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The origins of "Black Tie" are mostly debated the world over. Americans will say that it was first discovered at the Tuxedo Club in New York, and was the idea of Pierre Lorillard and his son Griswold. Supposedly they became bored of the then conventional "White Tie faff". Supposedly, Pierre and Griswold appeared one evening to the club in their own make-shift version of "White Tie," which were then followed by initial shock. However, once the noise died down, men decided that they rather liked the the simplicity of the idea, and so it caught on.
The British, however, say that it was the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, who first wore a similar style to an event in Monte Carlo for similar reasons as Lorillard. A definitive answer may most likely never be agreed upon.
However, the rules are perfectly clear. The Hollywood 'A-list' gentlemen take note — Here is what you should and should not be wearing.
Hair: This should be washed and brushed. Similarly, you should be clean-shaved (unless you always have a beard or mustache). There is no point going to a smart event if your head and face looks like it hasn’t seen a comb or razor in years.
Shirt: A white dress shirt with a turned-down collar is called for with Black Tie. Winged collars, once acceptable, are now the reserve of the White Tie dress code. Dress shirts, which are generally slightly thicker in material, have a marcella or frilled front. Button-down collars are a no-no. Dress shirts can be fastened with buttons or with studs and are double-cuffed.
Bow tie: Black Tie does not mean a black necktie: they are for funerals and down-market actors. Bow ties should be hand-tied (Her Majesty the Queen is said to be able to spot a ‘fake’, pre-tied bow tie a mile off.) If you cannot tie one, then I suggest you learn.
Jacket: Black, or midnight blue, jackets can be single- or double-breasted with either peaked or shawl lapels. Double-breasted jackets (of any variety) often look best on very slim men. Dinner jackets are never fastened when single-breasted. Unlike day suit jackets, dinner jackets have no vents at the back, and the buttons are ‘covered’. White dinner jackets are only acceptable in tropical climates – unless you want to look like the barman.
Pocket square: If you wish to wear a ‘top pocket handkerchief’ then you may do so. In white or Red.
Accessories: Visible timepieces are technically not worn, although a wristwatch is okay. White gloves and scarves are a bit over-the-top nowadays and were previously only worn when traveling to and from the venue.
Braces: Don’t wear a belt! ...even if hidden by a cummerbund. Instead go with braces, preferably black.
Cummerbund: Worn around the waist instead of a waistcoat, cummerbunds are sadly going out of style. The folds should point upwards.
Decorations: Not usually worn to Black Tie events unless the invitation reads ‘decorations’.
Shoes: Polished, smart black shoes are more than acceptable. However, if you own black patent leather shoes that is preferred.
Socks: Black silk evening socks are technically correct but these are not widely sold and most people wear regular black wool or cotton socks.
Trousers: These should match the material of the jacket and are usually tapered slightly with one braid running down the outside of each leg.Waistcoat: Very rarely seen nowadays but they should be low-cut and worn only with a single-breasted jacket.