What to wear to a black tie event

23 September 2018

The thought of attending a black tie event for a lot of men can sometimes be a bit daunting when deciding what they should wear. What exactly is considered acceptable to a black tie event? Does it have to be specifically black? 

Black tie events can be anything from a ball or corporate business party, and for most men don’t particularly happen very often. 

In France, the black tie event dress code is known as ‘cravat noir’ and is actually only semi-formal. Usually, black tie events take place after around 6 or 7pm, and anything before this is not considered to be a black tie event even if the dress code is ‘formal.’

While a lot of men think they can get away with the typical everyday office wear look, the dress code for black tie events is more formal than business wear. 

However believe it or not, it is actually less formal than a white tie dress code, which is what most upper class men wore every day in the Victorian era.

The black tie dress code nowadays typically consists of a dinner jacket, dress shirt, evening waistcoat, black trousers, bow tie and black oxford shoes, which is explained in further detail below…

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Dinner jacket

Also known as a tuxedo or simply tux, a dinner jacket is different to a normal suit jacket. It has contrasting material to the lapel, which is the long collar of the jacket, with a silk material or something similar to this. The buttons on a dinner jacket are also different to a normal suit jacket, and other minor details such as this should be taken into consideration when purchasing a dinner jacket. 

Obviously you would think the dinner jacket must be black for a black tie event, however this was generally the rule back in the 1800s. Today, any dark colour such as a midnight blue or dark green can reinvent your look and bring it into the present.

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Dress shirt

For black tie events, the shirt should always be white. Even pastel colours are a big no, so stick to a simple, clean, white shirt. You don’t even have to break the bank with your shirt, any white shirt is fine. 

However, if you’re wearing a bow tie you may want to consider a wing tip collar shirt. This is a very small and unique collar that allows most of the bow tie to be on show around the back of the neck. A wing tip collar shirt isn’t mandatory, so don’t feel like you have to purchase one.

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Trousers

Trousers for a black tie event should generally just be black, smart and formal. If you can, try and match your trousers with your dinner jacket and remember, the trousers shouldn’t have loops so wearing a belt is a definite no.

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Black tie waistcoat

This is something that isn’t essential, but is something you may want to consider as it can add a bit of extra detail to your outfit. If you are wearing a classic black tie outfit, you can simply just wear a black waistcoat and your look will be classy and stylish. 

One of the great things about a waistcoat is that it doesn’t have to be black or white and can be pretty much any colour you like, and this can really add a bit of personality to your look.

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Cummerbund

The word cummerbund is often confusing to some and again, is something that isn’t particularly necessary. A cummerbund is a piece of material similar to a sash that sits around the top of the trousers and at the bottom of the shirt. Simply tie it around the bottom half of your waist and fasten at the back. If your bow tie isn’t black, then the cummerbund should match this.

Choosing to wear a cummerbund depends on what type of event you are attending, and can add a little extra detail to your outfit. 

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Bow tie

One of the main essentials, the bow tie is the accessory that sets off the whole outfit. You can purchase a bow tie that is already tied if you’d rather not attempt to do it yourself as it can be a little difficult at first. However, if you want to have a go at doing it yourself, here’s how in six easy steps…

  • Step 1 - Put the bow tie around your neck and leave one side longer than the other
  • Step 2 - Wrap the long side over the short side and place the long end over your shoulder
  • Step 3 - Fold the short side in half and hold it at your neck
  • Step 4 - Take the long side and wrap it around the short end that isn’t folded
  • Step 5 - Pass the long end through the hold at the back of the bow
  • Step 6 - Pull both sides to tighten and neaten your bow tie

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Shoes

To go with your dinner jacket, or tux, you can actually invest in a pair of tuxedo shoes. However, you don’t have to go for this option, as any smart, black shoes with a high shine finish is fine.

So there you have it, a simple guide on what to wear to a black tie event. Although there is often confusion on what men should actually wear, it is very straightforward. And don’t worry if you can’t get the hang of tying your bow tie first time around - remember, practice makes perfect!

Written by your team of experts at Hemingway Tailors
Written by your team of experts at Hemingway Tailors
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