Deconstructing Dress Codes

Categories Fashion

From our Classic Edition, our guide to traditional dress codes… and how to play around with them for the modern event.

White Tie:
A black tailcoat worn over a white starched shirt, Marcella waistcoat, white bow tie, high-waisted black trousers, and patent leather black shoes. A top hat and white scarf can be worn as accessories and if you really want to ladle it on, you could also add white gloves, a cane and a monocle (though that last one will just make people thinking you’re taking the piss).


Black Tie:
Semiformal dress (in comparison to White Tie) for wearing to events after 7pm, comprising a white dress shirt, a black bow tie (not a necktie), a cummerbund, a dinner jacket (a tuxedo) either black or midnight blue on which the shawl lapels and trouser braid are of silk, satin, grosgrain or a contrasting material to the jacket, and black Oxford dress shoes.


A black suit, white shirt and black shoes with a tie, colour optional, for evening wear.


Lounge suit:
A suit, tie and shoes, colours optional.


Smart casual:
A collared shirt with trousers or chinos, a blazer, covered shoes, no jeans. Tie, optional.


Deconstructing Black Tie

From patterned double-breasted jackets to tapered pants, modern men at black tie events seem as interested in experimenting with the conventions of the code as they are observing it. The big awards nights year for actors and self-congratulators are a good barometer on how dress codes are being interpreted. Here’s some examples…

Tinie Tempah
The fashion-conscious rapper demonstrates the increasingly common incorporation of ‘casual’ footwear into the Black Tie ensemble, even when certain casual shoes can cost far more than a pair of black dress shoes (which is one reason people feel they can wear them to Black Tie events). If it’s a look you like, we’d advise sticking with black or white or a combination of both, though we have also seen men in tuxes wearing red and also yellow trainers.


Lewis Hamilton
The F1 champion with a taste for LV, Givenchy and Balmain attends a lot of high end functions and is never afraid to play with the Black Tie concept. In fact, we don’t remember seeing him in ‘traditional’ Black Tie for years. Here he shows us a truly contemporary take on Black Tie at this year’s Met Gala Ball in New York, wearing a Dolce & Gabbana three-piece double-breasted peak lapel tuxedo in ocean blue silk jacquard fabric with embroidered slippers. On point.


Zachary Levi
For when you want to keep it in the ballpark of tradition, but give it a tweak, actor/director Zachary Levi leads the way in this light-coloured suit with black lapels exaggerated by the collar resuming the suit’s main colour above the peak. Eye-catching.


Rami Malek
It didn’t say Blue Tie, it said Black Tie, but this is the world we live in. Mr Malek, an actor in the Mr Robot cult TV show, knows he’ll turn more heads on this red carpet by doing Black Tie style in all blue. And he was right. He looks spiffing.


Jared Leto
The actor and musician is known as one of the more eccentric of current talents so it’s perhaps no surprise that he chose a Black Tie function to come in what is essentially White Tie… without the tie. We include him merely as more evidence of how the dress code is, these days, more honoured in the breach than the observance. Love to see what he’d wear to a White Tie function.


Tom Ford
If it’s good enough for one of the most influential men in fashion… Tom always keeps it fairly traditional when it comes to Black Tie, perhaps the double-breasted jacket being the only evidence of ‘messing’ with the code.
Otherwise, this is the picture the dictionary should run next to the words ‘Black Tie’.


The Future
At this year’s Met Gala Ball, (above), Jeremy Scott and Zayn Malik perhaps showed us the future of Black Tie, a fusion of technology and tailoring in keeping with the theme of the exhibition which the Ball promotes: Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology. The virtual reality event, in which you dress the stars any way you want from a Minecraft-sized menu, is coming.


Just, No.
We spotted this chap on our travels and had to include as an example of, uh uh, oh no, please, never do this. It looks like he was on the phone while dressing, grabbed his suit pants instead of his tux pants, and exited without passing a mirror. Just… no.


From our Classic Edition: