Your essential style guide for black tie
It’s the season of invites – and those inevitable words – “dress code: black tie.”
Are you left feeling a tangled combination of sheer perplexion and dread as you try to figure out how you’re supposed to wear a tux the ‘right’ way, half-remembering a few tips a friend gave back in uni, and wondering if you could get away with a last-minute rental?
Fear not. Read on for your essential, fool-proof guide to black tie, and feel a smug glow of confidence that you’ll be able to nail this look to perfection.
What black tie actually means
First off – what does black tie actually entail? The term is a really simple and clear way of stating that this is an evening event, and that you’re expected to wear a semi-formal outfit, which is usually a tuxedo. And the rules around what you wear, and how you wear it, are actually quite precise, making the whole black-tie thing much easier than you think to get right.
The black tie tuxedo has a few core elements, which are important to get right. The tuxedo jacket – which gives the look its name – is a tailless dinner jacket, usually in black or midnight blue. Classic trousers, usually with a high waist that is covered by the waist coat or a cummerbund, without cuffs or pleats. And finally a plain white evening shirt, and as the name might give away, a black bow tie.
Unless you’re aiming for a novelty look, don’t try to get quirky with colourful takes on the classic tux. It’s a classic for a reason, and a timeless, well-honed look. Instead, pay extra attention to getting the details right for a black tie style that stands out from the crowd.
Rent or buy?
Can you really get away with a rental tux? The rental market has improved massively – and it’s far easier to find a high quality, well fitting jacket than it once was.
That said, a high quality dinner jacket can really stand out from a crowd of awkwardly fitted rentals. Even if you may not use it more than a few times a year, it can be a valuable investment that lasts you for years, if not a lifetime.
Whichever option you go for, pay attention to the fabric, lapels and cut. A well made wool jacket will retain its structure and character well. You can choose between peak and shawl lapels – but the former is usually a more wearable style that is easier to wear, while shawls can get tricky to pull off well. Peak lapels will help to accentuate your waist, creating a defined and more toned silhouette.
Single or double breasted?
Both are great choices – as long as you make sure the suit fits you like a glove. While single breasted tuxes have taken the lead for the past few decades, double breasted varieties are coming back into the spotlight, and feel refreshingly modern. But remember that double breasted suits need to be kept buttoned up at all times – there’s no room for slacking here.
Learn to tie a bow tie
Seriously, if there’s one style skill you need to master as a contemporary man, it’s learning to tie your own bow tie.
There’s no shortage of YouTube tutorials and detailed infographics, breaking down the process with minute precision. Once you’ve mastered the skill, you’ll be able to expand your bow tie horizon beyond the conventional, exploring fabrics, styles and textures to add a subtle touch of flair to your outfit.
Breaking the rules
Black tie comes with some very precise, clear rules. But rules are meant to broken, on occasion, at least.
That doesn’t give you license to break out the comedy tux though. Going outside of the strict rules of black tie isn’t impossible – but it does mean paying extra close attention to your overall suit. Instead of trying to change everything dramatically, create an understated but powerful impact by tweaking one feature. A well-fitting tuxudo in deep crimson or with contrasting lapels can look immensely stylish, while swapping the bow tie for a cravat can look exceptionally dapper on a well-groomed man.
What are your personal fail-safe tips for rocking the black tie look? Share them below!
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