With a whole host of events dotted throughout the year that may require a black tie attire, it’s handy to know how to get your look right. From occasions such as formal dinners, to weddings , and even awards ceremonies, the last thing you want to do is show yourself up by making a glaring error with your choice of outfit.

While on the surface, a black tie look can simply be judged as a black tuxedo, white shirt and black bowtie, there is in actual fact a whole lot more that goes into it and there are a number of subtle styling options you can make or break your look. We’ve looked at a number of the options available to you along with the core fundamentals of black tie attire which you shouldn’t get wrong.

The tuxedo

The tux is the cornerstone of the black tie look, fall short here and your entire look will be undone. There are few defining features on a tuxedo which you should keep in mind.

#01 Colour – black tie attire is most often worn in black, however a midnight blue is also widely accepted. There’s also the option to wear a white dinner jacket however this is certainly the bolder choice and one which should be approached with care.

#02 Jacket style – traditionally tuxedos are most often single breasted, but as time has evolved you’ll now also find yourself double breasted dinner jackets. Slimmer men are better suited to the double breasted jacket as it can often make a broader gentleman appear wider than they actually are.

#03 Lapel style – everyday suits come in 1 of 2 lapel styles, either notched or peak. Tuxedos on the other hand most often appear with either shawl of peak lapels. Notched lapel tuxedos are available however they do lack the wow factor and formality provided by the shawl and peak lapels and are usually a sign of a tuxedo lacking quality. Shawl lapel tuxedos are probably the showier of the 2 options however can be harder to pull off in terms of getting the proportions of the collar right to suit your body.

#04 Button covering – when it comes to the quality of a dinner jacket, a defining aspect are the buttons. You’ll want all of the buttons on the dinner jacket to be covered in the same fabric used for the jacket itself.

The shirt

If you’re new to black tie attire then you’ll be forgiven for believing a simple white shirt is all you have to choose from, however this couldn’t be further from the case. Dress shirts allow you to bring an air of individuality to your look with a number of elements for you to decide between.

There are 2 main collar styles to choose between, these are winged collars and the standard full collars you’re used to seeing on everyday shirts. Some see winged collars as being better suited to white tie attire, however if you like the way they look then they can make for a great way of adding a touch of character to your look.
A dinner shirt which is worn with a black tie should feature either pleats on the front or be made from a textured fabric. This helps to add an extra dimension to the crisp white shirt. Finally you’ll also find that some shirts have covered buttons while others have them on display. This once more comes down to your own personal preference, however we do like the minimalism offered by concealed buttons.

The bowtie

The bowtie is all important in your look, and yet again there are a number of styles which you can choose between. We should mention that if possible stick to self-tying bow ties as opposed to ready tied ones. The main reason for this is that they allow you to create the bow to just the right size to suit you, whereas ready ties bows don’t grant you this freedom.

There are a few different styles you can create which include the butterfly, semi-butterfly, straight end and pointed. The straight end and pointed styles create a relatively smaller tie and so might not be well suited to you if you’re rather broad or are wearing a suit with wide lapels. Aside from this factor, the style you opt for is up to which you prefer so feel free to switch it up for different events or stick to one to make it your distinct look.

Cummerbund vs waistcoat

So you’ve got the majority of your look in order, now it’s a matter of deciding between a cummerbund or a waistcoat. Don’t be one of those people that are quick to disregard the cummerbund. The cummerbund has seen itself stride right back into mainstream fashion and for many, makes up an essential element of a black tie look.

While both options are pretty formal, the cummerbund is probably slightly more so, offering a look which is in keeping with the traditions of black tie attire. The only downside of wearing cummerbund however is that it won’t look as good as a waistcoat does without your jacket, something you might want to keep in mind as the evening wears on.

The shoes

If you’ve addressed all the above then your black tie ensemble is nearing completion with your shoes making up the last major element. When deciding on your shoes you can’t think of a tuxedo as any other suit. The shoes have to make a mark just as the tuxedo itself will, otherwise it’ll just look as though you placed all your time and effort into the tuxedo and threw on the first pair of shoes you found.

It should go without saying (but we’ll mention it anyway just to play it safe) that your shoes should always be black. Black tie isn’t the attire for you to get creative with the colour of your footwear, so stick to black and ensure they have a shiny finish. This will help them to stand out against the black of your tuxedo. Aside from that, feel free to go for anything from a pair of derbys, brogues or formal pumps to complete your look – the key is to still ensure you feel comfortable in what you’re wearing as this may well reflect in your general demeanour.

Final words

To add to all the above, you also have a whole host of accessories that can help bring your whole look together. While you can add things such as cufflinks, dress studs, a pocket square, watch and even an opera shawl, you’ll want to ensure they fall in line with your look – so keep them black, white or silver where possible.

Black tie attire has become synonymous with sophistication and elegance so it’s important every aspect of your outfit reflects this if you really want to make the most of it and make a mark.

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