I’ve been invited to an awards function. The dress code says ‘black tie’. What does this really mean?
Unlike its literal meaning, black tie in this context means you are expected to wear a dinner jacket, more commonly known as a tuxedo; considered the most formal attire for a gentleman.
Traditionally a tuxedo was made of a plain solid black fabric with a shawl lapel made in black shiny satin fabric, one satin fabric-covered button in the front and no more than three fabric buttons on the sleeve. The trousers are without belt loops and with a 1cm satin strip running along the outer side seam. This is worn traditionally with a black satin cummerbund and a white pleated tuxedo shirt made with a wing-tip collar to wear a black bow-tie and double French cuffs for black cufflinks. The entire ensemble is topped off with black studs on the shirt and black patent leather shoes, either oxfords, brogues or whole cuts.
Over time, a few details with regards to the traditional tuxedo have evolved, since everyone following the traditional rules of wearing a tuxedo meant that everyone looked exactly the same at black-tie events, with no way to showcase individuality.
The shirt is now commonly worn without pleats and with black buttons instead of studs. Sometimes even the collar is made to accommodate a regular tie instead of a bow tie and the cummerbund is replaced with a black scooped waistcoat.
However, making yourself stand apart whilst keeping the basic traditional rules of a tuxedo intact is the true test of having a mature sartorial understanding.
You can opt for a midnight blue fabric instead of the regular black one. You could also add some hints and details by instructing your tailor to make the pocket jetting on the jacket to be the same black satin fabric as your lapel and make the top border of your breast pocket in that same fabric as well. The lapel can be a peak lapel instead of the regular shawl lapel.
If you are going to win an award, opt for a midnight blue double-breasted tuxedo with a black peak or shawl lapel and black fabric buttons on the jacket, with a pair of black trousers.
The final element that will put you at the top of the sartorially refined totem pole will be to wear a self-tied black bow-tie, revealing that you know the art of tying a bow-tie, which can be highlighted by leaving it open and hanging around your neck towards the end of the event.