Black Tie

When the occasion calls for more formality beyond the traditional suit, shirt and tie ensemble then a Dinner Suit or Black Tie should be your outfit of choice. Also referred to as a Tuxedo by the American contingent, the term ‘tuxedo’ was coined following the Dinner Suit’s first outing in America at Tuxedo Park in New York, a private members’ country club.


So what does Black Tie consist of?


See Gentessential’s definitive guide to the Dinner Suit…


Jacket – Whilst this may be called ‘Black Tie’ the traditional colour of a dinner jacket is actually midnight blue. This makes the dinner suit look darker than black and thus adds to its formality. Distinct features of the dinner jacket include satin material on the lapels. The lapels have three styles, the notch lapel, peak lapel and the shawl lapel, all of which are acceptable variants for your dinner jacket. You can also have a double-breasted dinner jacket if you so prefer.


Trousers – These should match the fabric and colour of your jacket. There should be a single row of braid or satin fabric running down the outside of the leg from the waistband to the cuff. To mark you out from the rest, get your trousers pressed before wearing so they look crisp and clean. You should not wear a belt with these trousers, side adjusters are the preferred method of adjusting the waistband as they give a cleaner look than belt loops.


Shirt – The proper style shirt has a turned down collar, not the winged collars some people wear. The winged collar is for White Tie dress. The shirt is a crisp white shirt with a Marcella front, i.e. the shirt’s front section is made from a stiff geometric cotton weave, similar to the design on a golf ball. Variants on this include a pleated front or a ruffle front if you’re feeling adventurous. The cuffs should be double cuff, fixed with cufflinks. Instead of shirt buttons, there should be eyelets down the front where your studs can be fixed in place of buttons.


Tie – Nothing but a bow tie should be worn with traditional Black Tie. Whilst people tend to add their own twist and personality with different colours and styles, the traditional colour is black, and it is made of silk. If you’re an adult, you should learn to tie your bow tie. A self-tied bow tie shows class and maturity and will give your outfit a level of sophistication not available with a pre tied bow tie.


Accessories – A white pocket square, cummerbund, braces and a waistcoat are options available to you. We would caution wearing both a cummerbund and waistcoat at the same time as they are in effect doing the same job – creating a smooth silhouette around the waist and concealing the edges of your shirt and the exposed waistband of your trousers. Remember that the folds of a cummerbund should always be pointing upwards.


Shoes – Black patent leather shoes are recommended. If you do not have these, well-polished black lace up shoes will still meet the formal requirements. Velvet slippers are another alternative if you’re looking to add some more personality to your outfit. We recommend you avoid brogues and dare we say it, trainers (even if they are black).