At the suggestion of a very good friend, who wears his dinner clothes even more often than do I, I’m going to chime in on black tie. ‘Tis the season, after all.
Gentlemen, I know that you are, to a man, well-tailored and well-dressed during business hours. But after six, do you know where your choices lie?
Our evening wear hasn’t changed that much in the last century or so, and your dinner suit may only require that you have the trouser legs made a bit thinner, or a pleat removed, to be au courant.
Thin is in.
Which also means that the 50’s and 60’s dinner jackets at the vintage store are a very stylish (and usually very well made) choice. Make sure that your bowtie isn’t of the huge butterfly variety and wear a turndown (soft) collar.
Unless you feel like channeling Tom Ford, in which case try a velvet butterfly bowtie.
Yes, the butterfly bowtie, larger lapel and extravagantly cut cummerbund are back. Yup, it’s the 70’s, as interpreted by Tom Ford. The difference? If you are over thirty, don’t do it. It will only look as if you haven’t updated a thing since your prom.
Speaking of which… no fun coloured dinner jackets (unless they are plaid. Plaid gets an exception, I’m not sure why.) Save bottle green, maroon, red, purple or brown for your velvet smoking jacket which won’t be worn outside of your house. Stick with the classic black (or better yet midnight blue!) tuxedo, white pleated shirt with turndown collar, studs, cufflinks, cummerbund or vest (I prefer black or white) and braces (suspenders here in the USA.) And don’t forget your pocket square — white, purple, orange, maroon — have fun with it. Since few of use wear a flower in our buttonholes, a pocket square is a good place to add a little colour. When in doubt, white linen or silk is never wrong.
There is a reason that you should stick with the tried and true when choosing your dinner clothes and accessories. All men look very good in the black and white combination and we tend not to overshadow our extravagantly begowned and coiffed dates.
As for your one-button dinner jacket, or your double-breasted model, your lapels should be peaked, or you may choose a shawl collar model. Notched lapels are for business suits. If you already own a notched lapel dinner jacket, please don’t make the mistake of wearing a four-in-hand tie which will make your tuxedo look even more like a suit with an odd silk lapel.
Shoes are always an issue. Opera pumps (patent leather with the grosgrain bow) are the final vestige of court dress and as such are sort of fun to wear. But they may be difficult to pull off for some of you. A good solution is the Belgian shoe. Or choose a plain toe oxford lace-up and polish them until you could use your shoes as a shaving mirror. The patent leather oxford is a nice solution, for those who like the mirror-like gloss and the ribbon laces below the ankle. Your hose (socks) may be of silk, cotton or wool. The safest bet is to wear black or midnight blue to match your trouser.
Finally, a word about watches. There are two schools of thought. One: don’t wear a watch; you’re supposed to be concentrating on having fun and charming your date. Two: if you must wear a watch, you may wear an anachronistic antique pocket watch in your vest pocket, or a discreet, black leather banded, very thin, gold or silver case watch. A Cartier tank, for example, is the classic choice.
Oh, and the secret to not feeling like you’re wearing a penguin suit? Good tailoring and a lot of wear. Get comfortable in it. Like our man above.