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How to Do Black Tie Events in Style

A gentleman of distinction will receive invitations to numerous events and will always dress for the occasion. Admittedly, there is a worrying trend for underdressed guests which may have left you wondering if an effort is even worth it but rest assured that said guests probably kill off any chance of dazzling, advancing their career or furthering their social network.

Black tie events are not as rare as one might assume: prestigious balls and parties, awards ceremonies and some grandiose weddings may require this dress code and it’s not uncommon for venues and organisations to host black tie evenings, especially during the festive season. If you are unsure what a black tie dress code entails, or if you just want to know whether there’s anything you can do to upscale your game, read our blog and ace your next appearance.

What does black tie actually mean?

Just to be clear, the one thing it doesn’t mean is an actual black tie. In fact, as any dress code, it is quite specific and guests are expected to wear:

  • A black or midnight blue dinner jacket, preferably single-breasted and with silk peak or shawl lapels.
  • Matching fitted trousers with an optional silk braid along the outseam, that matches the lapel, and a half break
  • White evening shirt with a wing or turndown collar, the former being considered more old-fashioned. Needless to say, the shirt will require cufflinks.
  • Hand tied black bow tie

Can I be creative?

Unless you are Billy Porter and you can somehow replicate that Christian Siriano tuxedo dress moment that set the fashion world on fire at the 2019 Oscars, the answer is no. When the host specifies a black tie dress code, guests are expected to oblige and they will be rightly perceived as rude if they don’t. You may argue that it’s all rather boring because everyone will be wearing the same but this is the point: you are meant to stand out on merit, thanks to your manners and conversation skills. If you absolutely want to spice up your outfit, try an edgier bowtie perhaps in burgundy or with polka dots but don’t overdo it.

Are accessories even allowed?

Yes, provided they work well with the whole concept of black tie. The following are essential or, at the very least, acceptable:

  • Black oxford shoes, patent or meticulously polished.
  • Black evening socks. We appreciate some men hate these thin silk socks so you can opt for something heavier provided it matches the rest of the outfit. If you are wondering whether you can go for a more risqué option, please refer back to our Billy Porter reference.
  • Cufflinks are a must but opt for classy ones.
  • Dress watch, and by that we mean classic, elegant and preferably with a black leather strap.
  • The appropriate pocket square is a white one in presidential fold but improvising is not out of the question provided you can pull it off. For the perfect presidential fold, check out our video tutorial.
  • You can either wear the waistcoat from your 3 piece dinner suit, which will be low cut, or a cummerbund and we clearly prefer the latter.

A black tie outfit requires a similarly suave attitude. You may find our blogs on giving the perfect handshake or making successful introductions useful and always keep in mind that a gentleman may wear the right clothes but still knows that substance is more important than looks. For more style and etiquette tips, follow us on social media and sign up to our newsletter to have our weekly blog delivered directly to your inbox.