Classic Accessories – Cufflinks, Studs & Co

Classic accessories add the finishing touches to a man’s black-tie kit and allow him to inject a dash of swank without degrading its inherent formality.  Savvy dressers can use the following traditional variations to add a new twist to their tuxedo each time they wear it.

Classic Black Tie Accessories - Shirt Studs, Cufflinks, Pinky Ring, Pocket Square

Classic Black Tie Accessories – Shirt Studs, Cufflinks, Pinky Ring, Pocket Square

Cufflinks and Studs

Classic black-tie shirt studs, cufflinks and waistcoat studs (if applicable) are typically yellow gold, white gold, platinum. Sometimes they have diamonds or other precious stones such as emeralds, rubies or sapphires. Since those are too expensive for most, semi-precious stones such as onyx, hematite, abalone of dark mother of pearl are often used instead. Of course, there are also many other options, including crystal and white mother of pearl, although those are also often seen on white tie ensembles.

Cuff Link Dress Set with E & W that sold for a record price

Cuff Link and Studs Dress Set made by Cartier for the Duke of Windsor with E & W that sold for a record price

Ideally, shirt studs and cufflinks should be a set however if you can manage to get a close resemblance you are fine.

Try to avoid cheap t-bar cufflinks and go with double-sided cufflinks instead as that looks a lot more polished.

Art Deco Engraved Rock Crysteal, Platinum and Diamond Full Dress Set with cufflinks, studs and waistcoat buttons by Krementz from the collection of Sven Raphael Schneider

Art Deco Engraved Rock Crystal, Platinum and Diamond Full Dress Set with cufflinks, studs and waistcoat buttons by Krementz from the collection of Sven Raphael Schneider

Waistcoat Buttons

Back in the day, you could also find removable waistcoat button pockets on black tie vests. Even though more typically found in a white tie setting, these full dress sets with 2 cufflinks, 3 shirt studs and 4 waistcoat buttons are large dress sets that are not easy to always easy to find but once you have them they will upgrade your black tie outfit indefinitely.

Black silk evening socks by Fort Belvedere of course over the calf

Black silk evening socks by Fort Belvedere of course over the calf

Evening Dress Socks For Black Tie

The most classic choice is a pair of black silk socks in over-the-calf length that are sized to your feet. The thin delicate silk has a smooth sheen which is the appropriate material for the black tie. The key is that they stay up.

The problem with most black silk socks on the market is, that they are too short and hence will slide down. This effect is compounded by the fact that silk socks generally slide down more easily than cotton or wool socks do. Drooping socks are not only unsightly but can also result in exposed shins when a man sits or crosses his legs. 

Therefore Sven Raphael Schneider, founder for the Gentleman’s Gazette and Fort Belvedere designed a pair of socks with superior elastics so they stay up all evening. You can get those perfect black tie socks in 4 different sizes here.

Sock suspenders just look uncomfortable

Sock suspenders just look uncomfortable

Sock Garters / Suspenders (Obsolete)

In the 1930s, Socks were usually held in place by sock garters (sock suspender in the UK) to ensure that they did not sag or bunch, which used to be an unfortunate trait of silk hose. The problem with sock garters is that they are uncomfortable and because you can now cummerbund , there is no need to torture yourself with sock garters. Because of that sock garters are now obsolete. 

Midnight blue Tuxedo from the early 1940s with cummerbund and wide pleated shirt

Midnight blue Tuxedo from the early 1940s with cummerbund, suspenders and wide pleated black tie shirt

Evening Suspenders / Braces – Never A Belt

Unless trousers are custom tailored to stay securely in placewith side adjusters, suspenders (braces in the UK) are always worn with a tuxedo. 

Belts are not an option because they would cause the cummerbund or waistcoat to bunch up.  This is not just a matter of tradition but also of style because they ensure that the trouser waistband does not slip below the bottom of the waistcoat, they align the trousers’ pleats with the waistcoat’s points and they avoid the extra waistline bulk that would result from wearing a belt.  

Formal suspenders are always the button-on variety – never clip-on – and they customarily feature soft, knitted ends instead of the stiffer and bulkier leather tabs found on ordinary suspenders.

They can be black or white silk or a combination of both.  Traditionally, they are tubular braces lined in silk, and not just woven band suspenders. Typically, silk satin is very delicate which is why grosgrain or even better moiré silk suspenders are very classy. Some also wore striped suspenders like the gentleman above from the 1940s.

Ultimately, the preferred color is irrelevant because suspenders are underwear and as such are never meant to see the light of day.  (This is one of the primary reasons that a gentleman never removes his jacket at a formal function.)

The Black Tie Watch Primer

The Black Tie Watch Primer

Black Tie Watch (Optional)

Some consider it gauche to wear a timepiece to a formal occasion arguing that clock watching is contradictory to the celebratory nature of such events and insulting to the hostess. Those men who can’t conceive of being without a wristwatch for an entire evening should at least heed the advice of Glenn O’Brien, GQ’s Style Guy.  “Just because it’s gold, is diamond festooned, and costs more than the average car doesn’t mean it’s a dressy watch,” he says.  “Instead, opt for a slim, unadorned timepiece with a black leather band.  A formal watch should keep time, not flash it.”  A watch face with markings and a seconds hand that are minimal or non-existent is particularly well-suited to black tie’s refined minimalism.  The metal trim should match the metal of the cufflinks.

Alternately, a formal affair is a wonderful excuse to carry a classic pocket watch and at least pretend to be unfettered by temporal constraints. 

For a dedicated section on Tuxedo Watches, please head over here.

White Linen Pocket Square with Tuxedo Bow Tie and Cummerbund in Wide Rib Grosgrain Black Silk - By Fort Belvedere

White Linen Pocket Square with Tuxedo Bow Tie and Cummerbund in Wide Rib Grosgrain Black Silk – By Fort Belvedere

White Linen Pocket Square

The classic pocket square is a white, handrolled handkerchief of fine white linen, machine hemmed ones are cotton .  Some style authorities suggest that the handkerchief be casually stuffed into the pocket in an irregular shape so as to add a human touch to an otherwise highly disciplined appearance.  Other experts prefer the formal simplicity of the square-folded handkerchief.  As for the precision-folded silk handkerchiefs seen on formalwear displays, they are best left to the mannequins.

Silk pocket squares are a modern variation and are discussed under contemporary accessories.

Black Bow Tie in Silk Satin Sized Butterfly Self Tie with Red Carnation Boutonniere and Classic White Irish Linen Pocket Square - Fort Belvedere

Black Bow Tie in Silk Satin Sized Butterfly Self Tie with Red Carnation Boutonniere and Classic White Irish Linen Pocket Square – Fort Belvedere

Boutonniere (Buttonhole) (Optional)

A boutonniere (buttonhole in the UK) can be correctly worn in the buttonhole on the left lapel of the dinner jacket.  The Encyclopedia of Men’s Clothes advises that men seeking to add this classic flair to their black-tie outfit will require a flower that is small yet sturdy: “You don’t want it “clown” size, nor do you want it to disintegrate while wearing”.   A white or deep red carnation is the most classic choice.  For wedding boutonniere options see the Formal Evening Weddings page.

Note that flowers such as standard carnations cannot be simply purchased from a shop and inserted into a lapel because the bud is usually too thick to fit through the buttonhole.  To ensure that such flowers fit properly The Boutonniere: Style in One’s Lapel suggests that they be adapted into true boutonnieres.  A florist will remove the bud, wrap the stem and even level the base of the flower all so that the bloom sits flat against the lapel. The problem is, most florists these days do not know how to do that. On top of that, natural flowers wilt and when you are in a remote location or on a cruise ship the only option are artificial bouttonieres. 

Even in the 1930s men would wear silk boutonnieres that looked like a real carnation, yet they would never wilt and always look fresh. For a selection of handcrafted silk boutonnieres, take a look here.

Remembering that boutonniere is French for “button hole” will help you remember that these flowers are inserted through the lapel, not pinned on top of it.  Also, keep in mind that a boutonniere is not a miniature bouquet; the stereotypical accouterments of baby’s breath, leafy stems and colored berries belong at a wedding, not at a black-tie gala. 

Boutonnieres are not worn with decorations.  And to avoid gilding the lily (so to speak), it is also best not to combine them with pocket squares unless one or both are white.

A Note About Remembrance Poppies

Since World War I, wearing an artificial poppy to commemorate the sacrifice of veterans and civilians in past wars has been a popular tradition in many Commonwealth countries prior to Remembrance Day or Armistice Day on November 11.  To a much lesser extent, the practice also exists in the United States in the weeks preceding Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. It is every bit as appropriate on a tuxedo as it is on any other type of jacket. 

General etiquette for the wearing of lapel poppies varies by country.  In Britain, it is governed by the Royal British Legion (although tradition varies in the UK), in Canada by the Royal Canadian Legion, in Australia by the RSL (Returned and Services League) and in America by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Black Bow Tie in Silk Faille Grosgrain with Red Carnation Boutonniere and Evening Scarf in Black _ White Silk Satin and Black Dress Shoes with White Unlined Leather Gloves

Black Bow Tie in Silk Faille Grosgrain with Red Carnation Boutonniere and Evening Scarf in Black _ White Silk Satin and Black Dress Shoes with White Unlined Leather Gloves

Evening Scarf (Optional)

The evening scarf worn with overcoats can be worn indoors as an accessory on, particularly formal evenings.  Sometimes known as an opera scarf, it is more commonly seen in Britain than in North America. Classic colors are all white or double-sided in black and white silk.

Evening Overcoat with Homburg Hat, silk scarf and white gloves for a black tie tuxedo ensemble

Evening Overcoat with Homburg Hat, silk scarf and white gloves for a black tie tuxedo ensemble

Evening Dress Gloves (Optional

Outside of a few rare white-tie balls, and military dress uniforms indoor white glove are hardly ever worn anymore and usually only something for vintage enthusiasts. For more about outdoor white gloves, check the Classic Black Tie Outerwear section.

Prince Charles in Black Tie with Signet Ring

Prince Charles in Black Tie with Signet Ring

Rings (Optional)

Traditionally, gentlemen would wear rings with black tie ensembles. It could be the pinky Ring or a pinky ring or signet ring. The choice is your’s of course but one ring per hand is the most you should wear, unless of course, you stack rings on the same finger, like Prince Charles does.

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Black Tie Tuxedo Accessories - Cufflinks, Studs, Gloves etc.
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Black Tie Tuxedo Accessories - Cufflinks, Studs, Gloves etc.
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Learn all you need to know about classic black tie and tuxedo accessories, including cufflinks, studs, gloves, boutonnieres rings, evening scarves, watches...
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Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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