What is Black Tie Attire?
Black tie attire is a long-standing fashion standard, but what exactly is it? As the name implies, it is a formal style of attire. The rules for black tie formal dress are always the same, regardless of whether the event is a wedding, award ceremony, or milestone birthday. In many ways, a black tie dress code does a gentleman a favour. It’s simple and specific.
Today, black-tie dress has evolved to be somewhere in between the uber formal white-tie and semi formal black tie. The most formal dress code, white-tie, has certain guidelines that must be fulfilled, whereas the black-tie dress code, on the other hand, provides more formal variety to think about dressing in, such as a classic tuxedo or dinner jacket ensemble.
In our helpful guide, we’ll take you through the history of black tie, exactly what black tie attire is and the rules around it.
The History Of Black Tie
According to history, the first dinner jacket was worn in 1865 by the Prince of Wales, who would eventually become King Edward VII. The then-Prince of Wales ordered a midnight blue silk smoking jacket and a pair of matching pants from Savile Row tailors Henry Poole & Co.
The tailless lounge jacket, a less formal and more comfortable leisure alternative to the frock coat, was created as a consequence of the Prince's experiments with the conventional tailcoat.
The rules of black tie
Whilst black tie dressing is more forgiving than the stringent white tie there are a few rules to be mindful of when deciding on your black tie attire. A man’s black tie outfit will feature a dinner jacket with peak or shawl lapels, should be single or double breasted and feature satin covered buttons.
When it comes to choosing a smart shirt suitable for black tie, a white shirt is the most traditional choice, some would say a bib or double cuff is still required, but this level of formality is very much dependent on the event.
One thing that is required, regardless of how formal the event is cufflinks. A simple elegant cufflink is the best bet, something you can wear again when the rare occasion calls for it.
The trousers should feature a natural taper, be black in colour and, if you are a real black tie purist, feature a single braided row down the side of each leg.
What to wear to a black tie event
Now for the main event, below are our tips for what to wear to a black tie event:
A Tuxedo is the quintessential essence of black tie dressing. Simply a formal blazer and trousers, sometimes with the addition of a waistcoat, it will be trimmed with contrasting satin details generally covering the button trails, lapels and pocket trims.
Whilst traditionally, the colour has always been black, midnight blues and burgundy reds are gaining more popularity as men experiment with the meaning of black tie. So long as the whole look resembles uniformity and simplicity, most colours will work.
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Velvet “Smoking Jacket”
The formal dinner jacket we know today is considered to have first appeared in the 1850s as a short robe de chambre, but it has since developed to take on a more formal, structured shape. The smoking jacket, which is typically made of velvet, is a more playful way to wear black tie. This design is ideal for the glitz of a black tie event because of the soft sheen of the fabric and the vibrant colour schemes.
Similar to a tuxedo, the colour schemes tend to err on the side of black, blue, burgundy, and even emerald green. You'll notice that a Tuxedo seldom gives you the choice of choosing a more textured fabric, but if you are looking for something a little more unique a smoking jacket finished in a jacquard or paisley velvet is a great way to modernise this age old way of dressing.
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Top tips for black tie dressing
When it comes to accessorising a black tie look, traditional simple accessories will be your best friend! A simple black bow tie will 99% of the time be the most fitting choice. When it comes to your pocket square, if you are going down the route of a monochromatic look, then a pocket square either in white or a very simple monoprint, is the choice to make.
Going against the grain and taking a punt on navy or burgundy? Both of these colours are pretty amenable, keep the print and texture simple and play around with colours to see which sits with your tone of Navy or Burgundy. As a side note, pinks, greys, and metallics all go well.
Of course, an elegant watch and polished black shoes are always a must
Invest in braces for black tie
You may have only ever seen them in a film and thought they were a thing of the past, but those funny-looking suspender braces serve a purpose. A nifty fashion item that's seldom worn but an absolute black tie must, they smooth out your trousers, lengthen your legs through clever visual trickery and help prevent your shirt from creeping above the waistband after a hefty 5-course gala meal
Braces are in, belts are out
You may be wondering why not just wear a belt. A belt is never appropriate for a black tie event. Due to the aforementioned bracing, black tie trousers were customarily designed without belt loops. Black tie trousers are now worn for a range of other occasions, thus, they frequently have belt loops.
Black tie timing matters
Black tie dressing is traditionally worn after 7 pm, its alternative name of “evening wear” is a better term for making that one clear! Whilst this is what is considered to be “appropriate”, the art of black tie dressing has evolved since the days of King Edward VII.
Buy your black tie attire, don’t rent
A dinner suit is a sensible investment that will see you through all occasions year after year.
A general rule of thumb when buying any suit “off the rack” is to tailor it to your body shape. It will help it look more expensive, whatever it costs, and pay for itself after a couple of wears.
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Related Article: Pocket Square Do’s and Don’ts.