I blame celebrities for nearly killing off this elegant evening dress code known as Black Tie.
The Golden Globes heralded the start of the annual massacre.
And at almost every luvvie love-in up until the Oscars, the same crimes will be committed.
We’ll be subjected to endless pictures of the A-list at these Black Tie events, at which the male guests will ignorantly ignore the dress code.
Nowadays it seems that with any dress code or sartorial convention there is an urge to tweak it. But bother going to the event if you don’t want to adhere to the rules?
Admittedly, the current conventions did come from fiddling around with a previously accepted dress code (White Tie). But what is now Black Tie looks so chic, and I am yet to see a celebrity improve what is, to me, the epitome of sophisticated contemporary evening dress.
The origin of Black Tie is hotly debated. Americans will argue that it was first seen at the Tuxedo Club in New York, and was the doing of Pierre Lorillard and his son Griswold.
Apparently the latter became rather bored of the White Tie faff. He turned up one evening to the club in a bastardised version of White Tie and, after the initial cries of shock had died down, men decided they rather liked the idea of something less fussy and formal, and so it caught on.
We British say that it was the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, who first wore a similar outfit to an event in Monte Carlo for similar reasons as Lorillard. The jury is out and a definite answer will probably never be found.
But the rules are perfectly clear. Hollywood A-list men take note: here is what you should and should not be wearing.
Hair: This should be washed and brushed. Similarly, you should be clean-shaven (unless you always have a beard or moustache). There is no point going to a smart event if your head and face looks like it hasn’t seen a comb or razor in years
Shirt: A white dress shirt with a turned-down collar is called for with Black Tie. Winged collars, once acceptable, are now the reserve of the White Tie dress code. Dress shirts, which are generally slightly thicker in material, have a marcella or frilled front. Button-down collars are a no-no. Dress shirts can be fastened with buttons or with studs and are double-cuffed.
Bow tie: Black Tie does not mean a black necktie: they are for funerals and downmarket actors. Bow ties should be hand-tied (Her Majesty the Queen is said to be able to spot a ‘fake’, pre-tied bow tie a mile off.) If you cannot tie one, then I suggest you learn.
Jacket: Black, or midnight blue, jackets can be single- or double-breasted with either notched or shawl lapels. Double-breasted jackets (of any variety) often look best on very slim men. Dinner jackets are never fastened when single-breasted. Unlike day suit jackets, dinner jackets have no vents at the back, and the buttons are ‘covered’. White dinner jackets are only acceptable in tropical climates – unless you want to look like the barman
Pocket square: If you wish to wear a ‘top pocket handkerchief’ then you may do so. In white.
Decorations: Not usually worn to Black Tie events unless the invitation reads ‘decorations’
Waistcoat: Very rarely seen nowadays but they should be low-cut and worn only with a single-breasted jacket
Cummerbund: Worn around the waist instead of a waistcoat, cummerbunds are sadly a dying breed. The folds should point upwards
Braces: Don’t wear a belt, even if hidden by a cummerbund. Instead opt for braces, preferably black, if you need to keep your trousers up
Trousers: These should match the material of the jacket and are usually tapered slightly with one braid running down the outside of each leg
Socks: Black silk evening socks are technically correct but these are not widely sold and most people wear conventional black wool or cotton socks
Shoes: Well-polished, smart black shoes are perfectly acceptable. But if you have black patent leather shoes by all means wear them
Accessories: Visible timepieces are technically not worn (although a subtle wristwatch is now OK) because Black Tie events are not something in which timekeeping is a priority. White gloves and scarves are a bit OTT nowadays and were only worn when travelling to and from the venue.
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