The Universal Theory of Black-tie
It seems to me that you can categorize all people who attend black-tie events by two properties. The first measures how strictly they follow the rigorous interpretation of black-tie like you might find on certain web sites or in certain books. The second measures how much independent thought has gone into this decision. If you’ve done management consulting you’ll probably be tempted at this point to create a two-by-two matrix whose entries reflect the four possible combinations: strict/thoughtful, non-strict/thoughtful, strict/non-thoughtful, and non-strict/non-thoughtful.
An example of a person in the strict/non-thoughtful (SN) category would be someone who strictly follows what they perceive to be the best interpretation of black-tie because they read on a web site or in a book by Alan Flusser that that’s what you need to do.
An example of a person in the strict/thoughtful (ST) category would be someone who strictly follows what they perceive to be the best interpretation of black-tie, and this decision is actually based on their independent assessment of the long history of black-tie and what’s best.
An example of a person in the non-strict/thoughtful (NT) category would be someone who considers the strict interpretation of black-tie to be more of a guideline than a rule, and this decision is based on their independent assessment of the history of black-tie, etc.
An example of a person in the non-strict/non-thoughtful (NN) category would be someone who freely violates the principles of black-tie because they’re trying to look like their favorite celebrity who happens to cheerfully violate any and all guidelines about what’s reasonable for black-tie.
My personal opinion is that both the ST or the NT people have reasonable opinions and ought to learn to respect the other’s while both the SN and NN people are worthy of a quick yet subtle sneer or two.
One two-by-two matrix that neatly summarizes everything. That will be $100K, please. Plus expenses.