress better and easier during the festive season.
Jacket and Trousers
Black tie is not far from the highest level of formality, only below White Tie. Formality, as we always say, is expressed in simplicity. This explains why jetted pocket is more formal than flap pocket, smooth wool fabric is more formal than tweed surface.
Hence, it must be remembered that a Tuxedo (Black Tie) is not a casual suit. You may add all details that you like to your business suit such as extra pockets, flaps, stitch, vents, cuff… But on a tuxedo, simplicity must be the priority. Tuxedo jacket and trousers should not be used to put pens, notebooks, small change, phones, or such things.
A Black Tie must be more classic and elegant than a normal suit. The Tuxedo should be therefore cut the chest and shoulder wider, with a sharp waistline creating a sexy V-shape. A little padding can be used to be more formal and powerful for the wearer, but should not be too thick.
In the 1920s and 60s, Black Tie did have notch lapel. But that detail is not accepted anymore, instead, the Black Tie lapel could only use peak or shawl lapel. This detail helps distinguish between a regular jacket and a Black Tie jacket.
A single-breasted Black Tie jacket will require only one button instead of two, three, or more on the regular jacket. The double-breasted Black Tie jacket is normally 4×2. Both have no vent at the back and are cut close to the hips for a clean, elegant look. Side pockets must be jetted (without flaps).
Trousers in a Black Tie outfit should be cut more straight than normal pants to create maximum flatness. The details should also be kept to a minimum, for example, no pleat, no cuff, vertical pockets instead of diagonal. And don’t forget the banding that runs along the garment is made of the same material as on the jacket lapel.
Don’t use a belt in a tuxedo, use suspenders (braces) instead. The waistband must be covered with a cummerbund or waistcoat.
Regarding the Vest (Waistcoat) in the tuxedo (if any), the most highlight is on the neck part. The neck is cut deeper than the usual vest, in a horseshoe shape, with 3 or 4 buttons. The back of the vest can be removed.
The cummerbund can also be used to cover the waist as an alternative option for the vest. “Cummerbund” is Kamarband in Hindi, which means “sash”, and the accessory became popular in England after 1890s, the period India was colonized by Britain. One point to keep in mind when using cummerbund is the pleats are always upwards, so the wearer can put tickets, small change, cigar cutters, drugs, and such small things.
Regarding the material of the faces, it should be remembered that the lapel, bow and cummerbund usually are all faced, i.e. covered with satin or grosgrain.
As for colour, it was suggested that midnight blue would look better than black under electric lights, and a black tuxedo would then look like grey. Edward VII, who first ordered possibly a tailless evening gown, the forerunner of the tuxedo, opted for blue instead of black.
Even so, there are also light modes at each point. The fact is that the story of midnight blue The black light is only true under the incandescent light – the lamp has a yellow light – only. Nowadays we use more LED lights, so the light is whiter and the colours also become more real. Midnight blue will then not be more but become greener. Because that, black colour, should be the preferred choice.
Opt for the traditional Marcella shirt for Tuxedo with a pleated front if you want a classic look (the bigger the body, the bigger the pleat) with three or four holes for studs (removable buttons), or the original plain type with button-hiding band if you want to be more simple. Remember the cuffs are always French cuffs. Collar style can be either wing shape or spread (as long as the collar is always hidden behind the bow). Studs (if any) should be matched with cufflinks.
The most important accessory is a bow tie. Regardless of how many celebs have ever worn a tie with tuxedo, in principle, this outfit is only designed to be worn with a bow tie. The bow tie is usually made of the same material as the lapel. Like tie, bow tie is easy to tied. Tying the bow yourself will give an image that nerver perfect, may be asymmetrical, but correct.
Traditional formal footwear are black plain toe oxfords, or more dressy, patent leather opera pumps. Besides, black suede is also an interesting choice. Socks can be plain black or midnight blue.
A quick note about jewelry. Since minimalism is a goal in classic evening dress, a stud and cufflink set, a small and discreet dress wristwatch, and personal ring are all that’s called for. When it comes to men’s jewelry, statements are made with fineness, rather than size.
After reading this article, you will probably complain that formal dress is cumbersome with too many rules to remember. But the point of all dress codes is, after all, to make you look good, not to make you feel cramped and stuffy. Once you’ve mastered the basics, feel free to change up some of the principles, in moderation, of course.
The reason Black Tie has more rules than usual is that it resembles an uniform. When everyone is dressed the same basically, the focus will be on the conversation and the event, rather than being distracted by too many fancy outfits.
The more black tie events I’ve attended, the less serious I am about the rules. A good black tie rig follow some very basic principles, and the rest is just about the evening.
– Mark Cho, The Armoury –