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Feb, 25 2022

Men's Black Tie Dress Code Made Simple

Groomsmen in black tie attire

Paying close attention to an event's dress code is so important. After all, showing up inappropriately dressed is not the way to stand out from the crowd - especially if it's a formal dress code. Black-tie events can be incredibly nerve-wracking for guys who don't have experience with this type of occasion. But there's no need to panic because Generation Tux has all the details you need to put together a flawless formal look. So before you start your search, check out this guide that will make following a black-tie dress code a breeze.

Man dressed up in  Generation Tux Black Peak Tuxedo for a black tie event

Black Tie Dress Code 101

While the white tie is the most formal of all dress codes, the black tie is reserved for most formal events. It first came into effect during the Edwardian era (1901-1914) when Edward VII decided to ditch his tailcoat for a blue silk smoking jacket and match evening trousers. And believe it or not, the first black tie bowtie was not even a traditional black-tie; instead, men chose midnight blue because it looked darker in artificial lighting.

The style came over to the United States, where the ensemble is a tuxedo (in the UK, it is still referred to as a dinner jacket). And white dinner jackets first appeared in the 1930s, designed for the wealthy men who didn't want to wear black while on tropical vacations during the holiday season.

These days, black-tie events typically start after 6 pm and are special events—think ballroom weddings, awards shows, charity galas, formal dinners, senior proms, and the like.

While white tie has a super strict dress code (a bowtie and tails are an absolute must), you can now get more creative with the black-tie dress code in terms of colors and tie choice (more on that below). One thing, however, that hasn't changed: You need to show up in either a tuxedo or a formal dinner jacket and pants.

Two men wearing Generation Tux Black Peak Tuxedos for a black tie event

The Difference between a Tux and a Suit

Although suits are stunning, they are not formal enough for a black-tie affair. The main difference between the two is that tuxedos have satin detailing: Dinner jackets have satin facing on the lapels, buttons, and pockets, and a satin stripe running down the leg of the trousers. However, the jacket, lapel, and trousers on a suit are all made of the same material.

Two men wearing different tuxedo color options for a black tie even

Color Options

When people see a black tie even on their invitation, they automatically envision the traditional black tux—and for a good reason. It is a classic look that never goes out of style. But men are no longer required—or even expected to—to stay limited to just this one color (unless expressly stated on the invitation). Many guys opt to add some color into their black-tie look with a midnight or mystic blue, or a charcoal gray tuxedo, which gives that extra wow factor while still looking appropriate.

And if you want to stand out, you can choose a white dinner jacket paired with formal tuxedo pants.

Man wearing Generation Tux Black Bow Tie

Bow or Neck Tie?

For an authentic black-tie look, bow ties are the best option—especially if the event you're going to is ultra-formal. But as you'll notice, many men opt for the more modern necktie (also known as "Hollywood Black Tie Dress Code"), so really, the choice is what you're most comfortable wearing throughout the day. Luckily, we have both in a variety of colors and patterns. If you want to stray from the black-tie, make sure the color you choose coordinates well with your entire ensemble. However, one color to stay away from is white, which is reserved for white tie affairs.

Close of Mystic Blue Tuxedo Lapel

All about Lapels

There are three lapel options to choose from:

The Shawl is a formal lapel style with a continuous round edge. Generation Tux offers the Black Shawl Lapel Tuxedo and our White Dinner Jacket.

Peak is a slightly more formal style featuring a long look of the lapel. Our two tuxes with this style are the Black Peak Lapel Tuxedo and the Midnight Blue Peak Lapel Tuxedo.

Notch is a classic style and an excellent choice when unsure which one to choose for your event. All of our other tuxedos feature this lapel.

Man Wearing Vest with Generation Tux Black Shawl Tuxedo

Jackets & Vests

Generation Tux carries one and two-button jackets. Britain's Edward VII reportedly grew too large for his suit and had to stop using the last button on his dinner jacket as a result. Not wanting to embarrass him, others followed—and the tradition stuck. You should leave the last one unbuttoned with both your dinner jacket and vest. And don't forget to unbutton your coat completely when you sit down to eat!

Of course, if you opt to wear a cummerbund with your tuxedo, then you will skip the vest altogether. Just remember that the slats on the cummerbund always face upwards to catch crumbs. For the most part, though, cummerbunds are considered outdated, and most men choose to go with a vest.

Generation Tux Tuxedo Pants

Pants

You don't want to wear pants with cuffs or pleats with a tuxedo. All of our tuxes are available in slim and modern fits, with a hidden Flex-fit waistband, so you'll be comfortable throughout the entire event.

Man in Generation Tux wing tip collard shirt

The Shirt

The classic look for the black-tie dress code is a crisp white shirt, pleated with a winged collar. This style of shirt goes best with a bow tie. But you can also choose a White Twill Spread Collar Shirt, opt for a more modern look with the Pleated White Spread Collar Shirt, or pivot away from bright white with the Ivory Spread Collar Shirt. All work well with any tie style—and all of our shirts are made with our classic 100% breathable cotton.

All of our tuxedo shirts feature holes for cufflinks, which come in five common styles:

  • Bullet Back includes a metal bar at the bridge that rotates 90 degrees, allowing the cufflinks to move through cuffs easily.
  • Whale Back also features a 90-degree rotating bar, but it spins vertically when sliding the cufflinks on and then rotates horizontally to fasten.
  • Fixed Back has no movable parts and doesn't need adjustments.
  • Ball Return boasts rounded fixtures on both ends and doesn't need to be adjusted.
  • Chain Style has a flexible bridge that connects the front and back ends and a small metal chain joining both ends.

You should also add studs to your black-tie ensemble. These small accessories are designed to replace the standard white buttons on the shirt and can add something special to your overall look. They often come in sets of three or four and work best with a bow tie—a necktie will cover them up. And be sure not to mix your metals. Your cufflinks, studs, and watch should all be in either gold or silver for a neat and coordinated look.

Shoes

Black patent leather shoes are your best option for a black-tie dress code. The style is the most formal and looks fantastic with a tuxedo. If you don't like this look, a Matte Black dress shoe is acceptable. Coordinate with a pair of black socks, and you're good to go! And before you ask: Yes, you need to wear socks to a black-tie event.

It's essential that your shoes are clean and well-polished. This is the time to step up your look, so the black shoes you wear to the office should be kept for work. You'll also want to skip going out-of-the-box with suede or velvet shoes, which can quickly get dirty before you even arrive at the venue. The exception, however, is if you opt to wear a suede or velvet dinner jacket. Then you should match your shoe material with your dinner jacket.

Designer sneakers have also been making a regular appearance on the red carpet, and some guys can pull off this look with style. Of course, it's essential to make sure your hosts are okay with that fashion choice before you make the final decision (this is especially true if you're in a wedding party).

Generation Tux Black Suspenders for black tie outfit

Suspenders

Whether you like the look or feel you need extra support, suspenders are optional for your black-tie attire. Of course, you can't go wrong with black, but other classic color options include white, red, burgundy, silver, and gold.

One thing you don't need: a belt! Our tuxedo pants don't even have belt loops; you can skip that step entirely.

Generation Tux White Pocket Square for Black Tie

Pocket Squares

Adding a pocket square to your black-tie look is entirely optional. If you do decide to go that route, keep it simple. This isn't the time to choose a crazy print or super bright color. You want to keep your look as timeless as possible.

The bottom line is you want your black-tie dress code ensemble to reflect your style and fit you perfectly. So once you get an invite to a formal event, you'll want to start shopping for your look as soon as possible. Luckily, Generation Tux has you covered by offering a variety of tuxedo looks, as well as a Free Home Try-On delivered to your door. And if you need to adjust your fit, we offer free, immediate replacements.

Ready to start putting together your look for your black-tie event? Browse through our collection of tuxedos, ties, and accessories right from the comfort of your own home.

Want to learn more about wedding dress codes? Check out our Foolproof Guide To Wedding Dress Codes For Men

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