THE CODE OF BLACK TIE

Rules For The Modern Man - - Rules For The Modern Man -

While menʼs suit­ing has un­der­gone changes over time, the black tie dress code has re­mained res­o­lutely the same, chal­lenged oc­ca­sion­ally by Hollywood celebri­ties who wish to as­sert their per­cep­tion of what works on the red car­pet. Phar­rell Wil­liams is a prom­i­nent ex­am­ple, fore­go­ing pants for shorts.

The black tie dress code was es­tab­lished in the 19th cen­tury, des­ig­nated for af­ter sun­set. Morn­ing dress was the for­mal code for day­time events, while white tie was the sec­ond most for­mal code af­ter court dress.

The tra­di­tional com­po­nents of black tie are a white dress shirt, a black bow tie, a cum­mer­bund and a din­ner suit, ei­ther in black or mid­night blue. One es­sen­tial is that the suit lapel and trouser braid (the strip along the outer length of the pant) be in silk. Black dress shoes, prefer­ably in patent leather but not com­pul­sory, are also de rigueur.

In the 18th and 19th cen­turies, the way men dressed was in­dica­tive of the sec­tions of pop­u­la­tion that they be­longed to. Get­ting dressed ap­pro­pri­ately for social evenings was also a mat­ter of se­ri­ous im­por­tance. Proper gentle­men would never of­fend the fairer sex with their work sen­si­bil­i­ties. And given the fact that they spent a fair amount of their time in the sad­dle, which bore a dis­tinct stench, get­ting ready for social en­gage­ment was a gen­teel rit­ual.

Evening dress be­came a com­mon for­mat. It was dur­ing this pe­riod that Beau Brum­mell rec­om­mended the mod­ern black tie style, shy­ing away from colours. Black tie has re­laxed a lit­tle over the cen­turies, but still suf­fers the moniker of “pen­guin suit”. Not that any­one’s both­ered, be­cause it makes a man look good.

Beau Brum­mell

The English­man was an ar­biter of fash­ion and cred­ited with many mod­ern in­no­va­tions in menswear in­clud­ing the neck­tie.

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