Black Tie & Tuxedo Etiquette

Dress changes the manners.”


Tuxedo & Black Tie Etiquette: A Formal Education

Prior to World War II, the average man took his fashion cues from an upper class that considered proper appearance to be a very serious matter and could afford the services of highly experienced tailors to suit their standards. All that changed following the war as the expansion of the middle class, youth culture, popular media and, relaxed social standards gradually led to a fashion free-for-all.

Maturity vs. Youth

Society’s previous emphasis on appearing mature and sophisticated gave way to a preference for youthfulness and sex appeal. This shift in focus has been significantly detrimental to classic formal wear which is not simply about what’s currently popular but what’s traditionally acceptable; after all, the very definition of formal is the preserving of a “form” or tradition.

Jonah Hill in notched lapel tuxedo with flapped pockets, wristwatch and derby shoes

Jonah Hill in notched lapel tuxedo with flapped pockets, wristwatch and derby shoes – not a traditional outift

Many Young Men Want to Dress Well, But Don’t Know How

Not surprisingly, many young men today crave something more substantial than the fast food, casual clothes and lax manners fostered by the counterculture revolution. Most of them have enough awareness of formal tradition to realize that the few formal rituals they encounter – namely graduations, weddings and funerals – require them to dress in a special way. But for the specific details of such attire, they are dependent on the advice of perceived experts.

Tuxedo Rental Companies Chase Fads

In today’s world that often means tuxedo rental companies, fashion magazines, and red carpet celebrities and therein lies the rub: the clothes being hyped by these sources are primarily designed to feed America’s obsession with the next fleeting fad. The trendy variations offered each season by upscale designers and mainstream manufacturers may be fine for teenage proms and youthful nuptials but they certainly won’t hold water at proper black-tie events where guests are expected to be adult enough to know better.

Prince Charles in Black Tie with Signet Ring

Prince Charles in Black Tie with Signet Ring

Who, What, When, Where & Why of Black Tie

A mature understanding of black tie must come instead from an appreciation of the rich tapestry of tradition that lies hidden beneath its visible components. Consequently, this section of the Guide not only lists the garments which correctly comply with the dress code – the “what” of black tie – but also looks at the code’s etiquette and context – the “who”, “when”, “where” and “why”.

Tom Ford in Black Grosgrain Bow Tie with black velvet shawl collar jacket and bar studs

Tom Ford in Black Grosgrain Bow Tie with black velvet shawl collar jacket and bar studs

Anyone Can Look The Part In A Black Tie Tuxedo – Just Follow The Etiquette

Thanks to modern society’s ignorance of traditional etiquette, the amount of detail contained in the precise definition of black tie can seem a little overwhelming at first. It may also appear somewhat arbitrary to people born after 1980 who are used to casual eateries and casual workplaces which lack any semblance of a formal dress code.

However, once a man begins to understand the premise of an outfit being correct rather than just passable, he realizes the significant benefits of a dress code. Acing the black-tie test has nothing to do with skill or experience; it is simply a matter of following the rules.

Enjoy our Etiquette section of the Tuxedo & Black Tie Guide

Tuxedo & Black Tie Etiquette
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Tuxedo & Black Tie Etiquette
Explore why traditional Black Tie Etiquette still matters today and how it defines the What, Who, When, Where & Why of Tuxedos and Dinner Jackets.
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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