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Black Tie Dress Code: What You Need to Know

What is a Black Tie Dress Code?

Black tie formal events are a rare opportunity to dress up in your best attire and look red-carpet-ready. For ladies, black tie events mean wearing an elegant evening gown, perhaps one that’s all black or covered with sequins. For men, these occasions are the perfect chance to sport a dapper tuxedo or dinner suit. 

The black-tie dress code is pretty specific for men, meaning there's not a lot of room for guesswork. You can express your style and personality with your accessories, but the basics of black tie formal are simple. Nevertheless, if you’re attending your first black tie event, you probably have a few questions about your dress and grooming. 

If you want to look like James Bond for an evening, stick around! This article overviews the black tie dress code to help you prepare for your special occasion.

Common Black Tie Events


Black-tie events are some of the fanciest, second only to white-tie affairs, in which men wear tailcoats and women dress in floor-length gowns. Some of the most common black tie events are:

  • Formal weddings
  • Galas/balls
  • Award ceremonies
  • High-end company parties

Still, not all weddings, parties, or ceremonies require a black-tie dress code. To find out whether your upcoming event does, look at your invitation. It should specify the type of attire guests should wear. 

Sometimes, events are black tie optional, meaning you have the choice of wearing your most formal attire or opting for a semi-formal dress code instead.  For example, ladies may wear an evening or cocktail dress, and men can wear a tuxedo or a formal black suit and tie. However, we encourage you to dress in your finest attire, especially if you have never had the chance to wear a tuxedo!

What to Wear to a Black Tie Event

At this point, you know that black-tie events call for tuxedos. Still, it's not as simple as putting on any tuxedo you find. There are some guidelines you should follow as to the color and style of your attire. But don’t worry, we’ll walk you through it! 

Let's look at the specifics of a formal outfit, starting with the details of your tux and finishing with accessories, such as cuff links and tie bars.

Dark Tuxedos 

Classic black tuxedos are the standard at formal events, but other dark colors are usually acceptable, such as:

  • Dark blue
  • Dark grey
  • Burgundy
  • Dark green

Midnight blue is an excellent choice because it isn't flashy and looks shinier than black in artificial lighting. An off-white dinner jacket paired with black trousers may be appropriate, mainly if you live in a warm climate. Meanwhile, burgundy or dark green tuxedos have a vintage vibe and are a good choice for daring men who want to show off their style.


Another factor to consider when choosing a tux is the lapels since there are three different types — peaked, notch, and shawl. 

Most suit jackets and blazers have notch lapels. Since people feel comfortable with this lapel style, you’ll also find tuxedos with notch lapels. However, it's not the smartest lapel nor the most classic style. 

Peak lapels are the best choice since they are traditional, formal, and fashion-forward. However, you can also go with a shawl lapel if it suits your style. This lapel had no point or notch, giving it a curved shape. 


Traditionally, tuxedos were made of silk, but wool is much more common today. If you want to put a chic touch on your outfit, you can go for a velvet dinner jacket. However, this fabric doesn’t lend itself to warm weather, so if you’re dressing for a summer event, stick with merino wool or another lightweight fabric. 

Formal Shirts

There isn't much room for personal expression regarding tuxedo shirts.  They should be white, pleated, and have winged collars. Make sure your dress shirt has holes for cufflinks on the sleeves. 

If you want to wear a cummerbund, choosing a white shirt with black buttons is best. Meanwhile, if you plan on wearing a vest (waistcoat), white buttons would be fine. So, how do you decide between a cummerbund and a vest?

Wear a cummerbund if you want to go all out and respect the dress code. The original purpose of the cummerbund was to hide the waist, creating a strong V at the chest and shoulders that flatters your figure. So, if you wear a cummerbund, make sure you place it correctly and that it matches the color of your tuxedo.

Still, cummerbunds aren't the only way to look sophisticated and create a flattering shape. Vests accomplish the same thing, especially when they are a deep U-cut. If this isn’t your style, you can wear a V-cut vest instead. We recommend vests for summer black tie events because you can remove your jacket if you get too hot while still looking stylish. 

Bow Ties

The black-tie dress code calls for a bow tie instead of a standard necktie. A black bow tie is traditional, but ideally, your bow tie should match the color of your tuxedo. 

In some cases, men opt for a color other than that of their tux. If you go this route, make sure it isn't flashy and is a solid color. Moreover, avoid white bow ties since these are reserved for fancier white-tie events. 

PRIME Neckwear has a wide variety of solid-color bow ties, so it's easy to find the one that best suits your tuxedo and is up to par with black-tie standards. Moreover, we offer both pre-tied and self-tied styles. If possible, we recommend you go with the latter. Although it takes a bit longer to get ready, especially if you don’t know how to tie a bow tie, its less-than-perfect appearance will let others know that you did it yourself. 

In addition to a bow tie, you can use a pocket square. Like your bow tie, it should be simple, not flashy. 

Classic Formal Shoes

Even if you already have a pair of black dress shoes for work, you'll need to take it up a notch. Your footwear should be black and patent leather to match your evening wear. However, you can wear velvet slippers if you want to do something different. 

Remember that your socks may show when you sit down, so avoid wearing anything that looks out of place with your outfit. Black evening socks are best and won't detract from your elegant ensemble.

Matching Metals

Your outfit isn’t complete without some accessories. Traditionally, men wear cuff links, a formal watch, and a tie bar. 

None of your accessories should be showy or too extravagant. Keep it simple so you don’t detract from your overall appearance. On the other hand, avoid using your everyday casual watch or a smartwatch since these are not up to black tie standards. 

Moreover, you should coordinate your metals. Wear a silver watch if your tie bar and cuff links are silver. If you have a gold wedding ring, go with gold accessories. 

Arrive in Black Tie Style with PRIME Neckwear

Going to your first black tie formal event means following a specific dress code. Fortunately, it's not too hard to put together a sleek outfit with the help of this article. If you still can't decide what to wear, there’s no harm in going for the classic black tuxedo, white shirt, and black bow tie. 

Whether you play it safe or have fun adding personal touches to your outfit, browse our bow ties and accessories. You'll find just what you need to complete your outfit! 

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Kenneth Willett

- May 29, 2024

what to wear with white suit

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