Black Tie at the SF Ballet Gala

Watching ballet is like watching embodied calligraphy set to music.  Nowhere else can you see the most precise movements so elegantly executed, with technical feats appearing as effortless as water swirling in a vacuum.  The opening gala for the San Francisco ballet is a special occasion celebrating all of the choreography, set design, and more that goes into each production, a taste of the many talented artists in the city’s gorgeous opera house.  But in addition, it provides an opportunity for those who support it to dust off their finery, and they did not disappoint. 

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Who Wore it Best? Styleforum Goes Formal

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.

Styleforum goes formal


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).

Styleforum goes formal


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.

Styleforum goes formal


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.

Styleforum goes formal


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:

Styleforum goes formal

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.

Embracing the Rebirth of Black Tie

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.

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Yours truly in black tie, with last week’s birthday boy Andreas Weinås (N.B. smoking is a horrible habit – don’t do it kids). Photo credit: Milad Abedi.

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).

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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.

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Perfect black tie from The Armoury

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.

Now all I’m waiting for is the revival of the white tie:
rebirth of black tie contemporary black tie

Erik is co-founder of EFV Clothing. You can find him on Instagram at @ErikMannby.