Still have questions? Ask the Styleforum community! Join the conversation on The State of Black Tie thread, and post your black tie outfit on the What Are You Wearing Today thread.
Still have questions? Ask the Styleforum community! Join the conversation on The State of Black Tie thread, and post your black tie outfit on the What Are You Wearing Today thread.
Winter is terrible for many reasons, not the least of which is the long, long night. There’s just something so – depressing – about leaving home for work in the dark only to come home from work in the dark. There are ways, of course, to prevent full-on Seasonal Affective Disorder. The more common escape is Netflix and chill, which ends up being Netflix and Ben and Jerry’s. Or you can break out the formalwear and head out for a night out on the town, which is what many of StyleForum’s users did this past month. How’d they do? Let’s see.
Lensmaster dusted off his white tie for what looks like a festive evening. Dive a little more into the WAYWRN thread and you’ll see his headgear for the evening (hint: it’s not a top hat).
SprezzaTrash wore what looks like a vintage double breasted tuxedo, and while there’s nothing wrong with his accessories, I wish his placket was ironed a bit more and the handkerchief a touch more stuffed in. Otherwise, a good fit all around.
Smittycl pairs his single breasted peak lapeled dinner jacket with a pleated shirt. This is a perfectly acceptable option, rarely seen nowadays, possibly because of the reminiscence it conjures of the groovy Seventies, when they (and most everything else) was taken to the extreme. As an example, I’ll give you Sonny Bono. Apologies. But at least his collar hugs his neck. Yes, burn.
Old e-pal Acridsheep is a hot mess, yet looks great in that sweaty tux. To his credit, he just performed The Humpty Dance from Bay Area locals Digital Underground (also on WAYWRN), and look at him. He’s the king of the evening. Well done.
Cleav keeps it simple in a double breasted dinner suit with a perfectly pressed shirt, black onyx studs and cuff links, and what may quite possibly be the cutest pocket square the forum has ever seen.
Andy57 looks like a million bucks in this fantastic bespoke velvet dinner jacket from Steed. I’ve always thought that velvet shawl collared dinner jackets are the rogue, debonair cousins of the tuxedo jacket. Like other black tie fabrics, such as barathea or mohair/worsted wool blends, the shine of velvet looks best at night, but the shawl collar and softness of the stoffa adds a dash of swanky guile that your regular black tie rig won’t have.
Formalwear really hasn’t changed all that much in the past 80 years or so, which in today’s world of fashion that revolves faster than Lady Gaga can change outfits is wonderfully constant. Even so, because it’s seen so rarely, it’s never staid or clichéd. For that reason, one can browse eBay and stumble upon amazing finds that, with few alterations, can look just as fresh today as they did when they saw their first gala. Which brings us to what I wore for an evening of ballet at the San Francisco War Memorial:
I was fortunate enough to find this deadstock double-breasted tuxedo from 1949 that required no alterations whatsoever. I especially like how the peaks point up at an angle; many from that era had more horizontal, “Tautz” -y lapels, which while not necessarily wrong, can look a bit dated. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the year and you may find black tie and even full dress white tie outfits, and since they were probably rarely worn, they are often in near-perfect condition.
Technically, the days are starting to get longer, but I do like the opportunities that long nights provide for well-dressed merrymaking. If nothing else, it’ll force you to host a party of your own to fill up those long, empty evenings. Because if your only memories of this winter come from binging on Netflix, then brother, ya gotta get out and live.
To claim that black tie, as a phenomenon, is alive and well, would probably be the overstatement of the century. I know that I am one of an infinitely small group of people who actually owns a black tie rig, let alone who uses it with some modicum of regularity.
Then again, you could argue that the entire “coat and tie” community is pretty small. We all still operate, either by corporate necessity or by choice, in this microverse of nerdery. And we see it gaining new traction among enthusiasts around the world. Therefore I hope that at least a few of you share my happiness in experiencing the small (maybe insignificantly so, but still) rebirth of black tie.
I’m a late 70’s child myself, and most of my friends are around my age or younger (some were even born in the 90’s). This means that our parents were of the generations that happily shed everything considered to be formal and “stuffy”. My dad, for example, had to wear a school uniform as a kid, including jacket and tie, and then for the first part of his career had to wear a suit and tie to work. All of this was thrown out the window in the 70’s. A “casual revolution” overthrew dress codes almost everywhere. By the 80’s, no one but lawyers and bankers seemed to be wearing suits anymore. Therefore, all manners of dressing even more formally were all but extinct by the beginning of the 2000’s. Black (or even more uncommonly, white) tie seemed to exist merely among the upper echelons of society, or was rented by regular Joes to celebrate very special occasions. Some of these rental places’ interpretations of the black tie were… well, interesting:
Now, something has changed in our attitude towards being “dressed up” in general – and dressing in formalwear in particular. Few working places have dress codes anymore, even the banks who seemed as they would be the last bastions of suit and tie. However, a lot of people who live without imposed rules of dress now wear more formal, classic menswear by choice. A friend of mine in the clothing business tells me that he sells suits mostly to guys working in IT, a line of work where suits are often viewed with a certain skepticism. Still, these younger guys find a certain satisfaction in wearing sharp quality clothing. Less and less find any need to rebel against “conformity” of suits. Quite the opposite, wearing jacket and tie is more of a statement than wearing jeans and a sweatshirt today.
That formal wear should follow suit (pun unintended), and gain a newfound interest is therefore not completely unexpected. And it has directly led to the (admittedly slow) rebirth of black tie. Celebrating a 30th or 40th birthday is now a perfect opportunity to make more of an effort. Wearing black tie will definitely increase the feeling of doing just that. And, if you own a black tie rig you don’t need a grander occasion than having dinner with friends (or your significant other – as Styleforum member @Andy57 shows us below).
In this past year I have been invited to more black tie parties than ever before in my life, and I’d say I’m very middle class in most every sense of the word. The great thing about the rebirth of black tie is that, just like a suit at your work place, it needs no greater reason to be worn other than it makes you feel good about wearing it. Also, getting yourself a black tie setup is likely to heavily increase the opportunities you’ll find to wear it.
As a final parting though, it is still a good idea to be wary of the dress codes. If an invitation doesn’t specifically say “black tie,” you will look odd wearing it.
Perhaps you’ve received an invitation to an event that requests black tie, white tie, or cocktail attire. Were you confused? Did you just end up going in one of your “meeting” suits?
All three (NOT the “meeting” suit) are considered formalwear. They are usually reserved for the evening (when most formal events happen), they are typically black, and that is where the similarity ends. We’ll discuss white tie, black tie, and cocktail attire, ranked from most to least formal.
Perhaps you’ve seen Downton Abbey (don’t hate – it’s a great show). During the day the men of the house were chilling in the library in a “lounge” or “sack” suit (click here if you don’t know what those are). Dinner, however, was black tie. Every. Single. Night. Imagine that. With such daily stuffiness seen from sunup to sundown, how much more formal could you go?
Enter White Tie. Reserved for notable occasions, it had (and still has) black tails, black trousers, black patent leather shoes, and a white winged shirt, vest, and of course, tie. The jacket is wool, double breasted, left open, with silk lapels. Trousers have a silk band down the side leg seam, no cuffs, as cuffs were invented to protect from mud, and only plebeians walk in mud. The nobility walk on marble, granite, or preferably, on the back of plebeians.
It is also referred to as “full dress,” as it has its roots in the Royal Army, back when British gentry would have honorary military titles shoveled upon them wholesale, just because, and they would have to show up for them to receive said titles, and therefore dress accordingly.
In the heyday of formalwear, many Hollywood stars would rock white tie, but that was almost a century ago. White tie had its time, but like the accompanying top hat and cane, it became outdated and stodgy, relegated to the most formal of events. Trust me, unless you routinely conduct symphonies or are a magician, you’ll never need to wear it. Perhaps when you go to an inauguration for a Head of State, but even then, as a civilian, it is so archaic that you might as well be wearing armor, you dashingly oblivious Don Quixote.
Have you other options? Yes, you do.
Black tie has enjoyed enduring popularity, possibly due to its rascally roots. Known initially as the “tailless dress coat”, historical records confirm the Prince of Wales (the 1800s one, Edward VII) had one such jacket made for him by Henry Poole of Savile Row in 1865. How it made its way Stateside is a bit unclear. One account of the story is that the Prince urged an impressionable American guest to order a jacket from Poole of the same style, whereupon he did and took it back to a country club in a New York town called – wait for it – Tuxedo Park. Another version has it that a native son of Tuxedo itself had the jacket commissioned (also by Henry Poole) for the Club’s annual Autumn Ball.
At any rate, the “short dinner jacket” henceforth became known as the “tuxedo”, and the whole rig as “black tie”. The items that qualify for this are pretty simple: white shirt, black jacket, black trousers, black shoes, and the eponymous black tie. Done.
Or are we?
Black tie is great precisely because it lacks the preciseness of white tie. Look at the differences in Paul and Robert in the photo. Shawl collar? Sure thing! Single or double breasted? Either! Vest or cummerbund? Your choice! Just keep it black. Or, do as did the younger, cooler, 1930s Prince of Wales: midnight blue, which under the artificial lighting of evening fundraisers and paparazzi flash bulbs actually looks darker and richer than black. And if your event is during the day, try a white or ivory dinner jacket. Just keep the trousers and shoes black.
And there you have black tie. What, then, is cocktail attire? Colors are generally dark and muted, but this is your chance to get creative. You can opt for a velvet smoking jacket in a rich maroon or forest green. Or channel your inner spy and sip your martini in ablack or oxblood nehru jacket. If you’re visiting Vegas, try swinging the one-button silk shantung or mohair suit. And if you’re hosting a cocktail party yourself, reach for a plaid dinner jacket in Black Watch or Royal Stewart, or even a classy tapestry.
Nowadays, occasions to wear such attire are dwindling. Many men spend more time dressing their beards than their bodies. While we would never urge one to bust out white tie in a noble attempt to bring class and sophistication to his neighborhood PTA meeting, we do recommend to have a black tie rig on standby in your closet in case the situation calls for it. At the very least, plan a party, print invitations with “Cocktail attire kindly requested” in fancy stock calligraphy, and have fun for an evening.
The only thing non-negotiable in any of these is the tie. Never wear a regular tie. Get a bow tie. A real one.
If you’re attending a black-tie affair this winter and you’re already panicking about what to wear – we understand. It’s easy to get lost in a sea of shoddy tuxedos, conflicting advice, and too-good-to-be-true deals. You know what? We’ve got your back. And there’s still time to find yourself the perfect black tie rig. Because whatever you do, we really don’t want you to rent an ill-fitting tuxedo.
This tuxedo buyer’s guide will go over some of Styleforum’s top picks for the winter, detailing the pros and cons of each. We’ll cover a range of budgets and a range of styles so that you can be sure you’ll look downright incredible in your tuxedo, no matter the event. You’ve got plenty of time to pick out a tux before the party season is over, so don’t worry – plus, part of the beauty of the tuxedo is that you only need the one. And you know what that means? You’ll never need to rent a tux.
All of the below will require the traditional accoutrements: a proper shirt, shoes, and accessories (tie, studs and links, and a cummerbund or waistcoat).
Black Tie on a Budget
Modern, stylish, and very sleek. There’s a reason Suitsupply is so well-regarded on Styleforum: the value proposition is hard to beat. Plus, returns and try-ons are easy and shipping is fast, so you’ve got a good chance of nailing the fit. This is an easy fire-and-forget option.
Pros: Price, obviously. You’ll look good, you’ll have some money left over for the rest of the rig, and you’re going to spend all your time partying and enjoying yourself anyway.
Cons: The Suitsupply look is not to everyone’s taste. The lapels are loud, the cuts tend towards the slim and short, and the gorge can be quite high, so you’ll have to plan and adjust your size accordingly.
Those who would like a slightly more staid offering than Suitsupply’s admittedly in-your face tuxedo may wish to consider J. Crew’s “Ludlow” option. We’ve picked this shawl collar variation because, unlike J.Crew’s other options, it has a single button closure. Combined with the shawl collar this does, at the least, distinguish it from a business suit – though why it has patch pockets is beyond us. You’ll have to tuck those in or remove them. Otherwise, this is the cheapest tuxedo on our list, and if you can get the sizing right and you have a decent tailor you’re likely to have a good time. Just note that J. Crew staff seem predisposed to forcing customers into jackets at least one size too small and far too short.
Pros: A true budget option. While it’s not the pinnacle of style or quality, you won’t look out of place if you nail the accessories.
Cons: Less elegant than the other options on this list due to its somewhat confused pedigree, and J.Crew patterns can be hit or miss depending on the wearer. You may have to try this on in person to find your ideal fit – or at the very least, take a handful of size options to a reputable tailor.
For the Ivy-inclined, J.Press’ classically American take on the Tuxedo may be the perfect option. However, we admit that this tuxedo did cause the Styleforum editorial team to come into conflict. While some forumites will argue that a single-vented tuxedo jacket is an acceptably and intentionally American take on a continental garment, others firmly believe that a single vent is far too casual for evening wear, rooted in sporting garments as it is. We’ve compromised and included this tuxedo to show the range of available options.
Pros: Firmly American in style, from an old guard of the East-Coast Trad. Easy to wear, easy to obtain.
Cons: Somewhat lacking in personality, and you’ll have to tuck or remove the flap pockets.
Note that J.Press also produces a notch lapel tuxedo. Notwithstanding the contemporary prevalence of this garment, we do not feel we can endorse such a garment. Although there is modern precedent (read: 1980’s) for a notch lapel tuxedo, when compared to contemporary business suiting we feel that details are firmly required to distinguish evening-wear from office-wear.
If you’d like to be sure you’re getting every aspect of your tuxedo correct, look no further than Styleforum affiliate Kent Wang. Their tuxedo is elegant without being precious or costumey, and for the price it’s quite the deal. You’ll be able to specify color and lapel style, but note that their tuxedos are only available through their MTM service, meaning that this isn’t the ideal last-minute option.
Pros: Fantastic value, guaranteed to nail every element.
Cons: You’ll have to have the time and inclination for MTM
Kent Wang is a Styleforum affiliate. You can join their conversation here.
At this price, a Ralph Lauren tuxedo is a very easy option, particularly if you don’t have the time or inclination to search, try, return, and generally occupy your mind with the ins and outs of tuxedo-buying. A solid workhorse of a tuxedo, this is a good option if you’re looking for something simple but very elegant. The trousers sport side tab adjusters as well as loops for braces, so you can wear them as you wish. The jacket is canvassed, the pattern will fit a wide range of body types, and this tuxedo is certainly not going to fall apart on you. While a Polo tuxedo may lack some of the character of the other options on this list, it will provide solid, accessible results for most buyers.
Pros: There’s a 90% chance you’ll look great in it. Reasonable value for your money, and they’re easy to obtain.
Cons: Flapped pockets are a no-no. You’ll have to tuck or remove the pocket flaps, but once you’ve done so the vents are no issue.
Look at those full lapels and bountiful quarters! This stunner from Sartoria Formosa certainly isn’t cheap, but it represents some real value from the well-regarded Neapolitan sartoria. The silhouette is fantastic, and we’re huge fans of the unapolagetic peak lapels. This tuxedo is tasteful and elegant, while giving you room for some personal touches.
Pros: It’s beautiful. And, at $2,350 it’s somewhere in the attainable mid-high range of tuxedo pricing. While that takes some splashing out, this is a tuxedo that is going to last you a long, long time.
Cons: With such a full body and bombastic lapels, this tuxedo may take some panache to pull off. Side vents in the jacket mean it will take more naturally to lounging with one hand in a pocket (and will be more forgiving if you have a muscular posterior), but it lacks the absolute rigidity of some of the more precise options. Of course, that could certainly be seen as a pro as well, depending on personal preference.
No Man Walks Alone is a Styleforum affiliate. You can join their conversation here.
The Red Carpet
If you’re up for splashing out to look like a contemporary movie star, this is the tuxedo for you. A low gorge, wide shawl lapel, and glam silhouette make this a mean contender if you’re less inclined towards the classic and more inclined to look like James Bond. This tuxedo begs for some non-traditional styling, and you could certainly pair it with a black turtleneck and embrace the full Tom Ford look.
Pros: You want sexy? You got sexy. This tuxedo hits all the right notes to be a show-stopper.
Cons: Well, it costs five thousand dollars, and it’s not exactly classic.
The Roman Holiday
Gregory Peck wasn’t the only Hollywood star to wear Brioni, but he certainly did his part in popularizing the Roman house’s tailored clothing – just as he and his cohorts are still doing their part to keep black tie alive. Brioni, decades later, remains a glittering, glamorous option for the well-to-do.
Pros: Hard to argue with what you’re seeing here, really. From the strong, structured Roman shoulder to the narrowed waist, this is an unabashedly masculine take on an already masculine garment.
Cons: At almost six grand for one of Brioni’s off-the-rack options, you may start asking yourself what you’re really paying for. And if that seems like a drop in the bucket to you, perhaps you’d get more joy from a fully bespoke experience.
A note on vintage tuxedos and accessories: while the vintage route can bear beautiful black tie fruit, it does take a real eye for details. Beyond the fact that you likely wont’ be able to return a vintage tuxedo, you’ll also have to contend with the previous owner’s alterations, you’ll have to divine the fabric composition, and you’ll have to find the damn thing in the first place. Remember, just because something is “vintage” doesn’t mean it’s good. A vintage polyester tuxedo is still unacceptable, and shoddy craftsmanship on a set of studs will mean that those “heirloom” accessories aren’t really heirlooms at all. While we fully support buying vintage or pre-owned clothing, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.
A note on white jackets: you may have dreams of telling your friends to “Play it again,” but the truth is that Humphrey Bogart’s white dinner jacket in Casablanca is an intentional nod both to Bogey’s personal style as well as to the warm climate of the locale featured in the film. Remember that black is always appropriate, and that during the winter season white will seem counterintuitive.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?