Black Tie Dress Code Guide: Why Every Man Needs a Dinner Jacket

“Putting on a beautifully designed suit elevates my spirit, extols my sense of self, and helps define me as a man to whom details matter,”  Gay Talese, Esquire Magazine

That first black tie event is a rite of passage, a kind of coming-of-age moment where you can look the best you’ve ever looked. 

For many people, these events don’t come along very often. However, the more our profile grows with success at work or in our social lives, the more invites we receive to formal evening wedding parties, galas, balls, and award ceremonies—all events where black tie is the designated dress code. 

What is Black Tie Dress Code?

In short, the black tie dress code features a dinner jacket (or a tuxedo, as it’s known in the US), and matching trousers. The look is completed with a pleated white shirt, black dress shoes and a bow tie (usually in black, though this is less strictly adhered to today). There’s also the option of a cummerbund or waistcoat to really set your outfit off.  

As the second most formal of all dress codes (just behind the uber-strict white tie code), black tie comes with a pretty tight set of dress rules which must be obeyed. 

Over the years, the rules of black tie have relaxed slightly, however we’d usually recommend sticking to the classic selections, while allowing the little details to subtly set you apart from the crowd. As Gay Talese points out above, being, “a man to whom the details matter,” can make a telling difference.

What to Wear to a Black Tie Event

The order of the night will be a slim cut, black or midnight blue dinner suit with silk lapels and a crisp white shirt. Of course, you could always change things up a little and add a more colourful flair, but a more classic look is stylish, dependable, and will cover a multitude of evening events. A black suit is more sustainable, and can be worn many times over. On the other hand a more colourful dinner jacket which stands way out and draws plenty of comments may limit your options in the long term. 

There are 3 different styles of lapel to consider: peak lapel, notch lapel and a shawl lapel. Choose the lapel style which flatters your physique and request it in a width that makes the most of your suit. Your tailor will know exactly how to advise you in this regard if you’re not sure yourself.

Your outfit should be completed with a smart hand-tied bow tie and a pair of well-polished classic or patent leather shoes with a hint of style. Do not make the mistake of wearing your office shoes or socks with your suit as these will really detract from your look. You can add in some subtle finishing touches with your choice of cuff-links or waistcoat. 

Early planning and attention to detail are the key to nailing the black tie look on the night. No one is better at helping you find your perfect look than a Savile Row tailor. A well-tailored evening suit will last for many years and will ensure you look fabulous and feel amazing at every event. Make an appointment with Marc Oliver ahead of your next black tie event.  

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