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Formal Wear

Black Tie Dress Code

Black Tie Dress Code | 9 Fundamentals For A Black Tie Event

Kirby Allison, founder of The Hanger Project, goes over the fundamentals of a black tie and the small, subtle details that make this look so special. A man looks at his best when a black tie is perfectly executed. Every rule that you follow makes you look better and every rule you break makes you look worse. Following these traditional guidelines will ensure that you show up to a black tie event appropriately dressed so you can rest in confidence that you look proper in any formal situation.


Hi I'm Kirby Allison founder of The Hanger Project and we love helping the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes. The purpose of today's video is to explain the basics of black tie. The one bastion of classic men's wear 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. So a man looks his best whenever black tie is perfectly executed. More importantly whenever you're following the rules of black tie it shows to those that matter that you know what you're doing. I still remember whenever I was in college and had the opportunity to go to several black tie events I was wearing my grandfather's tuxedo but I was perfectly following the rules. I had a nice tuxedo with peak lapels. I wore a cummerbund with a white shirt. I couldn't afford stubs so I had a placket that covered the buttons and I bought my first pair of opera pumps and so I could go to these black tie events with confidence knowing that although I was the youngest person in the room you know that I was dressed just as well if not better than most of the people there with me. 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's important to know the simple basic rules of black tie. They're not complicated. They're easy to follow and if you follow the rules perfectly you never have to worry about showing up to a black tie event not looking your best.

The purpose of this primer is to explain the basic fundamentals of black tie so that you are able to follow and enjoy them and most importantly experience a gentleman dressed at his best. Recently my wife Bianca and I were in London for a black tie event hosted by a friend at Boodle's one of the oldest and certainly most well-regarded gentlemen's clubs in London. Located right on St. James down the street from John Lobb. It was incredibly validating to walk into a room full of elegantly dressed men all wearing black tie. You didn't see anyone with long satin ties. You didn't see anyone wearing fuzzy cotton socks. You didn't see anyone with their waist not covered either by a cummerbund or a waistcoat and everyone just looked great. So I showed up to an elegant sophisticated black tie event at one of London's most exclusive and historic gentlemen's clubs looking like I fit in and belonged because I was following the rules of black tie. And so it just felt nice to be able to walk through those doors knowing that I fit in, I was dressed appropriately and that I belonged there that evening. So had I shown up to that event wearing a red satin bow tie or worse a long tie, no cummerbund or a pair of black wingtips certainly no gentleman would have made me feel out of place but at some point in that evening I certainly would have realized that everyone else knew something I didn't. And so with black tie it's just important to understand that it is not an area for innovation.

The best dressed man in black tie is a man following the rules. So here in this primmer the purpose is to just simply review the basic fundamental elements of black tie so that you may follow and enjoy them and most importantly walk into your next black tie event with the confidence that you look great. So let's review these basic elements of black tie together.

So the first and most important rule of black tie is that your dinner jacket does not have notched lapels. Right. So you don't want a jacket that has the same lapel that you do for a suit. The proper tuxedo jacket is one either with peak lapels like the one I'm wearing right now or with a shawl collar and preferably a single button because it has the cleanest look and no pocket flaps. If your tuxedo jacket does have pocket flaps just make sure that you're able to tuck them in. The other element that is really important for a proper tuxedo jacket is that it has alternate facing satin or grosgrain lapels. That just means that the material that's used for the facing of the lapel is different than the material that's used for the actual jacket. So your trousers must have a single vertical satin stripe and no cuffs. To summarize a proper tuxedo jacket is black or dark midnight blue with peak lapels or a shawl collar and traditionally with a single button and no pocket flaps. The lapels should be alternate facing material and the jacket made with no dents. The trousers should have a single vertical satin stripe and no cuffs.

So it is always best to have a self tying bow tie made from the same material as your tuxedo lapels. If you're wearing a winged the collar the problem with an adjustable bow tie is that you're able to see the slider at the back of the neck. A specific sized bow tie is always best but if you have an adjustable sized bow tie make sure that you're always wearing it with a fold down collar like the one I have on today.

Next it is important to wear a cummerbund or a waistcoat. 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're 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. So traditionally one does not wear a wristwatch with black tie. However these days it is acceptable to wear one as long as it's not a large sport watch. So if you are wearing a watch it has to be an elegant dinner time piece preferably with a leather strap. Now if you can always try to match the hardware.

So if you're wearing gold studs try to wear a gold wrist watch. If you're wearing a vest you can accessorize it with a pocket watch or a pocket watch chain. If you can it is always best to wear a neatly folded thin white pocket square in your jacket pocket. Just the simple addition of a white pocket square completes the whole look of this ensemble. Next whenever it comes to your shoes. you want to be wearing a pair of black dress shoes polished to a high shine. Either a pair of plain black cap toe oxfords, whole cuts or opera pumps but never any shoes with broguing like you would find in a pair of wingtips. So broguing are the small holes that you find punched into shoes to make them less formal and it's never appropriate in black tie. These days you see a lot of people wearing slippers with black tie either with or worse without socks. Traditionally slippers were worn either at home or while at your club but really they're not meant to be worn out with black tie. So most traditionally with black tie you would wear black over the calf silk socks. Now as you can see these silk socks don't look like your sister's stockings. Instead they elevate the formality and the elegance of black tie because they have a nice soft subtle sheen to them. Now if you don't have silk socks you can absolutely wear a pair of smooth black over the calf socks as long as they're not fuzzy or faded. Over the calf socks are important because they prevent your socks from sliding down during the evening thereby exposing your bare leg.

With your tuxedo shirt you absolutely want to be wearing a plain white shirt with a flat front either with a fold over collar or a winged collar. If you have studs It's a beautiful way to elevate the ensemble with a little bit of embellishment. So if you don't have formal studs as you want to wear with your tuxedo then you want to be wearing a white shirt with a covered placket. A covered placket is just an extra piece of fabric that flaps over the front of the shirt and it just conceals and covers the buttons. Remember if you don't have studs that show you should have buttons that don't.

So there's nothing wrong with a scarf and gloves as long as you take them off whenever you arrive and don't wear them inside. Preferably either a white or a black silk scarf and remember no fuzzy socks and no fuzzy scarves. So I hope that this video helps you understand just how easily and approachable black tie is and that you should never feel intimidated. By following the simple fundamental rules of black tie you can dress in confidence knowing that you look great in whatever formal situation you find yourself. Just like whenever my friend took me aside or whenever I was much younger and really walked me through the rules I hope that this video helps you understand that black tie really is incredibly simple and should never be intimidating. By simply following the rules you can always dress with confidence knowing that you're going to look great regardless of what formal situation you find yourself in. If you have any questions about this video please feel free to ask them in the comments section below. I'll get back to all those questions personally. If you like this video give us the thumbs up or better yet subscribe to our

So please visit our formalwear section on and view our full collection of sovereign grade black tie accessories. We have everything you'd need to ensure you look your best when dressing in black tie. I'm Kirby Allison founder of The Hanger Project and we love helping the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes. Thanks for joining us.