The rules of the black tie


Soon you are going to have to decide what you are going to wear to this year’s Christmas or New Years party and as usual, you’ll freak out and panic slightly. What are you going to wear? What colour? What style? What shoes? And then you realise there is a small note on the invite. It says “Black Tie.” Now, what on earth does Black Tie mean exactly? Does it mean you have to wear black?  Well in short, yes and no.

A Black Tie dress code on your invitation only suggests that the gathering you’re invited to requires all guests to wear formal wear, specifically black.

It actually means you will need to wear a tuxedo. However, it isn’t just a simple tuxedo. On an especially formal dinner or party, men are expected to come classy, elegant, serious, and looking sharp. That only means you have to come in style with your tuxedo and trousers.


It all starts with the jacket that you’re going to wear. You are better off finding a good quality one, so (gut depending) it will last you years to come since you won’t wear it too often. Black is the 99% colour of choice but midnight blue is also acceptable by the traditional rules. Velvet can also be a material option and has made a strong resurgence recently.


There are different lapels to choose from and the most common is a notch lapel. Notch lapels are usually used for formal business attire and are not actually recommended to be used for black tie. Personally, I prefer a peaked lapel because it encourages a more ‘V’ shape to my torso. A shawl lapel can also be an option but a notch is more inexpensive and readily available.


When it comes to the shirt, there are a few options. There’s both wing collar and turn down collar variations - I much prefer the latter style. Then there are shirts with pleats which look great with a cummerbund, and some will have either black studs or concealed buttons. This is all down to personal preference but black studs, shirt pleats and a double cuff are all the more traditional options.


I always recommend a Bow Tie over a standard necktie. I think it is a great opportunity to wear something different and traditionally you’d always opt for a Bow Tie to a black tie event. Be careful in choosing the style of bow tie or standard tie you are going to use as that single detail can ruin your entire look! You can go traditional by opting for plain black silk, or maybe choose the same fabric that goes along with your jacket. But if you are a little more adventurous, you may want to reinvent your style and experiment by going with a startling colour to make it more emphasised. Don’t be embarrassed if you can’t tie a bow tie, You can always watch an instructional video on YouTube and you’ll have it mastered within an hour.


Avoid pleats and turn ups with black tie trousers. Trousers used for black tie events are single braided (A satin ribbon trim down the side of each leg) and there are side pockets, of course, but make sure they’re perfectly in line with the braids.


The most basic shoes you can team with your black tie outfit are black leather dress shoes, but make sure they are well-polished. However, if you have a large budget to spend, it is a good idea to invest in a pair of formal evening shoes. There are different styles and brands that offer them with satin features or with a highly polished finish.


When it comes to eveningwear accessories cummerbunds can be a good accent to your formal attire but they are kind of outdated nowadays. A cummerbund is a sash worn on the waist. You can also try wearing braces providing they stay out of sight. A belt however is not worn with eveningwear, so it’s very important you buy trousers which fit perfectly. If you wear a watch, opt for a classical and minimal design with a black leather strap. Other accessory options include cufflinks, white pocket squares and lapel pins.