Many men will go their entire lives without ever receiving a “black tie” invitation. For those who do, it will likely be the most formal event they ever attend and the most formally dressed they’ll ever need to be.
Therefore it is amazing to think that before World War I the standard of dress we know as black tie was considered too informal to be worn in “mixed company” - the standard evening dress before then was a tailcoat.
Between the two world wars, black tie was the expected standard of dress at any event held after 6 pm. It wasn’t until after World War II that it became reserved for special occasions rather than standard evening wear.
Since then the rules surrounding black tie have continued to evolve and nowadays there is more flexibility allowed than in the past. However, if you want to aim to be the best-dressed man in the room, here are a few key tips to note if you ever find yourself in the situation where the invitation does indeed read “black tie”.
Traditionally the jacket has always been black or midnight blue with black silk facings, although other colours, including brighter shades of blue, are now in fashion. Velvet is also a popular choice. A slim shawl collar, like our Bryan jacket perfectly balances tradition and modernity.
The trouser typically matches the jacket (unless you’re wearing velvet) and have a black silk braid down the side seam. Cuffs on the trousers are considered too casual, as are belts loops. A waistcoat or cummerbund should be worn to cover the top of the trouser.
The shirt must be white (this is one rule you don’t want to break) with French cuffs and should have a pique or Marcella front. For a look that’s sophisticated, without being stuffy, we recommend you opt for a standard collar (as our Avalon shirt has) rather than the classic wingtip.
Don’t be tempted to wear a slim black tie – this is one chance you have to wear a bow tie, so wear it well. Pair it with a white linen or tastefully patterned silk pocket square.
Ideally your shoes should be black patent leather with a grosgrain bow. But let’s face it; you’d have to get a lot of black tie invitations to warrant buying a pair. Instead, wear your best pair of black leather lace-ups, just make sure they’re polished to a high shine.