Neighborhoods draped in colorful lights, snow falling, and cozy evenings spent with friends and family. The holiday season brings people together, often who haven’t seen each other in a while, to appreciate what we mean to one another.
BLACK TIE EVENT ESSENTIALS FOR MEN
It comes as no surprise that folks have been planning weddings around the winter season since the dawn of time. After all, the groups of people getting together for your holiday parties are also probably on your wedding invite list.
In turn, with the hope that there will be snow on the ground for the special day, there is a long-standing tradition of black tie as the most appropriate winter wedding attire.
If you cringed and had a flashback to your days in a high school prom tux, fear not my friend. I’m here to help alleviate that fear and show you how to own the look without feeling stiff and colorless.
This article will break down the black tie dress code while providing wedding essentials that you’ll want to know about, and where you can get them.
Let’s dive in.
Unless you’ve been a groomsman in a handful of weddings recently, odds are you don’t have a tuxedo in your closet. Because of its unique design, the pants (often with piping down the seam of each leg) and jacket (typically with an alternatively-textured lapel) do not offer much versatility to a wardrobe. As a result, tuxedo rental has become a commonly accepted practice for men everywhere.
If your local tailor or suit shop offers tuxedo rental, it’s absolutely worth looking into their packages. Let’s support #SmallBusiness! Should you not have a reasonable option nearby, though, we suggest turning to The Black Tux.
Where To Buy A Tux
Recently aligned with Nordstrom to help increase their customer service and accessibility, The Black Tux is an online tuxedo rental and purchasing service available throughout the US. They are committed to embracing convenience and modernity in the tux game, with in-house fit specialists who review your sizes and preferences to send you a tuxedo at least two weeks before your event.
The website offers all of the expected variety in tuxedo styles, as well as regular suits, shirts, and accessories for your needs in other areas. To help address any concerns about fit, The Black Tux has a variety of its own brick and mortar sites around the country where you can go and meet with a member of their team.
In addition, the recent partnership with Nordstrom includes the ability to use select Nordstrom locations (detailed on their website) as an extension of their physical presence. All in all, the team at The Black Tux is doing some great things to modernize the tux rental game.
Additional Black Tie Attire Options
Should you decide to go the purchasing route, I advise going to the suit company you prefer for regular suits. Odds are they definitely have tuxedo options, such as Bonobos and J. Crew or your high end brands like Hackett and Hugo Boss.
Online made-to-measure companies like Black Lapel or Indochino offer black tie attire as well. And finally, some fast fashion brands like Topman have come on the scene recently to offer affordable tuxedo options to the guys who won’t wear their tux more than once a year.
Important and often overlooked in this conversation is the white shirt. The only appropriate tuxedo shirt does not have the buttons we are used to in a normal dress shirt. Instead, you’ll have to supply your own cufflinks and studs to fill the gaps buttons normally would (more details in the accessories section below).
For the shirt itself, you’ll have to choose between a pleated or standard front. The pleated front has significant texture and is vertically ribbed, whereas the standard front is what we are used to on a normal dress shirt.
Always a great compliment to an outfit, shoes are critical to creating the full aesthetic you are going for and every bit as essential as the tux. For your suits, you likely choose a shade and style of shoe that matches your belt and fits a certain level of professionalism.
With a tuxedo, though, the standard is a black, relatively undefined, and often shiny shoe. In fact, it is a fashion faux pas to wear anything else. Although, these days, even black tie attire is becoming more casual.
If we can embrace the fact that we can’t be too adventurous with our shoe choice, you’ll come to find that this means you can actually just evaluate tuxedo shoes based on their comfort. This is huge when we acknowledge that tux shoes have earned the reputation of being incredibly stiff.
As with a tuxedo, the option to rent vs. buy your shoes is there for you. With The Black Tux, for example, they have a series of shiny black tuxedo shoes available for a very reasonable rental price ($25-35).
If you’re not feeling the options on their site, definitely check any of the places you can rent a tux from, odds are they have their own shoe rental programs or a connection to one.
It is important to note that for your typical shiny rental shoe, you likely won’t have as much say in terms of comfort. That said, this is still an incredibly cost-effective option if you’re not planning to wear shoes like these again in the foreseeable future. Just wear some padded socks.
Where To Buy Formal Shoes
If you’ve been looking to add a pair of black shoes to your weekly wardrobe, there are a ton of great options to invest in that you can use for this event and your day-to-day going forward. Wolf & Shepherd offers two great oxford/derby shoe options: the Closer Cap-toe and the Bannister Derby. Fairly similar in style, these two shoes offer simplicity and style from a company committed to comfort and class.
Both Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack offers some great value oxford/derby shoe options: the Florsheim Jetson Cap Toe Oxford and the To Boot New York Vanderbilt Leather Oxford. Fairly similar in style, these two shoes offer simplicity and style from a company committed to comfort and class. The Beckett Simonon Dean Oxford is another excellent cap-toe option.
Paul Parkman also offers its Plain Toe Oxford in a Whole-Cut style (in purple too), which is a nice change of pace if you’re looking for some variety in your black Oxford/derby shoe selection. (Whole-Cut refers to the fact that there are no seams on the shoe other than the attachment of the sole, which creates the appearance of one flowing piece of material). Alternatively you can opt for a slightly more affordable plain-toe Oxford like the Carlyle from Allen Edmonds too.
The Boss Highline Patent Loafer, going the loafer route and at a more affordable price point, offers a classy alternative to your standard tie shoe that is still uniform enough to work well with your tux. At the end of the day, most black shoes you’d wear in a business setting should fit your look.
Additional Tuxedo Shoe Options
- Allen Edmonds La Scala Italian Oxford (mid-range)
- Suitsupply Patent Leather Black Tuxedo Shoe (mid-range)
- Brooks Brothers Black Patent Lace-Ups (mid-range)
- Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece Patent Leather Formal Shoes (mid-range)
- ASOS DESIGN Cap-toe Oxford Shoes (extreme budget)
A Few Things To Keep In Mind
First, oxfords/derby shoes or Venetian loafers are really the only styles you should consider for a black tie wedding. Within that, don’t opt for anything with complex stitching or design. Anything more than a cap toe (i.e. a wingtip oxfords) would be considered too showy. Second, if you choose to wear a pair of black shoes you already own, polish those puppies up!
Part of what makes a tuxedo outfit so unique is its sheen, because often times the material of the tux itself will have a glossy tone. If your shoes aren’t shining to some degree, they’ll stand out…and not in a good way. Because the tuxedo is so simple, your shoes and accessories will stand out that much more.
Quick note: If you’re enjoying this guide on the black tie dress code, then you’ll probably find my other writing on all things men’s style useful. Each week, I share updates, style tips and other things not shared on the blog through my free email newsletter.
To join now, just enter your email address below and click “Get Updates!”
Since the rest of the tux ensemble doesn’t offer you a ton of creative flexibility, you should dive in deep on your accessories to really bring out your personality. Fortunately, there are a plethora of different accessories you can opt into depending on what suits you best. Here are the accessory essentials.
Just to establish the facts, any event described as “black tie” 100% calls for a black bowtie to be worn. To be true to the style, you should even go out and get a self-tie bowtie, though I personally wouldn’t hold it against you if you showed up to my black tie event in a pre-tied tie.
My advice: take the time to watch a YouTube video like this one and learn to tie a bowtie…you’ll find yourself feeling proud of what you’ve created and can go forward with the ability to work more bowties into your outfits.
Much like a regular tie, there are a variety of cuts you can choose from. You are most likely familiar with the standard (or butterfly), which roughly resembles a butterfly and expands in size as it goes from middle to edges.
There is also the batwing (or slim), which looks almost like a straight rectangle from end to end, and the diamond point, which has (as the name suggests) points at each end.
Studs and Cufflinks
As we mentioned above, the lack of buttons on a tuxedo shirt intentionally gives you the opportunity to provide more color and variety to your outfit. The Neiman Marcus collection of stud and cufflink sets shows just how much versatility you can have.
You can also find more affordable sets at most places tuxedos are sold, as well as online with a simple Google search. If you’ve got a special pair of cufflinks but don’t have studs to match, I suggest finding a set of studs in either black or a color that will compliment your cufflinks.
The tux is not the outfit to get experimental and creative with your socks, particularly if you are attending a classy black tie wedding. Stick to your standard black dress socks and you’ll be set. And no, don’t be the guy who goes without socks…save that for the red carpet when you make it big.
How often do you get to wear suspenders and not do it ironically? The answer is not enough. Take advantage of this opportunity and grab a pair! Most tux pants have adjustable waistbands and not belt loops, so the suspenders are both a practical and stylish accessory.
Remember too that no one will see your suspenders unless you take your jacket off. My suggestion if you’re feeling adventurous: pick a pair of suspenders with a color and/or pattern (still stylish and classy) that will compliment your other accessories.
Once you make your way out to the dance floor and whip that jacket off, you’re telling the whole room you’re ready to keep the celebration going.
Pocket Square (Optional)
Adding an interesting pocket square to your tux is your prime opportunity to establish the subtle color and style you want to add to your outfit. First and foremost, you’ll want to pick a color or pattern to serve as the base for the rest of your accessories.
For example, you could use a gray, white, and black checkered pocket square to pair with a set of gray suspenders and black studs/cufflinks. Your accessories should create a unified tone for your outfit, so make sure you take the time to focus on whether these small pieces work together.
Beyond the color or pattern, the pocket square can also be folded and presented in tons of ways to bring even more to your outfit. Whether you go with the classic fold or something more complex like the four peak fold, you can help bring the type of attention you want to your entire outfit by speaking through your pocket square.
Cummerbund vs Waistcoat (Optional)
Some folks will opt to add a layer to their tux outfits for a refined flare. If this sounds like you, read on. The addition of a cummerbund or waistcoat is less common in our modern day black tie attire, but was traditionally a more standard option for men when the style first began in the 1800s. Whichever direction you choose, you’ll be exuding a sense of old world class, so let’s dive in and see which option you prefer.
The cummerbund is a sash worn around the stomach area that ends around the waist. Often pleated (make sure you wear your pleats facing up!), the cummerbund was originally intended to help cover the area where awkward shirt bunching happens.
Thankfully shirt and pant construction has come to a place where the bunching happens less, but the cummerbund has lived on because of its classic image. It continues to accomplish a few other practical purposes, including adding a slimming appearance.
If you’re looking for a way to bring color to your outfit, the cummerbund also comes in a host of base colors. I suggest checking to make sure having that much colored cloth is okay for the wedding you’re attending, but if it will fly go ahead and add this to your collection of color-coordinated accessories.
The waistcoat, or vest, is a sleeveless upper body piece to wear between your collared shirt and jacket. We see waistcoats in all levels of men’s formal fashion these days, most often in the form of a three-piece suit.
In the same way, the tuxedo becomes a three-piece by adding a waistcoat to your outfit. Practically, it helps break up the flow of a white shirt, as well as provides a slimming effect similar to the cummerbund. Do keep in mind that, because a waistcoat is significantly more cloth than a cummerbund, choosing a color that isn’t black is more risky.
My advice: talk to someone familiar with the wedding planning if you feel strongly about wearing a colored waistcoat, or play it safe and go black. Either way, the waistcoat will give you that added layer of class to make your outfit extra special.
Which Is Best For You?
Regardless of whether you decide on a cummerbund or waistcoat, do note that either will slightly impact what other accessory decisions you make. Suspenders are off limits when you add either option because it crowds the outfit and looks awkward.
Your cummerbund or waistcoat should also serve as the base for whatever alternative colors you feature in your outfit because they will stand out more than any other accessory.
We can’t write about a winter wedding event without mentioning the classically refined overcoat or topcoat. This is the essential outerwear piece that you’ll want to wear to complement your black tie attire.
Although camel is a classic overcoat color, we recommend opting for black or grey here. Camel is quite bold and you run the risk of overpowering the rest of your look with that choice.
A suggestion is to size up when choosing an overcoat, particularly if you intend to wear layers underneath such as a thick sweater or suit jacket for example.
Classic Overcoat Options
- Bonobos Stretch Italian Wool Topcoat (higher-range)
- Banana Republic Herringbone Italian Topcoat (mid-range)
- Club Monaco Textured Topcoat (mid-range)
- J.Crew Wool Blend Topcoat With PrimaLoft (mid-range)
- Uniqlo Wool Blend Chester Coat (mid-range)
- ASOS DESIGN Wool Mix Overcoat (extreme budget)
THE END GOAL
At the end of the day, the reason people choose to have a winter black tie wedding is to embrace elegance and class on their special day. They look forward to celebrating with friends and family in an atmosphere we don’t have in everyday life, and are excited to remember this day (in person and through pictures) where their loved ones were dressed to the nines.
Keep this in mind when making your decisions about your black tie outfit. Focus on fitting into their desired vibe and adding some subtle character rather than standing out. After all, the guys wearing the sharpest tasteful outfits are the ones who people notice.
Do you have a black tie wedding or event coming up?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
LIKE WHAT YOU READ?
Get more posts like this plus style tips & advice delivered straight to your inbox.