Lifestyle Tips by Kirby

Black-Tie Dress Code – The 9 Fundamentals

The black-tie dress code is the one bastion of classic menswear where the rules are so perfect there is no need to break them. There is a reason the rules have remained virtually unchanged over the last century and that’s because they just simply cannot be improved. A man looks his best when the black tie look is perfectly executed. More importantly, whenever you are following a black tie dress code, it shows to those that matter that you know what you’re doing.

In the same way that you wouldn’t show up to a basketball game wearing a football jersey, you don’t show up to a black tie event dressed inappropriately. A splash of color does not make you look debonair; it makes you look uninformed. Every rule that you follow makes you look better and every rule that you break makes you look worse. That’s why it is important to know the fundamental rules of a black tie dress code. Follow the rules perfectly, and you will never have to worry about showing up to a black tie event unprepared. The purpose of this primer is to explain the basic fundamentals of a black tie dress code so that you are able to follow, enjoy them and most importantly be a gentleman dressed at his best.

Rule #1: Dinner Jacket Should Have Peak Lapels Or Shawl Collar

Black Tie Dress Code - Dinner Jacket

A proper tuxedo jacket is either one with peak lapels or a shawl collar. It is important to have alternate facing satin or grosgrain lapels, meaning that the material that’s used for the facing of the label is different than the material that’s used for the actual jacket. Additionally, it is preferable for the jacket to have a single button and no pocket flaps. The jacket should also be made with no dents and the trousers should have a single vertical satin stripe with no cuffs. This ensemble has the cleanest most elegant look.

Rule #2: Wear A Self-Tie Bow Tie In The Same Material As Tuxedo Lapels

Black Tie Dress Code - Bow Tie

It is always best to have a self-tying bow tie made from the same material as your tuxedo lapels. If you are wearing a winged the collar, an adjustable bow tie exposes the slider at the back of the neck, therefore a specifically sized bow tie is always best. Nonetheless, if you have an adjustable sized bow tie, make sure that you are always wearing it with a fold down collar dress shirt.

Rule #3: Always Cover Your Waist With A Cummerbund Or Waist Coat

Black Tie Dress Code - Cummerbund

Covering your waist is one of those elements that separates black tie from daytime business wear. It further elongates the silhouette and elevates the ensemble. These subtle small elements taken together are what make black tie so special. If you are wearing a cummerbund, be careful to make sure that the pleats are facing upwards. The tradition is that you would use those pleats to hold your tickets for that evening’s entertainment. To shop for luxury formalwear accessories on our website, click here.

Rule #4: Wear A Thin, Formal Watch With A Leather Strap Or No Watch At All

Black Tie Dress Code - Formal Watch

While it’s not common, it is acceptable to wear a wristwatch to a black-tie event. As long as it is not a large sports watch, it can be an elegant dinner timepiece when paired with a leather strap. Ideally, you want to always try to match the hardware. Try to wear a gold wristwatch if you are wearing gold studs.

Rule #5: Wear A Neatly Folded White Pocket Square

Black Tie Dress Code - Pocket Square

If possible, it is best to wear a neatly folded, thin white pocket square in your jacket pocket. Just the simple addition of a white pocket square completes and elevates the entire look.

Rule #6: Wear Highly-Polished Black Shoes, Ideally Patent Leather

Black Tie Dress Code - Formal Shoes

Black shoes are a must-have. Make sure they are either polished to a high-shine or made of patent leather.  Plain cap-toe oxfords, whole cuts or opera pumps are ideal. It is unacceptable to wear shoes with broguing or any type of slippers. These are not the proper shoes to wear at a black-tie event. For more information on black tie dress code shoes, consider watching our video: Shoes You Should Wear For a Black Tie Event.

Rule #7: Wear Plain Black Over-The-Calf Silk Socks

Black Tie Dress Code - Socks

It is vital to wear silk socks to avoid the fuzzy or faded look. They elevate the formality and give a nice subtle sheen. Consider visiting our store for luxurious Italian black socks,

Rule #8: Wear A White Tuxedo Shirt With Studs And French Cuffs

Black Tie Dress Code - White Dress Shirt

With your tuxedo, it is essential to wear a plain white shirt with either a fold over collar or winged collar. If you have studs, it is a beautiful way to elevate the ensemble with a little bit of embellishment. If you do not have formal studs, then you want to be wearing a white shirt with a second covered placket. A covered placket is just an extra piece of fabric that flaps over the front of the shirt to conceal and cover the buttons. Remember if you do not have studs to show, you should have buttons that do not.  

Rule #9: You Can Wear Scarves, Formal Overcoats, And Gloves, But Not Inside

Black Tie Dress Code - Scarf, Formal Overcoat, and Gloves

There is nothing wrong with wearing a scarf and gloves as long as they come off once you go inside. Preferably, you would pair either a white or a black silk scarf to avoid a fuzzy, faded look.