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White Tie vs. Black Tie: Dueling Formalities

Most men know not to show up to a wedding in a t-shirt and cargo shorts. Similarly, when men are invited to a formal event, a button-up shirt and jeans simply won’t cut it.

For those who don’t own a tuxedo, three words can strike fear into their hearts-- Black Tie Required or even, White Tie Required.

Any tuxedo is considered formal, and a slim fit tuxedo is appropriate enough for many events. However, certain dress codes adhere to strict rules of dress. Here’s an overview of the tenants for certain styles of dress.

Black Tie
Considered the less formal of the two major options, black tie is named for the required black bow tie (a long tie is considered unacceptable). Tuxedo jackets should be peak lapel or shawl collar only. The pants, shoes, socks and cummerbund (or waist covering) should all be black to contrast the white shirt. Black studs are recommended, however, mother of pearl is also considered tasteful. Shoes should be patent leather and well-polished. Velvet slippers are appropriate for the host or big-name fashion designers, otherwise, stick to the patent leather oxfords. A wingtip or turn-down collar are equally appropriate on a pique front shirt.

White Tie
This more formal dress code is named for the white bow tie (again, a long tie is completely unacceptable). White tie dress is far less common than black tie and considerably more strict. White tie asks that, unless otherwise denoted, men wear tailcoats (black or midnight blue), often with peak lapels. Wingtip collared shirts are the only acceptable option as turndown collars are considered less formal. A white waistcoat is also required in the style of dress. Like black tie, white tie requires studs and cufflinks along with a plain front white shirt, black silk socks and black patent leather oxfords.

Other Formal Dress Codes
There is technically a slightly more formal style of dress, White tie with medals, sometimes called white tie with decorations. This particular style calls for men to dress in white tie, but to wear the medals they or their family have earned. An important distinction: if a man has personally been awarded the medal, he wears it on the left side of his jacket, if the medal was passed down from a family member it is worn on the right side.

The least formal of dress codes involving tuxedos is black tie optional/black tie preferred, meaning that a man is encouraged to dress in black tie. However, a very nice suit is acceptable. Many men take this as an opportunity to wear a tuxedo and add their own personal touches to the dress.

Check back with us often to learn more about men’s formal wear.