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The Rules of Black Tie

It’s one of those situations where you've got an invite to an event and as usual, you 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?  

'Does it mean you only have to wear a black tie?'

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

"Men are expected to come classy"
"Men are expected to come classy"

The host actually invites you 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. Here are some elements from Moss Bros that make up your black tie wear:

Dinner Jacket 

It all starts with the jacket that you’re going to wear. Be sure to find a good quality one, so it will last you years to come since you won't wear it too often. You can choose among different fabrics but usually, mohair and wool barathea are the ones that last longer. Black is the 99% colour of choice but midnight blue is also acceptable by the traditional rules. Velvet can also be a material option but is rarely adopted.

"A notch lapel is the most common"
"A notch lapel is the most common"


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. Most stylists prefer a peaked lapel because it emphasises the V-shape on your jacket making a man's frame look more athletic. A shawl lapel can also be an option but a notch is more inexpensive and readily available. You just have to learn how to wear it properly.

Bow Tie

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.

"You'll have it mastered within an hour"
"You'll have it mastered within an hour"


When it comes to the white dress shirt there's a few options. There's both wing collar and turn down collar variations - we much prefer the latter style. Then there's 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.


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. 

"Invest in a pair of formal evening shoes"
"Invest in a pair of formal evening shoes"


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. 

The tips mentioned above are the general what-to-wear for a regular Black Tie event. However, in some instances, the event hosts may specify what they expect from their guests. Some indicate “creative black tie,” which means you have more leeway to experiment and come up with a style that will make your personality shine the whole night.

"Opt for a watch with a black leather strap"
"Opt for a watch with a black leather strap"

There are those who only request Black Tie but really do not require you to come in tux. There are words like optional, preferred, or required to look for. You wouldn’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons on a supposedly formal and important gathering. 

Black Tie is classy, elegant and beautiful. Coming in black attire will make you feel sophisticated. But remember that it is your confidence that will make you stand out on an evening gathering where everyone (other than the women) practically wears the same thing.

Some invitations indicate "creative black tie"
Some invitations indicate "creative black tie"

*Cufflinks, Bow tie, Portrait images via Shutterstock


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