black tie

 
Dress way the hell up, as our American cousins might say. New Year’s Eve is a special event, and it deserves a special effort where our clothes are concerned.

That doesn’t have to be black tie, as above, but wear a jacket at the least. And if you want an alternative evening outfit, try a dark suit with white shirt and navy satin tie. Satin is the most formal form of silk, and particularly suits the lights of evening. Or my favourite formal outfit, silver tie on a blue background.

The tuxedo above was made for me by Richard Anderson, in a black mohair mix (personally, I don’t like midnight blue). It was detailed in The Rake at the time, so there are no posts on Permanent Style – but you can see the making of the dress shirt with detachable collar, cut by Sean O’Flynn

Studs (and cufflinks) from the Hanger Project, in lapis and gold. Bow tie from Le Noued Papillon, and ceramic flower from Boutonniere. The latter produces easily the most beautiful synthetic buttonholes I’ve seen, though I do prefer a real flower where possible. 

Enjoy tonight, and do try not to spill anything down that lovely tailoring.

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OWR

Hi Simon,

I had to attend a white tie event last year and it got me thinking about (detachable) wing collars… here are some observations that you may well disagree with but might want to bear in mind.

1) I tried getting a stiff fronted shirt from Ede & Ravenscroft but they only offered a soft marcella fronted tunic shirt with a separate stiff wing collar (essentially what you are wearing above). Whilst I can see the benefit of this, namely being easier to wash, I chose to continue searching for a stiff fronted shirt because IMO they are much more obviously ‘formal’ (two visible studs instead of three, lack of texture). Whilst I wanted a more formal shirt because I was going to a white tie event I still think this applies to black tie – to me the soft front with stiff collar seems a bit of a hybrid, just like an attached wing collar (although definitely not as offensive!) If you are going to go to the effort of a stiff collar, why not make the extra effort and get a stiff shirt?

2) When I eventually did get a stiff fronted shirt I thought I would wear it occasionally with my dinner jacket, but I never have. The reason for this, I think, is that most people are oblivious to the differences between attached and detached collars and their differing formality. I am 19 now and whilst a few years ago my friends would have been happy wearing soft wing collars it is noticeable that they have noticed that they look a bit shabby compared to turn downs. I feel that even if I turned up in a stiff wing collar it would immediately be put in the same boat. Maybe this shouldn’t matter and I shouldn’t mind what other people think, hopefully I will grow out of it! Anyway, that is why for me wing collars should be left for white tie.

Thanks, happy new year and sorry for rambling.

P.S. currently a University 2nd year having to look for summer work experience, any chance of some?!

Marcus Jürgens

Thank you, Simon, for this post. In the last years I often read about midnight blue being the better black and never quite agreed (especially in case of tuxedos) but the voices in one’s head start to whisper louder and louder the more you read about it. Your comment about your personal favorite relaxes me greatly – if only to know that I am not alone (even if we may be ‘wrong’). I understand that midnight blue is a better option in the light of day – especially if the sun is very bright and you are maybe even outside black can look exhausted, but usually that shouldn’t be the right occasion for a tuxedo, anyway.

Happy New Year to you and to all co-readers and thank you for your wonderful work.

Matt S

I’ve never been able to get used to the wing collar with black tie, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with it when it’s done like yours is. I used to see a lot of pleated shirts with small attached wing collars, which are just awful. I had to wear one in my high school orchestra. What kind of silk are your lapels and bow tie?

Happy new year!

Mark

Simon, this is going to make me look like a miserable snob, but please never wear a wing collar with Black Tie. Unless you’re a waiter, and even then it should be with evening tails. Wing collars and their obligatory starched fronts are for White Tie only; anything else just looks wrong and, if not a detachable collar, cheap.

Paul

Black tie was originally worn with a winged collar when first introduced in the late 1800s (as Simon knows). It can still be deemed correct from a historical point of view.

Its popularity died out around the 1930s, I think. A turn-down collar has been considered more smart ever since. Alan Flusser can disagree all he likes but then he does live in the U.S.

People put too much store in what Alan says. I don’t. His books are opinionated and inaccurate in places. I bought them for the nice pictures!

I must also say that everyone I know in Savile Row and beyond, would consider corded silk more elegant than satin on lapels, for example. Satin lapels are very R-T-W! Satin ties are nice with a suit as you say, Simon.

Stiff-fronted shirts look more immaculate but few bother nowadays. I, for one, prefer it.

Happy New Year, all!

Anonymous

Simon, I’m sorry but Mark is 100% correct. Wing collars are for white tie! Thought you went to oxford?!

Anonymous

…clearly not in the Bullingdon!
I jest, love the website and all your articles; just can’t get comfortable on this one thing!!!

Paul

Better to be over-dressed than under-dressed! I often see men in dinner suits with scuffed loafers and button-cuffed shirts! That’s far worse.
Simon, I’d happily go out to dinner or to the theatre in black tie. If I had the means, I’d open a restaurant in London with a black tie dress code! While smart retaurants capitulate to the slobbish masses in relaxing their dress codes, I’d do the exact opposite. The casual brigade have an endless choice of places to drink and eat. Where can the elegant people go? It has an impact on us!

AFH

I’m not sure I’d do it myself but Hugh Laurie’s Bertie Wooster wore a wing collar and that’s good enough for me.

Of course, gold metal is supposed to be saved for white tie too, but whatever! I frankly doubt I will ever have a serious opportunity to don white tie ever.

Evan Everhart

Hi Simon,

I like how you handled this. I also agree that a detachable stand up collar is appropriate for black tie. I personally prefer a stiff bib/starched bosom style shirt with a stand up detachable collar myself, and if that is what is being worn, I usually wear my single cuffed version with one of my sets of dress links. My caveat is this, while I do appreciate and even own several sets of different styles of wing collars, my true preference is for a full Imperial collar for any formal occasion calling for the wearing of a detachable collar with either white or black tie. I think it simply looks better. I’ve got some antique ones in excellent condition, but also a newer one procured from an Australian maker who’s name escapes me at the moment.

My other shirt for black tie is a simple vintage broad pleated “Tennis collar” model from Brooks Brothers which is a must iron and is in a fairly opaque voile. It is adequate for most occasions, though lacks the swank of a detachable collar of any variety.

I should like to see more articles on black tie and white tie, if possible, and perhaps some discussion of appropriate opportunities for use. I am familiar with some on the Left Coast of Los Angeles, but there are sadly precious few and I’d be interested in a broader discussion upon the topic.

Thanks again!

J

Love your comment Paul… So true!

We need to get together and open a dinner/drinks club, strict black tie only for entry. Although judging by some of the comments above here, there could be some serious griping amongst members over the cut and jib of your collar.

Happy new year all.

Paul

J, You provide the money and I’ll man the door with a machine gun! Seriously, I was in Claridges’ beautiful Fumoir bar last year, wearing bespoke, shoes gleaming etc. Two women were next to us, in jeans, drinking Champagne! No sense of occasion. Such architecture and such wonderful staff deserve more.

Still, I blame Claridges themselves for giving in! I don’t want to get dressed up for Claridges or the Ritz and sit next to people dressed as if for the supermarket. Royal Ascot has just tightened its dress code and is still booming!

All that jacquard evening wear in The Rake – where would you wear that (if so inclined)? People want to dress up. What we need is somewhere to wear it.

Katherine

May I please join you? I am a lady, but I promise that I will be properly dressed in a posh long dinner frock or evening gown. I, too, am annoyed by people who leave their house in yoga trousers and trainers, and think that they look good enough for a nice restaurant. Don’t even get me started on the lax or better non-existent theatre and opera dress codes! Threadbare, dirty corduroys, a wooly pullover, and rubber-soled, scuffed shoes appears to be the dress of choice worn by both sexes…

Rob

Simon, can you tell us how you store your pocket squares? As one builds up a collection of clothes and shoes its important to store them correctly but also have them on display so they actually get seen and worn if that makes sense…

Katherine

Dear Simon,
I do not begrudge you the wing collar, as it is indeed acceptable, but surely we Brits call this a dinner jacket or a dinner suit — never a tuxedo, which is an Americanism that is even avoided by the handful of Americans who know how to dress.

Anonymous

Hi Simon,
I have some questions about the boutonniere. Is that the matt Camellia and do you have a preference over the glazed version? Also did you opt for stainless steel or sterling silver clasp. I’m consider this accessory for weddings as it looks so good but am concerned about tarnishing of the silver. If it does tarnish, it doesn’t look as though its the easiest thing to handle and clean. Have you had any such issues. The manufacturers don’t mention it to be plated in way.
Many thanks.

Chris

Missed the boat on boutonnière. Such a shame they aren’t producing these any longer, it’s a beautiful product. I hope someone picks up the business, although it’s been a while.

While I’ll always prefer diving into a bush and plucking out a freebie, I was thinking of getting something I can keep for black tie. There’s another maker from France that are also stocked by The Rake (name escapes me), theirs are pretty but look obviously artificial, to my eye at least. A bit too symmetrical.

Simon, what are your thoughts on GIIN from Japan? Thinking the small off white rose. Love the idea, but I’ve not been able to see any of their pieces in person.

Mike

Hi Simon I’m a long time reader of the site and have a quick question on Black Tie. How much can you take a jacket in before it looks silly? I’m quite a large bloke and have a jacket that fits well in the shoulders and across the back of my neck but has far too much material across the front. Is there a limit to how much the waist can be altered?

Many Thanks Mike

Mike

Thanks Simon I have had a look since I posted seems to be about 2 inches max?

Josh

Hi Simon,

Are there any guidelines regarding pocket squares and black tie?

Are either white silk or white linen appropriate and it’s just a case of propriety as you often say?

Great blog.

Josh

Deepen Patel

Hi Simon

I am an avid fan of your PS blog. I have a question for you, are Prince Albert/ Belgian slippers acceptable in a black tie event? I have noticed a lot more people/celebrities matching slippers with dinner suit (which I like the look of) but i wanted to know is this proper etiquette?

Yours Sincerely
Deepen

Deepen Patel

thank you for your opinion. Much appreciated.

Deepen

Ross

Hi Simon,
I am about to have a DJ made. I would like to get a waistcoat, but am struggling with what it should look like. I very much like the look of yours but, as you note, there are not many photos on PS. Please could you let me know what issue of The Rake this was featured in, as I can then purchase a back issue.
Thanks,
Ross

reuven lax

Would you consider a drape-style dinner jacket by A&S or SH? Or would you tend to stick to more structured styles here.

reuven lax

Thanks. Steven tells me that he cuts dinner suits closer than his normal jackets for a more formal effect.

Richard

Hi Simon,

Can you tell me the details of the cloth used in your dinner jacket so I can see if it is still available? Do you know if they do it in midnight blue (personally I prefer this). Also how do you feel that mohair wears compared to more traditional barathea? Presumably this is lighter. I am always a bit worried about using mixed cloth as I worry they might wear easily at the inside leg etc.

Many thanks

Hugh

Simon,
I was actually wondering something similar. What is the approximate weight of this mohair fabric?

Thanks,
Hugh

Richard

Hi Simon, I have been looking for a wool/mohair mix for a dinner suit in midnight blue, but they all seem to be less than 11oz. Do you think that 9 or 10oz is too light for a dinner suit? Is it likely to wear easily? Do you know anyone who does an 11oz or heavier wool/mohair mix?

Many thanks

Anonymous

Simon,

Any guidelines as to cufflinks and studs for black tie? I’ve heard that mother-of-pearl is reserved for white tie, and onyx for black; is that the case? What about metals (gold versus silver)?

Thanks in advance.

Richard

Hi Simon,

Quick question if I may. I usually wear a bobbed waistcoat with my dinner suit. Next week I am going on a Caribbean cruise and have invested in a white tuxedo jacket. I think that it may be too hot to wear a waistcoat in this weather. What are your views on cummerbunds? Should you wear one if not wearing a waistcoat, and if so, should it be a matching material to the bow tie?

Many thanks

Cid

Hello Simon,

About to have my first tuxedo made. Keen on a peaked lapel DB but would a SB be a safer choice?

giovanbattista

Hi Simon,
I have a question about the lapel buttonhole. My father is not wearing black tie anymore, so he gave me his suit. The jacket luckily fits very good without needing heavy alterations, but… there is no button hole on the left lapel!
So my question is: should I add it or not? Is this a matter of personal taste, or are there any rules, historical or quality reasons for (not) having a button hole on the left lapel on a SB jacket?
Thank you!

giovanbattista

Best advice I could hope for! Thank you, Simon.
GB

Nils Bendler

Hi Simon,
Slightly off topic, but could you recommend a place in London that has decent formal shirts with wing collars? Mtm/ Bespoke are no option as the event is in two weeks already.. Thanks in advance!

Jon Bromfield

Simon, please settle this for us Americans: Is a white waistcoat with black tie okay? On a British ship?

Thanks in advance

Anonymous

Hi Simon,

Mindful that there are lots of useful tips in various articles on the website already, I was wondering whether you’d be able to recommend one comprehensive (style) guide for black tie (e.g. what type of material to use for the buttons, type of lapels, etc.)?

Many thanks!