Home > Formal wear > The Black Tie Dress Code For Men

The Black Tie Dress Code For Men

September 24th, 2011

white shirt and black bow tie

I’ve recently had a reader ask a very interesting question. In case you didn’t know, I’m sharing my expertise for free here on the blog (so go ahead and ask me anything you want about men’s fashion and style).

The question goes like this:

Hello George, I’m attending a republican party dinner I will be with Girlfriend and county legislators and a Senator, I’m a working stiff I want to look damn good help brother what color jacket pants shirt tie I have small budget is there hope using those online stores or can Macy’s or JC Penny pull it off for me.

My answer? Two words: black tie.

The event is a formal dinner. A lot of important people will be there. This means you have to think more about the event itself and less about standing out in a bold way.

Black tie is THE dress code for formal dinners. It’s different than a business attire or even something you would wear to a wedding. Wear a black tie when the event has a high level of formality or when the invitation to that even specifically mentions *black tie* as the mandatory dress code.

Ok, with the definition out of the way, let’s see the components of a black tie attire. You’ll see for yourself how easy it is to put one together.

The components of the black tie dress

  • A black jacket with silk lapel facings (we’ll talk about those later)
  • Black suit pants
  • A black cummerbund or waistcoat
  • A white dress shirt
  • A silk black bow-tie
  • Black socks
  • Black shoes

Ok let’s break it down one by one

The Jacket

The dinner jacket is the only thing you can wear at a black tie event. Normally this comes as a set with the pants as part of the tuxedo – so please – don’t wear the separately.

It is usually ventless, which means it doesn’t have any slits in the back. I’m sure you’ve noticed the vents on your other suits, right? They should have either one in the center or two at the sides. Dinner jackets, however, don’t have any vents at all.

One more thing: tuxedo jackets should be single breasted. I know you may sometimes find double breasted jackets but my advice is… stay away form them!

OK, now that we established that, at a black tie event, you want to be dressed like a gentleman and follow the rules, let’s continue with…

The Trousers

As you can imagine, the trousers match the color and fabric of the jacket. They can be black or midnight blue, the only acceptable colors for a black tie event.

A few critical things about the trousers that can make it or break it:

  • black tie trousers have no cuffs at the bottom
  • They are NEVER worn with a belt. Suspenders are the only acceptable accessory to hold them.
  • The outer seams are also made of silk to match the lapels on the dinner jacket

men style ebook


The Shirt

The shirt’s color should be white – plain and simple. If style, this website or even me mean anything to you – stay away from colored shirts during a black tie event! OK, maybe you don’t care about me *that much* but you SHOULD care about your black tie etiquette.

The Tie

Well, this is going to surprise you but a black tie attire doesn’t involve a black tie per se. Well, some less knowledgeable folks will actually wear one, but the only thing you can hang around your neck is a black bow tie.

If you don’t have one, it’s time to get it. Just be really careful about a few things.

1. The bow tie should be 100% made of silk to match the lapels on the jacket.
2. The bow tie should not be a clip-on. Clip-ons are for kids, you need a really, classic, bow tie.

Socks and Shoes

I already said in the beginning that you should go for black socks and shoes. I know this may seem like a little too much black for you in one attire, but this is the only way to go. I’ll give you some tips on how to stand out in just a moment but first, let me finish with this.

The shoes should be obviously leather and should be lace-ups. Loafers are unacceptable.

The socks can be either cotton or silk and they should be long enough to go high enough on your calves.

Ways To Stand Out

I know we’ve been talking a lot here at Be Stylish about standing out. A black tie event is an exception. A big one.

The best way to stand out is to follow the rules to the letter and show everyone that you’re a style connoisseur.

Let me tell you: most guys will shamelessly break the black tie rules… because they don’t know and they don’t care. But you won’t, as long as you put some thought into your clothes.

The fact of the matter is… there ARE a few ways to stand out. Not by much but still.

The first one is to choose a peak lapel with your dinner jacket. The pointy nature of the lapels will give you a more confident look while still following all the black tie rules.

The second way to stand out is to forget black and go for a midnight blue.

Really?? Can you really break the rules in such a bold way as to change the entire suit color? Are we still talking about black tie?

Indeed we are. I can assure you that midnight blue is also acceptable, though not as common as black. Midnight blue is actually a very dark blue, even darker than navy blue (which I’m sure you know about).

The third way to stand out is… the boutonniere. A boutonniere is simply a small flower that one can add to the suit jacket. Some dinner jackets have a small button hole on their left lapel – this is where you can insert the flower.

Careful with this one, it might be out of place for some black-tie events.

And the fourth way to stand out is actually the easiest: wear a white pocket square. Most guys won’t so, why shouldn’t you?

While some folks also recommend an ivory-colored pocket square, I say you should stick to white, so that it matches your shirt.

Question: have you ever attended a black-tie event before. What were men wearing and what were YOU wearing?

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  1. September 29th, 2011 at 22:30 | #1

    Great tips! Wearing a bow tie vs a regular tie is what sets a black tie event apart from a wedding or other formal event. Many try to fight this saying that bow ties are old fashioned, but that’s what I love about them – the old Hollywood glamour,

  2. September 29th, 2011 at 22:58 | #2

    Thanks Scott,

    bow ties are actually making a comeback. There are a wide variety of bow ties in different colors and with different patterns that will look great in a club or at a party.

  3. Joel
    April 17th, 2012 at 04:06 | #3

    I have a question about suit, shirt, tie combo. I bought an Armani suit that’s charcoal with a little bit darker pinstripes, would it look stupid to go all black even if the shirt and tie have stripes?

  4. Stacie
    November 3rd, 2012 at 00:14 | #4

    Hello,

    I also work in mens formal wear and was wondering what tuxedo styles/manufactures actually have a silk stripe down the trousers and silk on the lapels? As to my knowledge on any standard tuxedo, including Joseph Abboud and Calvin Klein, it’s satin not silk.

  5. Paul
    April 23rd, 2013 at 16:56 | #5

    @Stacie
    Satin is a type of weave and in the case of a diner jacket, it would use silk. Therefore, there is a good chance that those tuxedo’s lapels are silk with a satin weave.

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