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
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
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