I am impressed that you, at age 32, own a dinner jacket. You’re already ahead of the game. Last year, a friend of mine invited me to a black tie event with one day’s notice (his wife was called out of town). As the owner of a tuxedo, I was able to say yes. My friend and I had a terrific time, I felt confident knowing that I looked like I belonged at the table, and I met some incredible new people. To quote the inimitable Edna Mode from The Incredibles: Luck favors the prepared, darling.
When stepping out – whether for black tie, regular tie or no tie – it has apparently become the woman’s job to fuss and look amazing. Somewhere along our tragically casualizing line, upon receiving invitations to black tie affairs, men started seeing the word “optional” in their heads, even if the invitation specifically stated “black tie” or “formal.” These days, to get a man into a tuxedo, it’s as if a formal invitation needs to say “Black tie. No… seriously… wear a dinner jacket. We really fucking mean it.”
Wear the tux. When someone goes through the trouble of arranging a nice event and requests that people come formally dressed, it is a courtesy to accommodate their request. For some reason, men have become pussies when it comes to black tie. Maybe it’s because it’s a rarified and unfamiliar arena in which they’re uncomfortably lost. Even with it’s simplicity, proper black tie has become a lost art or a foreign language. Awards show red carpets now exhibit legions of men who manage to get lazy or “experimental” and ultimately blow it (and these are celebrities with access to professional, overpaid style resources).
For most of us, black tie invitations are rare. Take advantage of it, get dressed up and enjoy it. Sport a bow tie and celebrate.
I would nix the idea of trying to complement your wife’s dress with some color coordination. Classic black tie is already designed to complement the woman. It deliberately takes a back seat and gives her and her beautiful dress the spotlight. Go timeless with a black bow tie (NOT a regular tie, even if it’s black) and cummerbund. Don’t steal focus. She is the star of the couple.
Go forth boldly, set an example for your slacker counterparts and show them how it’s done. Even if the invitation specifically said “Black tie optional,” I’d go the extra mile. If flunkies from the lazy brigade cough up the gall to give you shit after their fourth scotch at the open bar, it’s because you nailed it and they know it and can’t stand it. Worst case scenario: you’ll be the best-dressed man in the room.
Other related posts of interest:
The Black Tie Affair of the 70th Annual Golden Globes
The Black Tie Affair at the 85th Annual Academy Awards
How To Kill It on the Red Carpet at the Tony Awards
How To Kill It on the Red Carpet at the Tony Awards, Plan B