Black tie seems to make men nervous. On one hand, it’s understandable, since black tie occasions are increasingly rare in our hyper casual times. The mere prospect of wearing anything that doesn’t stretch, come with a hood or repel water (and pretty girls) is a great unknown for a whole generation of men. On the other hand, it shouldn’t baffle, since black tie is essentially very basic, with a few modifications that set it apart from regular suit and tie.
Personally, I love wearing a tux. Occasions to wear one don’t come often, but when they do, I really do look forward to it. Even when the invitation is “black tie optional,” I’m in.
I bought my current tux about two years ago. In that time, I’ve had five occasions to wear it: two weddings, two holiday parties and one Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Pretty busy social calendar for a formal suit I thought I’d wear once a year at most.
The most recent black tie situation was my brother Mark’s wedding this past weekend. The wedding itself was not formal dress, but I was thrilled Mark wanted himself and his groomsmen in classic black tuxedos. And I was doubly happy that he asked me to “style” the look, which gave me something to contribute to his big day.
We went classic Cary Grant / To Catch a Thief style, which meant a black, single button, peak lapel dinner jacket, a white formal shirt, a black bow tie, black cufflinks and studs and black formal shoes. Two years ago, I chose that same design for my own tux for the same reason: it’s bulletproof, timeless and universal.
While his best friend and best man and my ring bearing nephew rented theirs, my brother wanted to buy his own. To his credit, he felt it was time to own one. He works in the entertainment business, and events happen. For his formal kit, I turned to Suitsupply, who has a brilliant solution for this very thing. Their “Black Tie Package” includes a tuxedo, a shirt, a bow tie, shoes, cufflinks and studs, all for a ridiculously reasonable $800.
Within days of ordering it, the tux arrived. Out of the box, everything fit him surprisingly well. After a few alterations with a local tailor, I gotta say he looked damn good. And through the ceremony and the reception, he looked fantastic, staying in full drag the entire evening. In keeping with my notion that we have a good time when we dress up, we had a blast.
Black tie is fun. Other than the even rarer white tie, black tie is the highest form of formal wear most of us will ever experience. And it’s always about celebration. It’s one of those opportunities to act and dress like you’re in your own little movie. When men whine about it, cop out with a black necktie or decline a black tie invitation altogether (which I’ve personally witnessed), I suspect it’s about fear – fear of doing it wrong or feeling like you’ll look silly. But the truth is that every man looks his very best and most elegant in a classic, well-tailored tuxedo, no matter what his shape. With black tie, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Stick to the basics, do it right and do what black tie is designed for: celebrate.