The Foreign Language of White Tie at the 2014 Met Gala

For this year’s Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute gala, Anna Wintour famously requested a dress code of white tie. Since most red carpet men prove over and over again that they barely know what black tie is, the idea of white tie must have been very confusing, as evidenced on the red carpet at last night’s Met Gala. If proper black tie is a foreign language, white tie is another planet.

Though a modern day rarity, white tie is the height of men’s formal attire and was once an nightly uniform among aristocrats. It’s what all the men from Lord Grantham down to the butlers wear every evening on Downton Abbey. It’s the costume in which Fred Astaire was perhaps most famous.

Today, the number of occasions in most men’s lives that call for white tie is less than one. A man could be forgiven for not only not knowing how to do it, but also not knowing where to get it. But here’s the thing: we’re talking about the Met Gala, a prom to which only the richest and most privileged are invited. For this crowd – a crowd with the money and resources to pull off almost anything – my tolerance for blowing it is less than zero.

Here’s a look at who nailed it, who failed it and who elegantly derailed it. (For clarity: the “derailers” were more Academy Awards/Cannes appropriate, but looked fabulous anyway.) All photos by Josh Haner for The New York Times, except for Leonard Lauder, which was taken by Julian Mackler / BFAnyc.com for Style.com.

Who nailed it…

I need to give a respectful nod to Andy Cohen, Colin Firth, and a handful of other men who also nailed it.

Who failed it…

Who elegantly derailed it…


Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker stopped by Late Night Seth Meyers on Wednesday night (5/7/14) to discuss the gala and to critique some of the men in light of the trouble many of them had with white tie (including Seth).

PHOTO NOTE: The glorious title photo of this article is known as “The Kings of Hollywood.” It was taken by Slim Aarons at the 1957 New Year’s party at the Crown Room in Romanoff’s. From left to right: Clark Gable, Van Heflin, Gary Cooper and James Stewart.


  1. You almost never see white ties out there … good to see that it can be pulled off with style!

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