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The State of Black Tie: Your Observations

post #1 of 3230
Thread Starter 
So, I just went to a black tie wedding over the weekend in D.C. and made some observations of what people wore. I don't go to black tie events more than once or twice a year so my exposure is highly limited. So, I thought it might be interesting to compare and contrast with others on the forum have observed. What is the state of black tie, in your personal experience? Please provide some context (ex: 1% vs. 99% guest list . . . j/k j/k, calm down).

My observations:

The event was an evening wedding at a nice hotel in D.C. (black tie stipulated on invitation), with ~250 guests (no children invited) who were mostly professionals and covered a very broad age spectrum (20-80 years old).

Almost all men wore black, but just as many wore black suits as proper dinner jackets. Of those wearing dinner jackets, the vast majority had something 'wrong' per the rules circulated on the forums: lots of two- or three-button single-breasted jackets, more notch lapels than peak lapels, vents almost universally present. More esoteric options were almost entirely absent. One other person other than myself wore a shawl lapeled jacket.

Shirts were mostly white, regularly buttoning business shirts. I only noticed two or three men in studs, and they were all older gentlemen. All studs I saw were simple onyx on gold or silver. I noticed no other guests wearing single cuffs. However, I also noticed no barrel cuffs, either. Everyone wore French cuffs.

Cummerbunds and vests were rare. Maybe a third or fourth of the men there wore bow ties. The clear majority wore long, black ties. A surprising number wore pocket squares, but not well--lots of folded white silk.

Shoes were a random assortment. It appeared as if men simply picked whatever black business shoes they happen to own. A lot of ugly square-toed loafers. Lots of cap toes, brogues and derbies. I saw maybe four or five other men in patent leather. No evening slippers to be seen.

There seemed to be no discernible norm for women. Some wore short cocktail dresses (as my wife did) and some wore long, floor-length gowns. Some even wore dressy blouses with short skirts. Generally the dress length correlated with age. Many had the good sense to wear some sort of shawl during the ceremony (which was very religious), but I was surprised by the number that remained bare shouldered. At the past few non-black tie weddings I've been to, shawls were universally worn during the ceremony.
post #2 of 3230
I wish I could have any occasion at all to wear black tie, but I doubt I ever will in my life. I'm 30, live in DC, and neither my social life (not holding my breath for any invitations to black tie weddings, New Years or election galas, etc.) nor my professional life (in academia) afford any prospect of wearing black tie.

It's a shame, because I would like to own and wear a tuxedo - if I were to do it, I'd do midnight blue, single button/breasted with peak lapels, grosgrain facing, bowtie, with black waistcoat, onyx on silver studs. Would then have to make decisions regarding shirt and shoes.

But given the paucity of occasions for almost everyone, making an event black tie when it need not be (wedding, for instance) just means that you'll get a lot of people who are poorly dressed for the occasion. As such, you might as well just specify coat and tie and have people looking better. Which in turn feeds into the paucity of occasions, perpetuating the vicious cycle.
post #3 of 3230
I think I have worn a tux twice in my life and once was to my senior prom. I will probably get a bespoke one when I get married, if I get married. Would love to have a day wedding in morningwear, but that would be even less useful in a wardrobe than a tux. If I had fuck you money I would certainly wear a tux every day after six, but sha-la-la. I would get side vents, that is probably the only thing I will do out of the norm. They look better, more comfortable, and if I change my mind I can always have them sewn back up.
post #4 of 3230
Just as you said I very rarely get invited to black tie events. I have a black tie wedding this spring and am going to a black tie NYE event. However, aside from that the last time I wore a tux was on a cruise this summer.

Now for the stuff that will make you cringe, foo. My tuxedo is 3-roll-2, notch lapel and ventless. I await your death threats. All that said, I have purchased this tux, quirks and all, quite on purpose. Aside from the FU nuances that someone who actually knows something about menswear might get from my tux (which I do enjoy), I generally am not present at conservative or overly-formal black tie occasions.

As a young man I see this as an opportunity to have a bit of fun with my tux. This is also the reason I generally wear my tux with evening slippers. Now granted if I was attending incredibly stuffy events or those in which formality should overshadow individual expression I would buy a new, more classic tuxedo. However, I find the majority of my "black tie" events are merely an excuse for most guys, especially those my age, to wear a black suit, black tie and the square toed abominations you referenced. At this juncture there's no reason to get caught up in the "rules."

I'll now duck your incoming rotten tomatoes. biggrin.gif
post #5 of 3230
I go to about a half-dozen black tie events per year. These are fundraiser gala dinner type events where the invitation says either black tie or black tie optional. I own my own DB dinner jacket, but I would guess the majority of the gentlemen who attend these things rent. The ones who don't rent have bought something notch-lapeled at JAB and wear it with a pre-tied bow tie, often in a "festive" color like red, or occasionally a long black silk tie. Before I lost weight and "undergrew" it, I would sometimes wear an ivory SB shawl lapel DJ in the summer, and I would be the only gentleman there so attired. There is always a significant percentage of guests who ignore the dress code and show up in gray pinstripe suits etc., especially at the black tie optional events.

That may be a function of where I live (and where you attended the wedding) not being bastions of black tie expertise. I don't really mind it. It makes me feel less bad if I sneakily wear my captoes instead of patent leather.
post #6 of 3230
Quote:
Originally Posted by patrickBOOTH View Post

I think I have worn a tux twice in my life and once was to my senior prom. I will probably get a bespoke one when I get married, if I get married. Would love to have a day wedding in morningwear, but that would be even less useful in a wardrobe than a tux. If I had fuck you money I would certainly wear a tux every day after six, but sha-la-la. I would get side vents, that is probably the only thing I will do out of the norm. They look better, more comfortable, and if I change my mind I can always have them sewn back up.

I'd do the standard unvented. If you had fuck you money I guess you could be goign to places where a tux is more the norm? But where are those places these days? It's obviously not that I or you couldn't afford a tux, just that we'd look ridiculous in it at all of our evening occasions.
post #7 of 3230
Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

It's obviously not that I or you couldn't afford a tux, just that we'd look ridiculous in it at all of our evening occasions.

Worth it. icon_gu_b_slayer[1].gif
post #8 of 3230

Last time I went to a black tie occasion was a British Embassy ball in DC, where I was more interested in getting my tux off (at least I was properly dressed at one point) as soon as possible with a particular friend of my sister's. To cut a long story short, we were eventually asked to leave by security after being discovered in what we had assumed was a private place...

 

Since then, no invites, funnily enough, and I doubt I'd enjoy any black tie occasion quite as much anyway!

post #9 of 3230
That's a fun tux story.

I am just really happy that I didn't want any of those douchey colored ties, and vests and such. I look at my photos and I look quite good. Well, a bit fat, but good.
post #10 of 3230
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bourbonbasted View Post

Now for the stuff that will make you cringe, foo. My tuxedo is 3-roll-2, notch lapel and ventless. I await your death threats. All that said, I have purchased this tux, quirks and all, quite on purpose. Aside from the FU nuances that someone who actually knows something about menswear might get from my tux (which I do enjoy), I generally am not present at conservative or overly-formal black tie occasions.
As a young man I see this as an opportunity to have a bit of fun with my tux.

Proper black tie is a purposeful departure from the way we normally dress for work, so i don't understand how turning your dinner suit into more of a regular business suit would be fun. Also, I don't think anyone is going to think you're being clever. The assumption is more likely to be that--just like everyone else in a notch-lapeled, three-button 'dinner jacket'--you just didn't know better.
post #11 of 3230
feels more like a faux tux story.
post #12 of 3230
I have to say I personally cringe whenever I see any dinner jacket that is notch lapel or is single breasted but not singled buttoned. Just looks terrible to me, and a complete waste of an opportunity, but to each his own.
post #13 of 3230
Quote:
Originally Posted by mafoofan View Post

Proper black tie is a purposeful departure from the way we normally dress for work, so i don't understand how turning your dinner suit into more of a regular business suit would be fun.

I suppose I see breaking the rules as fun. I know we don't see eye-to-eye on that (learned in the 99%ers threak). That said when you put it like you have it sounds a lot less interesting of a piece than I think of it as shog[1].gif. I've never seen another tux that looks like it. Granted it might be construed as more in the spirit of classic business dress, but as someone that hardly ever wears a suit I have never drawn that parallel. Interesting point.

I have designs on a far more conservative tux in the future (probably whenever I can find one for a decent price). However, in the meantime, I don't see a need or a reason to buy a new one. Plus it fits immensely well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by unbelragazzo View Post

I have to say I personally cringe whenever I see any dinner jacket that is notch lapel or is single breasted but not singled buttoned. Just looks terrible to me, and a complete waste of an opportunity, but to each his own.

Again, there is something to be said for making someone who actually knows the rules cringe. It reminds me of a story DWF told me about someone ordering bespoke shoes and specifically requesting a creak.
post #14 of 3230

Even in regular suit-wearing occasions, shoes are probably the normal's guy's "achilles heel". Add the formal setting and wham! those square toed loafers really stand out.

 

I usually have one or two black tie events a year, but they're always "creative black tie". No one really knows, or follows, the "rules", at least in my circle, so I just like to wear something festive like a velvet jacket. A lot of guys will usually be in a black suit and skinny black tie which usually looks good to me. I don't have a full formal rig, maybe someday. For now, I kind of like the approach of mixing hi-low... like black jeans, pleated tux shirt and some kind of fancy jacket. At least it works for the events I go to.

post #15 of 3230
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bourbonbasted View Post

I suppose I see breaking the rules as fun. I know we don't see eye-to-eye on that (learned in the 99%ers threak). That said when you put it like you have it sounds a lot less interesting of a piece than I think of it as shog[1].gif. I've never seen another tux that looks like it. Granted it might be construed as more in the spirit of classic business dress, but as someone that hardly ever wears a suit I have never drawn that parallel.

Yes, well, this draws attention to why rule breaking and being reactionary doesn't pay-off unless you have a good reason for it. You just wind up shooting yourself in the foot. The 99% is the 99% because it is too ignorant to realize it isn't being clever or innovative at all.
Quote:
Originally Posted by bourbonbasted View Post

Again, there is something to be said for making someone who actually knows the rules cringe. It reminds me of a story DWF told me about someone ordering bespoke shoes and specifically requesting a creak.

But that's stupid.
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