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Black Tie - A Short Guide

 

The dinner jacket and its associated paraphernalia may conjure up images of lavish balls, casinos and, of course James Bond (who is rarely seen wearing anything else in some of the early films), but it actually originated as a less formal alternative to the stiffer and considerably more uncomfortable white tie.


Unfortunately, a cursory glance around at almost any current black tie event will reveal the full extent of dinner jacket faux pas. However, by following Bonne Gauche’s ten simple rules you will never again be mistaken for a cheap waiter.

 

1) Don’t try to be too individual: Black tie is exactly as it says – black. Comedy ties are reserved for those who are terminally devoid of a sense of humour, yet who wish to bore the world with their ‘sense of humour’. The purpose of non-black black tie, therefore, is to act as a warning to other guests to avoid you; akin perhaps to the purpose of the markings on the backs of poisonous snakes in the natural world. Except this kind will give you a longer, more lingering death.

2) Never wear wing collars: We can’t say this too strongly – wing collars should only be worn with white tie.

3) Real bow ties: The only type of tie you should be wearing is a black silk bow tie that you tie yourself. Clip on ties are for small children only.

4) Cummerbunds and waistcoats: Both are formally acceptable as components of black tie, but, in our opinion, the cummerbund is an unnecessary relic from the British Raj. If you must have one, ensure that it is black – floral motifs and bright colours will make you look like a children’s party act. The low-cut waistcoat is a more stylish item, but is hardly essential in these days of central heating.

5) Type of jacket: Both single and double breasted are acceptable, but avoid Tuxedoes – despite having a long history, our opinion is that they are both crass and vulgar; a bit like a mid -1970s Cadillac.

6) Simplicity is the key: avoid pleats in trouser fronts, turn-ups and all other embellishments, such as frills on shirts and embroidery on trousers. Unless, of course, you are a Tom Jones impersonator.

7) Shoes: the only acceptable modern footwear is the leather Oxford shoe, again sans decoration. Some would argue that the opera pump is the true shoe of choice, but these are far too dandyish for all but the campest Victoriana aficionado.

8) Match the watch: Despite what Bond films would have you believe, a sports watch, such as a Rolex Submariner or an Omega Seamaster, is not a suitable accompaniment to a dinner jacket. Those who arrive by diving suit may be forgiven, though. Instead choose a simple dress watch like a basic Jaeger Le Coultre Reverso. Avoid anything gold or ostentatious – this is the preserve of tacky celebrities and hip hop stars.

9) Stick to black: White jackets are unacceptable, even in warm parts of the world – they serve only to make you resemble a steward on a cruise ship.

10) The shirt: This should be white and may be pleated. The practice of fastening the shirt with studs is, in our view, somewhat archaic, and can often spoil the overall look of the outfit. Concealed buttons are a more elegant and clean solution.

 





 
 

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