When Wearing a Tuxedo, make sure your Black Tie Attire Shines

Been invited to a black tie event? We know you’ve got your day-to-day attire looking sharp, but you might still have a few questions about how to dress for a black tie event. Do I have to wear a tux? Do I need a special shirt? What are the proper tuxedo shoes? What the heck is a cummerbund anyway? These are common questions many men ask. To answer them we’ve put together a simple list of rules to follow for dressing in black tie.

The featured image is the Talmadge Folded Vamp Oxford in Black.

The Jacket

Usually reserved for momentous occasions, a tux is similar to your everyday men’s suit but with a few important differences. A tuxedo jacket has satin or grosgrain lapel stripes that contrast with the base fabric. The buttons should match the lapel strip in grosgrain or satin. Tuxedo jackets traditionally have three types of lapels: notch, peak, and shawl. The tuxedo jacket you choose is a matter of personal preference, although for black tie, the shawl lapel is considered the most formal of the three.

The Pants

The first thing you’ll notice about any tuxedo trousers is that they don’t have belt loops. That’s because… you guessed it; they’re never worn with a belt. Tux pants should also have a stripe down the exterior seam that matches the jacket’s lapel, grosgrain with grosgrain, satin with satin.

The Shirt

For tuxedo shirts, white is the standard and safest bet. The shirt should have a turn-down collar (not a wing-collar) and French cuffs for cufflinks. Some tuxedo shirts have hidden buttons, while others are worn with formal studs, some have a flat front and others are pleated. Again, the style of the tux shirt is a matter of personal preference.

Cummerbunds & Waistcoats

Though they’ve come in and out of favor over the years, true black tie requires either a cummerbund or a vest. The reason is that the bottom of your shirt should not be visible beneath your jacket. A cummerbund also has the advantage of creating a smooth line at your belly, making you look thinner and it keeps your shirt tucked in. It should be worn with the pleats facing upwards with half of it over the pants and the other half over the shirt. For black tie, black is the traditional color, although today sometimes a color is chosen to match the color worn by the counterpart.

The Tie

For a black tie event, wear a bow tie. Matching it to the jacket is the safest bet. You can make it easy on yourself and wear a pre-tied bow tie but really you should make the effort to tie your own. There are plenty of videos online explaining how to do it, and if you’re renting a tux, the sales associates where you rented it from can surely give you a tutorial. Our Mason Bow Tie and Pocket Square Set would make a great addition to your wardrobe.

The Accessories

If you are not sure, keep simple. You can never go wrong with a plain white pocket square. The same basic principle applies to cufflinks: use a simple design and color that matches the tux. Silver, gold, mother-of-pearl, or onyx are always solid choices. These are some of our favorites.

The Shoe

Black tie occasions call for men’s formal shoes and that means patent leather shoes are the best option. When looking for tuxedo shoes, the simpler the better. Proper tuxedo shoes can be an oxford or slip on but true formal shoes should have very little brogue detailing. Here are some of our favorite tuxedo shoes.