Story of the Black Tie Guide

It all began with a ship.

The Dress for tonight is Formal: Tuxedo (alternatively a dark suit) for gentlemen.  Dress Codes will be enforced in the Britannia and Grill Restaurants.

Queen Mary 2 The daily programme, April 17, 2004

Black Tie Guide Timeline

  • 2002 - Summer

     

    Queen Mary 2

    Peter Marshall books the Maiden Voyage on the ship in 2004.


  • 2002 - A Month later

    1st Black Tie Affair

    Peter Marshall rents a tuxedo for his first Black Tie Event. He notices that his tuxedo is not traditional or refined, so he tries to buy a classic tux but he only receives contradictory advice.

     

    2002 - A Month later


  • 2002 - Another Month Later

     

    Peter’s First Tuxedo

    Determined to find the truth, Peter scoured online resources. The written details were enough to purchase a traditional tuxedo, yet he was disappointed about the lack of images and illustrations.


  • 2002 - 2006

    Research

    With many black tie questions still unanswered, Peter decides to do research in print and finds a treasure trove at the Toronto Reference Library’s ollection of fashion histories and etiquette books.

     

    2002 - 2006


  • 2006 - Spring

     

    The Idea of a Black Tie Website

    Rewarded by the tuxedo discovery process, Peter wants to encourage other young men to experience the same sophisticated maturity that black tie had introduced into his life without the expensive pitfalls that he had to go through. It seems a website that compiles his research is the way to go.


  • 2006 - 2008

    The Black Tie Guide Emerges

    Rewarded by the discovery process, Peter wants to share his findings with the world, so other men can experience the same sophisticated maturity that black tie had introduced into his life, without having to undergo the pitfalls that he did. Hundreds of hours were spent reviewing tens of thousands of pages of vintage menswear magazines, historical etiquette and contemporary attire information in major libraries from New York to Vancouver.

     

    2006 - 2008


  • 2008 - March

     

    Black Tie Guide 1.0 launches

    After years of research and hard work the first version of the black tie guide is completed and launched.


  • 2011 - March

    Black Tie Guide 2.0 & White Tie

    With 40,000 visitors a month, Peter realizes that he now reaches a lot more men than originally anticipated. Among them an interest in White t´tie becomes apparent, and so Peter decided to create the Black Tie Guide 2.0 that incorporates his Tailcoat knowledge, and it launches 3 years after the original guide.

     

    2011 - March


  • 2011 - October

     

    Black Tie Blog Lauch

    After years of work on the Black Tie Guide, Peter believes it is time to add a blog that allows him to report on events and happenings in the Tuxedo and Black Tie world.


  • 2012 - April

    The Black Tie Book

    With over 90,000 words in the guide, more than 55,000 visitors a month, and as part of a university syllabus, the Black Tie Guide had grown to an authoritative resource on all things black tie.  Peter felt it was time for the next step: a Black Tie Book- Thus he puts together a book proposal to pitch to publishers.

     

    2012 - April


  • 2013 - June

     

    Milestone Title

    Sven Raphael Schneider, founder of the Gentleman’s Gazette and Fort Belvedere makes an offer to Peter to by the Black Tie Guide and Peter has not intentions of selling at that point.


  • 2013 - December

    Crowdfunded Black Tie Book?

    In 2012, no publishers presented with the Black Tie Book proposal wanted to see the project through. With the traffic growing to 75,000 unique visitors a month Peter lost interest in the print version, until a few readers asked about the project. His partner planted the seed of crowdfunded self-publishing and Peter seriously entertained the ideas and started to run the numbers. With an estimated $125,000 plus another $28,000 for 500 copies Peter realized the book project was not viable, and instead focused his energy on creating the third iteration of the Black Tie Guide.

     

    2013 - December


  • 2014 - October

     

    Peter Sells The Black Tie Guide

    For Peter working on the Black Tie Guide started to feel more like work instead of fun. When an unexpected offer to buy his site for $36,000 reached him, he decided to sell the website. He also offered Sven Raphael Schneider to buy the site but he did not want to purchase the site for that amount and so the site was sold to Domain Brothers Ltd. which focused on buying and monetizing content sites.


  • 2018 - November

    Gentleman’s Gazette Revives The Black Tie Guide

    With the last update dating to March 2015, and steeply declining monthly readership, the Black Tie Guide was purchased by the Gentleman’s Gazette. At this point, the Black Tie Guide and blog were updated and considerably expanded to reach even more people than during its heyday. When Peter Marshall learned about the purchase he just said:”I’m sure it’s in good hands!” and we believe if could not have fallen into better hands ;).

     

    2018 - November


The Full Story Of The Black Tie Guide

Queen Mary 2 At Sea

Queen Mary 2 At Sea

It All Began With A Ship

In the summer of 2002 I booked passage on the 2004 inaugural transatlantic crossing of the Queen Mary 2, Cunard’s recently announced and highly anticipated ocean liner. Knowing that this historic maiden voyage would inevitably draw patrician travelers from both sides of the Atlantic I could only imagine the opulent finery they would don for the ship’s formal nights. Having never been on a cruise before let alone attended an upscale social event, my greatest fear was to arrive at my first shipboard dinner looking like a forty-year-old prom date.

Peter Marshall - Founder of The Black Tie Guide in shawl collar dinner jacket

Peter Marshall – Founder of The Black Tie Guide in shawl collar dinner jacket

Peter Marshall’s First Black Tie Event with a Rental Tux

My suspicions of a formalwear class system were confirmed a month later when I attended my premier black-tie affair as a dry run for the QM2. Although I rented a seemingly traditional tuxedo I noticed a number of subtle differences between my attire and that of the more well-heeled gentlemen in attendance. As I set out to purchase an equally refined ensemble I looked forward to learning about these elegant nuances from experienced retailers. Much to my dismay I discovered that whether in person or online these supposed specialists regularly dispensed advice that was either contradictory or completely inaccurate. Whenever I asked about conventional etiquette the teenage clerks would glibly inform me that there were in fact no rules and that I should instead opt for the latest formal fads they assured me were “really popular”.

Online Tuxedo Research in 2002 was hard

Online Tuxedo Research in 2002 was hard

Online Resources Enough To Buy First Tux

Determined to find the truth, I scoured dozens of obscure online resources until I finally stumbled across a couple of sites that offered educated descriptions of classic black tie. Although the absence of illustrations was frustrating, the written details were enough to help me purchase a tuxedo that turned out to be more authentic than those of many other passengers aboard the long-awaited QM2 crossing. Best of all, I had managed to do so on a reasonable budget. Little did I know that the conclusion of my ocean voyage was just the beginning of the next phase of my black-tie journey.

Vintage White Tie and Black Tie

Vintage White Tie and Black Tie

Let The Research Begin

Now that I owned a tuxedo I planned to attend formal events as often as possible yet my initial research had left many lingering questions about the finer details of my outfit. It was time to seek professional expertise the old fashioned way: in print. And so it was that over the next two years I discovered the wonders of the Toronto Reference Library’s outstanding collection of fashion histories and put together my own collection of modern publications on classic menswear. At the same time, I was continuously browsing etiquette books to find more black-tie traditions where I could sport my ever-improving formal wardrobe.

The Idea of the Black Tie Guide Emerges

The Idea of the Black Tie Guide Emerges

The Idea Of The Black Tie Guide Emerges

The discovery process during this time proved to be so rewarding that I was compelled to share the results with the world. I wanted to encourage other young men to experience the same sophisticated maturity that black tie had introduced into my life. I wanted to help them avoid the costly pitfalls of compiling their formal wardrobe out of substandard garments, as some of mine initial purchases had turned out to be. And I wanted to counter the extensive misinformation being spread about black-tie customs so that future generations would not be robbed of this noble tradition’s genteel pleasures. Thus in the spring of 2006 I began to refine the outcome of my research and create the kind of Web site I wished had existed during my Queen Mary 2 preparations. Then I decided to get serious.

2008 The Black Tie Guide Launches

As I began assembling my rudimentary site I became aware of an online community of highly-knowledgeable menswear aficionados and realized the site would never be truly authoritative if it simply reiterated the teachings of other authorities. It was also crucial that a practical guide to such a visual topic include extensive illustrations, a feature notably lacking in most other resources. What followed then was another two years of research which can best be described as thesis-level study. Hundreds of hours were spent reviewing tens of thousands of pages of vintage menswear magazines in major libraries from New York to Vancouver. Hundreds more hours were dedicated to combing through printed and online resources for historical etiquette and contemporary attire information. Rounding out this academic research was my “field research” carried out at opening night performances, fund-raising galas and even another cruise. (Hey, it’s a tough job but someone had to do it.) After extracting the most relevant facts and most descriptive illustrations from this new mountain of research – and honing my amateur webmaster skills – The Black Tie Guide is finally complete.

I am extremely proud of the final result and greatly pleased with the influence it is having on readers. Every time I receive a thankful e-mail from a newly converted advocate or an appreciative longtime believer it makes all the years of hard work worthwhile. I look forward to a journey that I know will continue for the rest of my life and I truly hope that finding this site will be the beginning of yours.

The Black Tie Guide 2.0

The Black Tie Guide 2.0


The Black Tie Guide 2.0

The Black Tie Guide 2.0

Black Tie v2.0: The Second Edition

Who knew so many people were interested in tuxedos?

When I first created The Black Tie Guide in 2006 I figured that a primer for such a relatively obscure dress code would be of interest to only a handful of people. I never dreamt that four years later it would be drawing over 40,000 visitors per month.

I also had no idea of the reverence many of those people felt for the tuxedo’s predecessor, the tailcoat. The Guide was intended to be a practical tool for the average man which meant there was no point in delving into an ultra-formal dress code that in its heyday was reserved for only the most elite members of society and is now virtually abandoned by even those select few. Yet the longer I researched the storybook-like history of evening wear and the more I heard from passionate stalwarts of this tradition, the more I realized that white tie was an integral part of the study of black tie.

Because the white tie information would impact a large portion of the Guide I decided to take the opportunity to overhaul the entire site to reflect new information and insight obtained since the first edition and to ensure consistency across pages that were originally written over a span of two years. And so after another fourteen months of research and writing – including a five-month leave of absence from work – I am proud to announce the revised and expanded second edition of The Black Tie Guide.

I think it is fitting that this enhanced tribute to evening wear’s timeless appeal is being published on the 125th anniversary of the tuxedo’s export from its British home to the world at large. I don’t know what the future holds for the enduring Victorian dining suit but I hope all of the Guide’s readers will have a chance to experience its sublime pleasures at some point in their lives. And if you happen to see me at a gala affair down the road please say hi. (I’ll be the guy soaking in every minute of the evening’s experience.)

The Black Tie Book

I feel I have been neglecting my blog duties recently but I assure formalwear aficionados it’s for a good reason: I have finally got around to writing a book proposal for a print version of The Black Tie Guide.

Back in 2006 when I first conceived of the Guide I was torn between pitching it as a book and posting it as a web site. When I realized how much work would have to go into a professional book proposal my impatient tendencies won out and I opted for the immediate gratification of an online version. That choice was the best of both worlds because it allowed me to take as much time as needed write the book while sharing the results of my research as I progressed. Thanks to the immediate and global reach of the internet I’ve been able to help a countless number of men during the process . . . even if some of the early advice was less than expert.

The only concern I had was that the book would lose its potential value to publishers if its content was freely available to anyone with an internet connection. However, as the Guide grew to a 90,000-word opus it became clear that the web works best as a quick reference tool. When it comes to comprehensive reading, sitting back with a traditional printed book will always trump hunching over an eye-straining computer screen.

Furthermore, the Guide’s topic is perfect for a glossy coffee-table book treatment. What better way to capture the timeless elegance of black-tie charity galas, formal evening weddings and red-carpet glamour? This is evident in the above mock-ups I created to determine how the web site could best be adapted into an oversized hardcover format. (It was an interesting process as the unlimited-length, single-page structure of a web site is quite different from the fixed-length 2-page spread that defines a printed book.)

So, six years after my original dilemma I finally have a proposal ready to be pitched to potential publishers. I’m glad I waited because I’m in a much better position now thanks to the subsequent success of the Guide which is getting over 55,000 visitors a month, has been cited by other authors and will soon be included in a syllabus for a University course on costume design. Best of all, a leading menswear authority has endorsed the book. Hopefully this minimize the number of rejection letters that will invariably follow.

________________________________________

Although I have assembled a list of applicable publishers, if you know a non-fiction publisher who would like to issue a bestseller just in time for the Christmas gift-giving season and the global surge of tuxedo interest that will inevitably accompany the release of the next James Bond film in November, please ask them to contact me at peter_at_blacktieguide_dot_com. The same goes for literary agents or cross-promotional retailers that would like to get in on the action.

Just as importantly, if you are personally interested in buying such a book please indicate so in the comments below. That’s exactly the kind of sales potential a publisher will be looking for!

Gentleman’s Gazette’s Offer To Buy Black Tie Guide

Dear Peter,

I haven’t heard from you in a while and I hope all is well. We were planning a trip to Canada over the summer and we briefly looked at Toronto but then decided on Montreal because of the Jazz Music Festival.

The reason I am writing to you is, that have I amassed so much black and white tie footage over the years that I would like to put it to use. Now, I respect the work you have done at the black tie guide very much and I was wondering if you ever considered selling the blacktieguide domain and content?

I’d totally understand if it wasn’t an option for you,  but I just thought I ask you. Of course, I’d be happy to talk about it with you more in detail over the phone but I felt it was good to give you a little email heads up so you can think about it over the weekend.

Enjoy your weekend, and I hope I haven’t startled you too much.

Best, Raphael

June 14, 2013

Black Tie Guide Remains In Peter Marshall’s Hands

Hi Raphael,

Well your suggestion certainly did come as quite a surprise!  The short answer is that I’m not interested in selling the site at this time.  However that’s not to say I wouldn’t consider it at some point in the future, depending on the circumstances.  (By future I mean next August at the earliest as my sponsor contracts expire each August 1 and I wouldn’t want the site to change hands in the midst of a contract.)

The primary criteria would be that I respect the buyer and your work on Gentleman’s Gazette definitely falls into that category.

Obviously the second most important criteria is the price.  As you can calculate from my Advertising Rates page I currently earn $7,200 per year in sponsorship fees alone and those prices are going up in a couple of months.  I wouldn’t want to give up that sort of annual revenue without significant compensation.

The rest of the details are more curiosity than anything else.  Would you fold the site under the Gentleman’s Gazette banner?  Would you want to convert it into the layout you use for the Morning Dress Guide?  Would you write the future updates yourself?  Would you want the blog rights too?

If the situation is that you want the site now or never in order to post your video footage then I understand and will just have to pass.

Best regards,

Peter

June 17,2013

Black Tie Book: Update

I’ve recently received a lot of enquiries about the status of my quest for a publisher for a printed version of The Black Tie Guide. I didn’t realize that a year and a half has already passed since I first announced this venture so an update is definitely overdue.

In the spring of 2012 I sent my proposal to three literary agents who declined the offer either directly or by not responding. The proposal was also rejected by four publishers and was not responded to by one other publisher. One of the publishers actually considered it very seriously but decided in the end that they didn’t know how to make it profitable in light of the information being available on the Web site. This despite the fact that my proposal pointed out that the site’s extensive content is much more easily digested on the printed page than on a computer monitor and that it was the site’s readers themselves who were pleading for a book version.

By the summer of 2012 I had pretty much lost interest in the project. This was partly because I was once again working full-time but also because the appeal of distributing my work in print was fading as the site’s traffic kept growing; no book version would be able to reach a fraction of the 75,000 people checking out my site each month. Short of coming across an inside connection, I wasn’t interested in spending any more time knocking on doors.

As for self-publishing, that has always been non-starter. The whole point of publishing was the prestige of a professionally designed and edited work of art. A traditional publisher would offer these services as well as sourcing (and paying) the rights for the vintage illustrations that are essential to bringing the history section to life. While I could source all of these services myself, paying for them would be prohibitively expensive.

So that’s where things stood. At least until I started to receive the recent requests for updates on the book’s status. That prompted me to revisit the proposal’s glossy mock-ups and its endorsements from two highly respected menswear authors and realize this would still be a very sexy and special addition to any gentleman’s library. Then my partner hit on a brilliant new approach: crowdfunded self-publishing. Not only would this route determine unequivocally whether there was a market for such a book but, if so, it would also allow me to shoulder the upfront investment with supporters of the book.

So yesterday I requested quotes from four self-publishing companies that can potentially provide all the professional services I would expect of a traditional publisher. If that cost is reasonable I will invest in a short video to include with a full crowdfunding proposal. At that point the book’s ultimate fate will be firmly in hands of my dedicated readers. Ideally I would like to post the proposal early in the new year so I could have a final answer by summer and, if successful, have the book published in time for the 2014 holiday gift-giving season. If that proves to be too ambitious then I would publish sometime before fall 2015 when the next Bond film is released, invariably triggering the usual surge in tuxedo interest that accompanies those films. I will provide another update in January (and expect faithful followers to hound me if I don’t!)

I have to say my interest has been reignited not just by the idea of getting the book published but by the exclusive perks I could offer initial investors. For now I will leave you with this tantalizing teaser: Midnight Blue Limited Edition.

Peter Marshall

December 2, 2013

Black Tie Book Not Feasible

Black Tie Book Not Feasible

Black Tie Book: The Last Word

As I reported in the last update on a potential book version of the Black Tie Guide, I was taking a final kick at the can by investigating self publishing. Specifically, I was determining what it would cost for a self-publishing company to provide all the services of a traditional publisher with an eye to paying that cost through crowdfunding.

Well it turns out there is no such thing a full-service self-publishing company, only ones that provide printing and rudimentary layout services. Nevertheless, I continued my research if only to satisfy my curiosity about the cost and process of hiring a separate editor, layout designer, photography team, copyright and researcher in addition to a printing company.

As I began to calculate the book’s primary parameters such as page count and paper stock I soon realized that every detail centred around the most fundamental question of all: what would distinguish this book from the web site? If the book’s written content was already available for free on the site what reason would consumers have to pay for the book? The answer soon became clear: its visual content. The photographs in the book would have to be largely original and entirely stunning which meant working with an experienced fashion photographer and presenting the final results on oversized, heavy paper stock, much of it printed in colour. Not surprisingly, this kind of quality doesn’t come cheap. The total estimate for creating the book adds up to approximately $125,000 and the cost of printing 500 copies would be an additional $28,000. And that doesn’t take into account the wages I would lose by taking at least two months off work to to write the manuscript and manage publication.

Ultimately, the cost is largely irrelevant because I have no intention of taking off the time required to act as my own publisher. The pride in seeing the book become a reality just isn’t worth the enormous amount of work required and the significant inconvenience it would cause to my employer. So barring an unforeseen offer from a traditional publisher, I am closing out the year by laying this project to rest. I will instead use 2014 to focus on improving the Guide for its next edition in 2015 and expanding the role of the blog. Perhaps these improvements will include a spin-off of much more modest ambition such as an app or an eBook. We shall see . . .

December 30, 2013

Peter Wants To Part With The Black Tie Guide

Hi Raphael,

Hope you’re having a good autumn so far.

I wanted to touch base regarding the possible sale of The Black Tie Guide as there have been a couple of related developments since we last spoke.  First, turning 50 has inspired me to spend much less time working on Guide-related projects and more time living my life.   Second, a domain buying company has offered to buy my site for $36,000.  The offer is tempting but I’d much rather pass it on to you than to complete strangers.  Are you still interested?  If so, would you still consider having me involved with the site as time permits?

Best regards,

Peter

Oct 07,2014

Peter,
We did some calculations and talked to other people who bought Websites.
Unfortunately, we could only offer $15,000 at the most, considering this is so much lower, I understand it won’t excite you much.
Of course we have a huge email list and could help realizing the eBook and that would create some revenue as well but I don’t think it would make up for the difference.
All the best, Raphael

Oct 22, 2014

Black Tie Guide Is Sold To Domain Brothers Ltd. In Britain

I’ve always said that when time spent on the Guide started to feel like work instead of fun then it would be time to move on. Well, it struck me recently that I’ve now accomplished my most sought-after goals and the remaining initiatives seem more like obligations than recreation. So it was that when an unexpected and generous offer to buy the site recently came along I couldn’t say no. Thus, the Guide and its blog are now under new ownership.

The decision is definitely a bittersweet one, a bit like seeing a grown child head out into the world on his own.

It was eight years ago that I set out with a rudimentary knowledge of formal wear and even less knowledge of web design to create the original version of the Guide. For years afterward I lived and breathed black tie. Evenings and weekends were spent writing and programming until the wee hours of the morning and when that wasn’t enough I’d take a leave of absence from work to devote myself to my hobby full time. Even vacations became part of my formalwear passion as I’d schedule them around library visits or field research in the form of formal dinners, gala charity balls, and upscale cruises. (As I’ve said before, it was a tough job but somebody had to do it.)

Fortunately, the increasing scope of the guide over the years led to increasing rewards. There were exciting opportunities for interviews and writing for the media as well as live presentations to various audiences. Men of all ages and walks of life wrote to tell me how the Guide had transformed their previously negative impression not only of formal wear but of traditional menswear and etiquette in general. Site traffic increased dramatically every year and the Guide eventually became the web’s “go to” resource, frequently held up as a formalwear benchmark by enthusiastic and grateful netizens.

This past year has been particularly extraordinary, to the point of being surreal. First I attended the largest black-tie event on the continent, then I realized a long-held dream of doing research at the incomparable Library of Congress and finally, I received an exclusive invitation to attend the fabled Tuxedo Park Autumn Ball. Really, what was left? Certainly not the remaining projects I had in the works which were focused almost entirely on increasing profit, something that had been little more than an afterthought in the past. Considering that I already have a well-paying day job, that profit was unnecessary as supplementary income and far from adequate as a salary substitute.

So the time was right when I was approached last month by a privately owned UK partnership looking to expand their investment in educational sites. Unlike me, they have both the inspiration and the savvy to maximize the Guide and Blog’s financial potential. That is evident in the new format of the blog which has been consolidated with the website rather than existing as a separate, unmonetized entity. Yet, as you can also see, the blog’s content remains fully intact. This is evidence of the new owners’ understanding that the draw for the Guide’s one million plus yearly visitors is far more than a catchy URL.

For the foreseeable future, I will continue my involvement in the blog on an ad hoc basis whenever I spot something that piques my interest. My involvement with more time-consuming deliverables such as an eBook, app, or a revised and expanded version of the website is still to be determined.

Whatever the outcome, though, I take great pride in having brought a black tie education to millions of men (and women) who would otherwise have remained ignorant or misinformed. I would like to think that my work has made the world just a little more refined than it was eight years ago and I hope it will continue to preserve and promote formal tradition for many years to come.

Finally, a heartfelt thanks to my longtime sponsor A Suitable Wardrobe, my long-suffering husband Brandon, and my many devoted readers without whom the Guide would not be what it is today.

Formally yours,

Peter Marshall

November 18. 2014

Black Tie Guide

Gentleman’s Gazette Buys The Black Tie Guide

With the last update dating to March 2015, and the monthly readership of the Black Tie Guide and Blog decreasing rapidly, Gentleman’s Gazette buys the Black Tie Guide and updates it and upgrades it to 2018 standards.

Summary