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  • Connie Cupples


Updated: Mar 11

Nothing catches the eye of a Southern belle like a gentleman dressed for a black-tie affair. There is an aura of confidence and respect radiating from such a presence.

When the invitation comes for a black-tie event, you know it’s a classy affair. So, you want to make sure you look your best. This means making sure your tuxedo is tailored properly, that your shoes shine, and that your tie is straight. And don't forget the accessories - cufflinks, pocket square and vest.

Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, whether it's at a gala in New Orleans or a corporate event in New York. Your appearance speaks volumes the moment you enter the ballroom.

Here, we will capture the allure of black-tie dressing by delving into the following:

  • Dressing in black tie: insights and nuances

  • Common misconceptions

  • Do’s and don’ts

  • A few tips for good measure

  • Formal vs. black-tie

Black Tie Dress Code for Men: What You Need to Know

Black tie—what does this mean exactly? Well, it is more than just fancy jargon. It’s an unspoken language of elegance. It’s an opportunity to look your best when the stakes are high and the lights are low.

The Dinner Jacket

  • Dark, often black

  • Single or double-breasted with a few workable buttons

  • Satin lapels

NOTE: To wear a dinner jacket with confidence, it needs to fit perfectly. A skilled tailor can help with this.


  • Skillfully tailored - in harmony with the jacket

  • Satin stripe down each leg

The Shirt

  • White dress shirt with a Marcella or pleated front

  • Turn-down collar

  • Double cufflinks

Your Shoes

  • Black patent leather Oxfords or brogues

  • Laced

  • Shine should match the satin of lapels and trouser stripe

Not Just Black

In spite of the name, the black-tie dress code does not dictate the color of your suit or accessories. For instance, midnight blue is subtle enough to sneak under the radar, and charcoal gray or brown suits are too bizarre to be taken seriously.


In addition to the cummerbund and waistcoat, consider a white handkerchief or pocket square, as well as a black satin bow tie for the final touch. This elegant style exudes a distinct Southern charm and is perfect for black-tie affairs and extravagant soirées.

Black Tie Dress Codes: Different Types

The world of black tie embraces a wide range of dress codes that allow gentlemen to present themselves elegantly and with versatility.

Traditional Black Tie

  • Black or midnight blue dinner jacket

  • Matching trousers

  • Crisp white dress shirt

  • Black bow tie

  • Formal shoes - in patent leather

NOTE: Pay attention to every detail, from your cufflinks to your pocket square, when following this code.

Creative Black Tie

  • Pop of color with a subtly patterned bow tie

  • Unique lapel pin

  • Pocket square with personality

NOTE: Despite the relaxed atmosphere, creative black tie still requires sophistication and class, so don't overdo it.

Black Tie Optional

In the past, the expectation was to wear a tuxedo, although a dark suit was considered acceptable. Today, the dress code has evolved into a more flexible realm, allowing attendees to choose a classic dark suit or even a tuxedo without feeling out of place.

NOTE: It is best to err on the side of formality if you are invited to such an event. Take into account the host, venue, and other guests.

Black Tie & Black Suits: Common Misconceptions?

There is no question that black remains a classic and timeless color, but it isn't the only color we see in the world of black tie.

Midnight Blue

A black tie implies that your ensemble must be all-black. Well, not so fast. Under certain circumstances, a deep midnight blue can sometimes appear even darker and more formal than black.


Using traditional black trousers and accessories with a burgundy dinner jacket can also pass muster if it is cut right. It may be the right choice for a creative black-tie event in which men can be encouraged to remain within the formal guidelines while exhibiting a little flair.

Remember Gentlemen:

Prioritize discretion in formal wear. Avoid attention-grabbing colors like emerald green or sunshine yellow at black-tie events. Embrace variety within elegance, maintaining black tie standards. Southern gentlemen can creatively express themselves within these guidelines, challenging the notion that black equals black tie.

Men's Black-Tie Do's and Don'ts

Do: Make Sure Your Attire Fits Well

You should ensure that your jacket and trousers are perfectly aligned with your shoes. If they don't, they ruin the look of your fine tuxedo. About half an inch of your shirt cuff should peek through when the jacket sleeves end where your thumb starts.

Do: Wear a Black Bow Tie

Black tie attire cannot be complete without the black bow tie. Some people may be tempted to replace the bow tie with a long tie or a nifty cravat, but that isn't the same. The bow tie adds an air of sophistication and charm that cannot be replaced.

Do: Choose the Right Accessories

You can achieve a sophisticated look without causing distractions with a classic white pocket square folded crisply in a seamless manner. Cufflinks? Pick simple, tasteful designs in silver or gold.

Don’t Wear Bright Colored Shirts, Belts, and Double-Breasted Jackets

The traditional white shirt leaves a more formal impression, so avoid bright-colored shirts. The trousers should also be loose, as the waistband should be higher at the belly button; suspenders should be used instead of belts. Additionally, the jacket should be a classic single-breasted style - avoid double-breasted if possible.

Don’t Wear Casual Footwear

Avoid casual footwear such as loafers. Instead, opt for black leather lace-ups or polished calf oxfords.

Don’t Wear Flashy Socks

If you're wearing a black tie, keep it sleek in black, matching the color of your trousers. You might be tempted to have flashy or colorful socks to carry the Southern spirit but stay away from flamboyant socks with black ties.

Men's Black Tie Dress Code Tips

Knowing the venue and nature of the event can be very helpful in making your presentation more engaging. Your unspoken respect for your hosts and fellow attendees shows how much you value the event.

Polishing the Outfit with Finishing Touches

  • Impeccably polished shoes

  • Well-manicured beard

  • Smoothly shaven face

  • Neatly combed hair

  • No overbearing cologne

  • Perfectly tied bow tie

Understanding the Event's Atmosphere

  • Keep it classic with a black tie at a charity event in an opulent ballroom

  • The tartan bow tie and velvet dinner jacket are perfect for a black-tie wedding at a country barn

Remember the Details

You know where the devil resides!

  • Black over-the-calf socks

  • A simple pocket square adds a touch of sophistication

NOTE: The art of dressing for a black-tie event requires the ability to balance tradition with personal style, respecting the event while expressing one's individuality.

Formal vs. Black Tie for Men: What's the Difference?

The way we dress corresponds to the level of formality and occasion to which we are attending.

Black Tie

The 'black tie' dress code, just below 'white tie' in formality, is commonly requested for prestigious evening events. The standard outfit comprises a black or midnight blue dinner jacket, matching trousers, a white dress shirt, a black bow tie, dress shoes, and optional accessories.


'Formal' varies between American and British English. In the U.S., it's typically a 'black tie,' while in the UK, it spans from a lounge suit to a morning dress. Consider the event's time and nature for appropriate attire.

For instance, a wedding invitation specifies 'formal attire.' For the evening event, opt for a sleek tuxedo and black bow tie, complemented by polished patent leather shoes against the sunset backdrop.

Picture yourself invited to a daytime formal event at a Lexington polo club. Opt for a navy three-piece suit, a white shirt, a subtle paisley tie, and polished brogues, considering the British theme and timing.

NOTE: It's important to know how formal is perceived and make sure your ensemble suits the occasion, location, and time of day.


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