Imagine you get an envelope in the mail from an old friend. You open it and it’s a wedding invitation! Wow! You didn’t even know he was dating anyone! Then you see at the bottom of the invite the words “Black Tie.” What exactly is he expecting?
We talk a lot about Black Tie here. Black Tie attire. Black Tie standards. Black Tie tradition. So what exactly is Black Tie besides… well… a black tie? Most of us have a general idea, but our understanding of the specifics is much like the image above: A little blurry. So today we’re taking a good look at exactly what Black Tie is and what it means today.
Definition of Black Tie
Black Tie doesn’t just indicate a tuxedo. It’s actually a very specific interpretation of the tuxedo. It’s the most formal, the most classic, and the most timeless interpretation. While there are a few allowable variations, here are the specifics of the standard:
Color: Black or Midnight Blue
Style: Usually Single Breasted
Front Buttons: 1
Button Type: Satin Faced
Lapel: Peak or Shawl
Lapel Material: Satin
Pockets: Satin Besom Pockets
Vents: Non Vented
Color: Matching Coat
Material: Matching Coat
Outer Seam: Satin Stripe
Waistband: Fixed or Size Adjusters
Belt Loops: Never
Held By: Suspenders/Braces
Cuffs: No Cuffs
Alt. Front: Solid with Button Placket
Front Closure: Black/Silver Studs
Cuff Closure: Black/Silver Cuff Links
Color: Black (clearly)
Material: Satin (to match lapels)
Knot: Tie it Yourself
Waistcoat: AKA Vest with Low ‘V’
Color: Matching Coat
Material: Matching Coat
Front Buttons: 3 to 4
Back: Fullback or Backless
Material: Satin or Silk
Material: Patent or Polished Leather
Closure: Laced or Slip On
The above is an accurate but very sophomoric description of Black Tie. Once you start looking at the allowable variations you get into the art of Black Tie and that’s a whole other conversation. But if you follow the above guidelines you will always be appropriately dressed for any Black Tie function. Also, you’ll look really dapper.
If you want to learn more about Black Tie guidelines and the intricate variations possible, take a visit to The Black Tie Guide and study up. If there’s any one source for quality information on Black Tie, it’s there.
Black Tie Invitations
Back to the original question. What do you do if you get a Black Tie invitation? Well, this is sometimes confusing. You know that Black Tie refers to a very specific formal interpretation. The problem is that a lot of people, maybe even most people, don’t. That sometimes includes the hosts.
To many the term Black Tie simply means tuxedo required. Any tuxedo with any kind of tie so long as it’s black will do. And maybe you already have a tuxedo that isn’t strictly a Black Tie tuxedo that you want to wear. Whenever in doubt, you can always ask the host what will be appropriate. It may be that any classic looking tuxedo is fine, and that opens up your options quite a bit.
If you aren’t sure exactly what the host intended and don’t want to ask, play it safe with a Black Tie tuxedo. You’ll be right every time. You’ll always look great. And you’ll still look current when you look back at the pictures 30 years from now.
Test Your Knowledge with the Black Tie
It was between this and ‘Pin the Tie on the Groomsman‘, and that’s hard to do in a blog. So instead, you get to test your knowledge of Black Tie attire! Below are several styles of tuxedos and suits. Try to guess which ones are Black Tie appropriate and which aren’t. Hover your cursor over the picture for the answer. But be mindful. I’ve included several acceptable variations as well, so they won’t all look like the image above. For those on mobile devices, the answers are at the bottom. Good Luck!
If you’ve seen ‘The Great Gatsby‘ which is set in the 1920’s, any James Bond sometime in the last 50 years, or watch ‘Mad Men‘ very often which is set in the 1960’s, you’ll see men wearing Black Tie attire. And here’s the astonishing thing. They still look cool, suave and current even today.
If your interest is sparked and you’d like to learn more about Black Tie, check out The Black Tie Guide put together by Peter Marshall, The Black Tie Guy himself. Also check out his guest blog posts on our site!
To see a full listing of our Black Tie offerings, check out the Black Tie Section of our catalog! (not all accessories pictured are Black Tie appropriate, but all coats are.)
Answers: 1.) No 2.) No 3.) Yes 4.) No 5.) No 6.) Yes 7.) Yes 8.) Yes 9.) Yes 10.) No
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Leave a comment and tell us you how you did on the test! Do you have any questions about Black Tie? Leave a comment and we will get back to you! Let your voice be heard!