Your Guide to a Very Black Tie Holiday

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Wearing black tie is an exercise in understated elegance. A tuxedo is not a particularly “flashy” outfit by design, which can be confusing for some due to internet #menswear’s focus on peacocking. Black tie, however, is not an occasion to push the boundaries. While there is certainly room for individual style in the way that the tux is worn, and there are now more acceptable variations in what is a very rigid code, wearing a tuxedo well is all about the details: are the elements correct? Is the fit perfect? If so, there’s a very good chance you’ll look great. And, if you are accompanied by a female companion, her outfit will stand out all the more. Here, we’ve detailed a black tie outfit that treads between the traditional and the modern for an ideal blend of elegance and convenience. Let’s go over the elements below.

1. Hackett tuxedo from Mr. Porter

This is about as classic a tuxedo as you can find, and the details are correct: the jacket has a single buttoning point, has no vent, and boasts a structured shoulder and silhouette. We’ve foregone braces in favor of trousers with side tab adjusters, for the sake of a slightly less complicated and more forgiving setup. Both jacket and trousers will require the hand of a good tailor to make themfit you perfectly, as is the case with almost all tailored clothing.

In this case, alterations are worth it, since tuxedos are not generally something one collects, and one perfect set-up will last a lifetime.

2. Sid Mashburn bib front shirt 

We’ve chosen a pleated bib front shirt with a spread collar (the appropriate collar choice for black tie) as well as a button-out placket, meaning you can choose to wear it with or without studs (we suggest with). The bib extends to the bottom of the shirt, meaning it can be worn without a cummerbund for a look that is still elegant without verging on the precious.

3. Vanda Fine Clothing black satin bow tie

It’s no secret that we are huge fans of affiliate Vanda Fine Clothing’s hand-made neckwear. This black satin self-tie bow tie is the perfect accompaniment for the satin peak lapels on the jacket, and will be the only tie you need for decades of elegance.

4. Carmina wholecut oxford

Here, we’ve made another slighest of breaks from tradition, and chosen a high-sheen wholecut oxford over a patent shoe. While not quite as formal as an evening pump, an oxford is certainly acceptable, as well as a bit more forgiving for the wearer. We’ve chosen Carmina’s wholecut as it has a narrow waist and a slightly chiseled toe, and the absence of side seams elevates it above a standard oxford.

5. Onyx shirt studs from Turnbull & Asser 


6. Kent Wang onyx cufflinks

Don’t overlook studs and cufflinks when finalizing your ensemble. This is an opportunity to add some personality to your final appearance, but that does not mean that it is an excuse or occasion for gaudy jewelry. Onyx and mother-of-pearl are both acceptable, as are gold and silver. Just make sure that you’re not mixing styles.

If you’ve nailed the list above, you’re sure to be a hit at your holiday black tie affair – or wherever your tuxedo takes you.

You’ll note that we’ve foregone braces, a cummerbund, and a pocket square. While a square is not required, should you prefer to wear one, we suggest crisp white linen. We also recommend that your forego a timepiece – even if you have a dress watch, a black tie event is an occasion for socializing, and not for worrying about the hour. Where else do you have to be?

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Styleforum Editors

The Styleforum editors are a group of gnomes that actually do all of the work running Styleforum. Ari, and Jasper play air hockey, drink artisanal iced teas, and debate whether it's harder to get bolognese or bechamel out of grenadine ties, and whether either can be used to polish shoes.

3 thoughts on “Your Guide to a Very Black Tie Holiday

  1. I spent most of my life as Director of Menswear design and think your post a great. Due to the expense of putting the correct tux together, I do believe that working with what a man may already have and making some adjustments. My husband had a custom tux, perfectly tailored in England way before we met, more than 20 years ago made in England . He also had patent leather shoes. Thecaccessories needed work. His bow tie was too narrow.
    I bought him a classic black silk bow tie, of course no clip or pre- tied. If you are not familiar with how to tie a bow tie, good friend or a YouTube video is really useful. Braces are fine or the adjustable waist. We chose silk braces. An important but often accessory is socks. Choose silk and high enough so when you sit there is no skin.
    The one place wear I beg to differ is studs. To me onyx is fine but looks rented. If you have heirlooms or sentimental ones , gold ones, or ones that say something about you,. they are not showcase but personal. Last is the shirt, they discolor over time. Buy a crisp new one. No patterns or vests or the cummerbunds.
    Just a few ways to save money and still look like a million dollars.

    • First, I apologize for the typos. A French placket shirt is not as traditional but with a high quality cotton shirt and a pleat size which is not extreme it can be a clean handsome look. A silk black cummerbund will also make the look more classic but with the jacket closed also is not essential.
      With regard to studs, if you decide on french placket it’s a non-issue. My personal feeling is that if you have unusual but discrete ones (size similar to the typical onyx), they may be an ice breaker at an event. If you want to begin a dialogue with someone
      specific, do a little research and find out what interest you may have in common, buy a set of related studs and make sure to be noticed. Classic is the ultimate way for a correct presentation and timeless elegance but your body type, the level of conservativeness of the event, and your personality are considerations.
      I have designed the American licenses for Nino Cerutti , Dior, and Liberty of London. I have also been advisor to Saks and Bloomingdale’s as well. My perspective has ultimately become … timeless entree, which is of the best quality you can afford or looks it, but fun with the amuse bouche.
      I have two websites but they are not relevant to this subject.
      That may change.

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