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 incredible 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 6pm. 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 although other colours, including brighter shades of blue, are now in fashion. Whatever the colour it should have black silk facings. A slim shawl collar (like the Bryan jacket shown above) perfectly balances tradition and modernity.
The trouser should always match the jacket and have a black silk braid down the side seam. Cuffs on the trousers are considered too casual, as are belts loops and a waistcoat or cummerbund should be worn to cover the top of the trouser.
The shirt must be white (this is one rule you really don’t want to break or you’ll risk looking like Austin Powers) 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 very 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 tasteful silk patterned pocket square.
Ideally your shoes should be black patent leather with a grosgrain bow. But lets face it; you’d have to get a lot of black tie invitations to warrant buying a pair. Instead try and wear slip-ons or your best pair of black leather lace-ups. Whatever you chose, just make sure they’re polished to a high shine.