How to wear black tie
A LIL OCEAN’S FASHION TIP
Herbert Hoover covers his waist
The biggest mistakes men make when donning black tie. They were: wearing it during the day, not covering their waist and mis-matching the formality of their shirt, collar and waist-covering.
Now, let’s explore some of the options with more personality. Know the rules, then twist them: that’s the motto here.
Shoes for black tie should be, at the least, highly polished black Oxfords. The Oxford is cleaner than the Derby, and so more formal. Broguing is also informal, so none of it here please. While black Oxfords are fine, patent is better for being that bit shinier. The whole of the black tie ensemble is about contrasting textures – wool of suit with silk of lapels, seam on trousers or shine of bowtie. Patent enhances that contrast. And although many men don’t like the artificial finish, a delicate patent shoe with a thin, cemented sole is really much smarter.
And it’s only one step away from the ultimate, black pumps with a silk bow. Again, many men despise them and they are certainly more effeminate than other black tie options. But with the most formal combinations above them, they are correct. And they certainly have more personality than the Oxfords you wear to the office.
(Velvet slippers, being matte, are acceptable but better suited to informal black tie – with a velvet smoking jacket, perhaps.)
Counter-intuitive though it may be, there is nothing wrong with wearing a white bowtie with black tie. The adjective does not refer to the colour of the bow tie but to the overall dominant colour of the outfit. As noted before, a white bowtie is merely more formal – not wrong.
However, a man today is likely to be castigated by the ignorant for wearing a white bowtie. So let me suggest this instead: wear a white waistcoat in the same stiff Marcella material as your dress shirt, instead of a black one that would echo the jacket. Again, a white waistcoat is not wrong, merely more formal. And a white waistcoat will stand out far less than a white bowtie. Personality that whispers, rather than shouts.
Most white waistcoats will be backless, with merely a collar and elastic at the waist. Both white and black can be made as such, and it is far more comfortable; the device was probably invented originally by shirtmakers Hawkes & Curtis.
Of course, it goes without saying that you would never take your dinner jacket off, so the back of the shirt would never be revealed under the waistcoat. Indeed, black tie is the outfit that demonstrates this maxim of menswear better than any other. Every item, from the waistcoat to the shirt to the cummerbund, would lose its elegance if the jacket were removed.