Black Tie Season

Who doesn’t love to dress up in black tie?

For many, December is a time where we get to don our dinner jackets, and head out to some sort of formal event. There are several images that one imagines when thinking about black tie. For instance, it could be James Bond or perhaps it’s Oscar night; whatever it is, it’s the image of a well turned out man that springs to mind.

Dating back to the late 1800s, it originally came about as a less formal option to what was worn to formal occasions during the time of Edward VII, and I believe was first developed on Savile Row by Henry Poole and Co.

Despite not changing much since its origins, when you take a closer at what passes for proper black tie attire these days, there are quite a lot of options out there, and not all of them are black.

A few key principles stay the same however. The jacket should have a satin lapel; suits should be two piece and worn with a cummerbund; the shirt should be white, and the shoes and socks should be black. In recent times suits, and in particular jackets, have appeared in colours like bottle green, burgundy or navy, the latter being the colour that originally started the trend. Velvets jackets can also look very well for a black tie event, so long at the lapel is black satin.

Traditionally shirts should have a pleated front and come with either a wing collar or standard semi cut away collar. They can have either a black button or a white.  A black button is usually reserved for a cummerbund, and white button for a waistcoat.


Shoes should definitely be black and kept simple but elegant. Patent is the traditional option, but a well polished oxford toe will work too. Velvet evening slippers will work quite nicely too.

For the tie itself, there is scope for colour and pattern to be tried here, but black would be the most traditional option. Having put effort into the rest of the outfit, it would be a shame to top it off with a pre tied bow tie, so going for the self tie option, is definitely the best. If you can tie a neck tie, you can tie a bow tie.

Accessories should also be kept simple. Pocket squares are best kept white and watches are best kept elegant and slim. Sports watches should probably be avoided, with the exception possibly being something like the Rolex Submariner.

For most people, black tie events are not a weekly occasion. They indicate a sense of occasion, and the rules surrounding such occasions although traditional, are what make it fun to don the outfit and feel special.

So, this December, if you do find yourself at one of these events, remember that the dress code has a long tradition which should be respected, but as long as you follow the basic rules, a splash of your own handwriting here and there should be completely acceptable. Have fun.