As we've pointed out, black tie has relaxed slightly over the decades. The most notable is the use of the shawl lapel in tuxedos. The curved lapel was first used in smoking jackets worn by men when lounging at home. Its transition into dinner attire was propelled by Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine. Following the entrance of the shawl lapel, black tie has seen a few more admissions, such as the use of velvet as a jacket material.
Colour codes have also relaxed. Today, deep shades of most colours from grey to green are acceptable as black tie. In addition, an alternative to the cummerbund is the threebutton vest that is visible only when the jacket is unbuttoned. Men can also dispense with the cummerbund altogether. They may choose to wear their pocket square in a more flamboyant puff, and glide their feet into velvet slip-ons, which have become acceptable.
One should bear in mind that when meeting royalty, one should never be less formally dressed than the personage. Otherwise, you're pretty free to rock it up.
TIE YOUR OWN BOW TIE
Fixed bow ties are a cop out. A gentleman who is attending a formal black tie dinner should wear a proper bow tie. If you’ve never learnt how to do this, flip the page and find out how. It’s one of those things that separate the men from the boys.
Thereʼs a simple reason why you should. At the end of the evening, when the formalities are over, you can take pleasure in letting your hair down, loosening your bow tie and perhaps also the top shirt stud to look not just debonair and also dangerously sexy.
OPT FOR A CRAVAT
More often seen in morning dress, the cravat or ascot was popularised by English dandy Beau Brummell. The dress ascot, a more debonair version of the day cravat, can be worn in black tie with a cravat pin, without looping the front of the broad tie back through the knot. Wearing a cravat is similar to wearing a neck tie, but you simply loop twice around the other end and bring the broader side back to the front, then pinning it down.
Not so much in the manner of gold chains or outlandish accessories, but a dress watch, which pairs well with a tuxedo. Dapper individuals in our time have also donned intricate bracelets to effect a personal flair. A signet ring or choice cufflinks also give your suit a slight distinction from the others around you.
The most formal evening dress code in the modern style book, white tie is worn at state dinners, society balls and other royal events. In white tie, a wing collar shirt is required, along with a white bow tie and waistcoat, and a tailcoat.
Pleats are not permitted on the shirt, which is fastened with studs. The tailcoat is never buttoned, but worn open and cut close to the body, exposing the waistcoat that should also be cut low. The latter should sit just above the front of the tailcoat. The tail bears a single vent.
Official decorations can be worn with white tie, especially when one is meeting royalty. Hats are also required on such occasions. Only top hats in silk are permitted. Opera pumps with black satin ribbons are appropriate, but black patent leather oxfords are also permitted. The most traditional of outfits, this is one that you do not mess around with.