After Eight.

The Black-Tie.


Unless you celebrate Xmas dinner events on a monthly basis, regularly frequent evening award or charity events, or have double '0' status and participate in high stake poker games at private Casino's in luxurious locations, it's likely that your occasions for the black-tie are few and far between. 

So on the evenings you happen to have one, and with it the opportunity to dress up, it's important to take it seriously and, of course, get it right.

The heritage of what we are a part of when wearing the black-tie dates back to the Victorian era where, while still remaining formal, a more relaxed convention of dress was accepted for dinner; principally switching from tails (on the jacket) to the shorter dinner jacket and, in time, wearing a black bow rather than white.

While over time black-tie dress became less strictly formal than white-tie and tails, it still had a number of apparel formalities and a certain etiquette of what should or shouldn't be worn together which evolved over time, subject also, to the fashions of the day.

Contemporarily speaking, black-tie conventions should still be observed; however, for many now, taking instruction and guidance from the rules is enough - so long as it's done well and with a nod to the heritage.  

Thankfully then, for men of mere style-mortal-status, this means it's easy enough to make a black-tie dapper account of oneself without feeling the need to go overboard in the dressy stakes. 

Unless you're obviously Bond or Bogart, each of whom have managed to dapperly get it on with the white tux it's a question of playing it straight, playing it safe, and stepping out in black. 

Aim not to strut around like a peacock, but opt instead for refinement; for style and grooming from head to toe to be done properly, done neatly, and done with a sense of control.  

So, to get this right from the start, keep on trend for the evening, and leave at the end of the night having made the right impression, here is our 10-step guide to stepping out in the black-tie.   

[1] Your starter for ten is - your own - well fitted black formal dinner suit.   

Yes of course there are formal-hire options out there.. but seriously! Invest in something you can take ownership of. 

Off-the-peg options with a [2] good fit won't break the bank balance, and if the fit isn't perfect invest in some minor alterations for good measure. This will tastefully get you by and offer a far better chance of wearing something that looks as good as it possibly can on you, rather than something that is doing the rounds of every other pretender to 007 status. Black, is not just a safe option, it will also go the distance over consecutive years. Should you be able to carry off white, or even opt for a colour or design with a little more pizzaz, chances are in a year or two you would have changed tastes.

Of course after the suit comes a neat and well fitted [3] shirt. Today, this doesn't strictly need to be a dress (or marcella) shirt, it can if you want, otherwise a well fitted white formal shirt will be fine, with a double-cuff as a nicer option. In-fact, a well fitted white formal shirt will be the appropriate style if opting for a [4] slim-black-neck-tie option rather than a bow.

A slim-black-neck-tie is a perfectly acceptable and stylish option for a black-tie event; though it is important to note: if opting for a slim-black-neck-tie - it should be - a slim-black-neck-tie; nothing more, nothing less.  

Slim-black-neck-tie considered.. black-tie occasions are really all about the [5] bow-tie.  For most of us, our preference for daily tie wear will be the neck tie in one form or another, so this is the one opportunity where you can step outside of yourself and embrace the bow.  

In keeping with everything else said so far, your bow is all about understatement and refinement. The colour should be toned down to closely complement your suit (.. historically to match your lapel colour); so black, a dark midnight navy, or a warm burgundy, that sort of thing. Plain is safest, though you can happily opt for a classic dot, or even a very subtle tone on tone pattern.

Though stick to the aforementioned dark tone rule; the only exception to this rule is a white bow if you can pull it off.




All this goes for your [6] pocket square too. Most classic for the black-tie occasion is the slim white fold that gently and neatly peaks out of the pocket. If opting for silk and a little bounce, best is, again, a toned down colour and one that complements your bow.

Next up on the accessories side are your [7] optional extras.

Optional Extras: 1) If wearing cufflinks, these should be a) cufflinks and not silk knots and b) tasteful and not emblazoned with a brand name. 2) For many, not an 'option' but a necessity is your watch. Your day watch will mostly be fine so long as it dresses well, though if you have more than one watch in your time-piece collection then a slim tank always dresses well. At all costs a sports watch is not acceptable. And equally other forms of wrist jewellery are a bit of a no no. 3) Third optional extra is a silk scarf. As with your neck-wear and pocket square this needs to be of a complementary style and of course.. silk. It should be removed at an appropriate time before sitting and absolutely not worn for the whole evening. 




English Silk Florette Scarf with Tassels    


Lastly, in stylishly stepping out and putting your best foot forward.. don't let your [8] shoes let you down. These should - without fail - be black and must always be clean and polished. If properly done, patent court shoes, or patent Oxfords.*

(*Black All Stars: only on the red carpet and if your name is up in lights. You know who you are.)  

Ok! So 1-8 should have you covered from the apparel perspective and will hopefully set you right for a dapperly done black-tie evening.  

There are, however, a last couple of cardinal rules to finish, which must be lived by as seriously as your sartorial-ising to ensure safe passage towards the end of the evening.  

These are... [9] don't drink too much!

No matter how well you think you're gliding through the evening it's always a recipe for disaster. Be cool, take it easy.

Finally and at all costs you must not, ever, never ever be tempted  - see [9] - or in any way be 'lured' onto that great expanse of space known as the 'dance-floor'. 

An area that is otherwise a) owned by women or b) occupied by groovers far more able than you.  

Should you ever in your wildest of misguided mishaps find yourself entering this arena, once there you will feel compelled to enter into an activity that every part of your mind and body is battling with itself against and thereby forcing you into some form of spasmodic jittering that is perfectly out of time with any kind of beat your ears are hearing.

And so, to ensure you survive the evening unscathed and come away with every sense of style and integrity in place, at all costs… 

[10] do not dance. 



Our friend Mr Manz (right) wearing Seaward & Stearn Tie & Pocket Square.

Premiere of 'Fantastic Beasts And Where to Find Them'.


For a little colour richness..



English Silk-Velvet Bow Tie in Rich Burgundy  


English Dotty Silk Pocket Square



Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published