Tuxedos & Formal Wear

7 Ways to Wear Black Tie

Sponsored by Hugo Boss

Once upon a time, if you told your guests to dress “black tie” for a special event, they knew exactly what to wear. The classic men’s formalwear uniform then (as now) included a black jacket (notched or peaked lapel, single button) with matching black trousers, a white shirt with studs instead of buttons, a black bow-tie, and either pumps or oxford shoes.

That combo still works, but it doesn’t give you much of a chance to show personality—or to stand out in a crowd. Hugo Boss, on the other hand, has a history of helping men look their best while also standing out and breaking the confines of stuffy, outdated rules. Together, we’ve created a guide to illustrate how to have fun with your formalwear.

1) Show Your Confident Side

Two types of tux jackets make an immediate statement. The shawl lapel, with its retro vibes, tells people you are not satisfied with the cookie-cutter tux look. There’s a hint of playfulness, and you’ll be adding curves where other jackets leave only angles—as with peak and notch lapels. The other style that screams “I know what I’m doing,” is the European-seeming, double-breasted jacket. But beware: Double-breasted jackets look best on tall and slim people (sorry to our short and stocky readers). And if you do opt for double-breasted, keep the rest of your outfit fairly straightforward. You don’t want to wear a statement jacket AND statement shirt or trousers.

2) Get Creative with Colors and Textures

Why stick with a black suit when you can stand out in all blue or white? Celebrities, in particular, have been showing up at red-carpet events in midnight blue or all-white suits to much fanfare, and now many of those options have trickled down to consumers. Another option: Play with texture. Velvet is currently having a moment. Some suit makers place texture in strategic spots; take, for example, faux leather lapels. Want people to touch you at a party? Play with texture.

3) It Doesn’t Have to be a White Shirt

Black on black is a bold look, it’s slimming, and it makes pairing easy since it sticks with neutrals. Different shades of black look just fine together in ways that different blues or greens might not. Remember that you can add pops of color with the pocket square, tie or lapel pin.

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4) Mix It up with the Tie or Bow Tie

The lazy/typical way to dress black tie is to settle with a black bow tie (and if you’re like most people, a pre-tied version). To add some eye candy, consider velvet or satin finishes — or even better, a patterned bow tie like the micropatterned one shown here.

5) Get Creative with Your Shoes

The traditional tux features shiny, patent leather slip-on shoes (loafers/slippers). But there are a few standard alternatives like derby shoes (see the embossed pair, below) and oxfords (in this case with subtle stripes). One other option is to play with the texture of the slip-on; consider velvet or suede shoes.

6) Show Personality Through Accessories

Pocket squares break up the monotony of a suit in ways that can be simple and elegant–or jarring and playful. For a black tie event, you’ll be best served with a silk or linen black or white pattern. But if you have the moxie, there are polka dots, colorful stripes, paisley swirls, and checks. Avoid matching the pocket square to the tie; that’s considered dull/obvious/amateur.

If you want a conversation-starter, find cufflinks that channel your hobbies or interests. In the simplest forms, these are round, square or rectangular cufflinks that add color pop. Some go a tad farther with the suggestion of modern art (like the Mondrian-esque pattern shown below, center) or ice-cream cones. Needless to say, if you love French Bulldogs, there’s a pair of cufflinks somewhere waiting just for you, too.

7) Stay Classic

When you’re pressed for time (or cash), sticking to the straight and narrow is just plain smart. In this case, you can optimize your outfit by making sure the tailoring is impeccable. Be especially careful about where the trousers break and the length of the sleeves of both the shirt and the jacket (especially since you’re wearing cufflinks).

For more tips on what to wear to formalwear events, check out our “Ultimate Guide to Men’s Suits and Tuxedos”.

Bottom Line

Dress codes are more relaxed these days than ever before, which means guys have more options to customize their look.

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