With Christmas and New Year celebrations comes the black tie invitations. Corporate events or fancy friends, this is the time of year when you dust down your tuxedo. This should be seen as the opportunity to look your best and with an unlimited budget, there are some beautiful products available. If I had a spare £15k, I would invest in a diamond and pearl “dress set” from Deakin & Francis to accessorise my bespoke dress shirt. But there are a few more economical tips that can make you stand out for all the right reasons that will not break the bank.
Wear a black tie. There is a clue in the title. This means a black bow tie and not a long tie. It must be a real bow tie that you tie yourself.
Can’t tie a bow tie? Learn. It is a cool life skill. There are plenty of online tutorials.
3. Still can’t tie a bow tie! Purchase a real one one that can be unclipped at the back and ask the nice person in the shop to tie it for you. If they do not know, you are shopping in the wrong places.
4. Avoid most wing collar shirts. Opt for a turndown “normal” collar.
5. If your evening shirt was supplied with studs, do not wear them. They look cheap and cost pennies. You can buy better studs for not a lot of money that will improve your look.
6. Your studs should match your cufflinks. Perfectly.
7. Your wristwatch should complement your cufflinks. It should be slim with a black leather strap. James Bond can wear a sports watch with black tie. You can’t. If you do not have a suitable watch, do not wear one. You can find out the time from your mobile phone anyway.
8. You do not need to wear dress studs with your shirt. Some pedants even believe that it is incorrect to stud shirts for black tie.
9. Cummerbunds are great on the slim but are ugly on anyone with a belly. Be honest with yourself. Remember that a cummerbund should sit on the waist and is not a belt. You will need to wear your trousers high on the waist to allow the cummerbund to sit properly.
10. Wear braces. They will hold up your trousers at the correct height and keep everything in place.
11. If you own a dinner suit, make sure it is well pressed and in good repair. It is worth having your evening shirt professionally laundered between wears so that it is always in pristine condition.
12. Make sure you show plenty of shirt cuff, a little more than you would normally.
13. Be wary of anything novelty and avoid fancy waistcoats. And avoid anyone wearing a fancy waistcoat at a black tie event!
14. You can wear a little colour with your pocket handkerchief. Dark reds and purples always look elegant. But a simple white cotton or linen simply folded is always correct.
15. Wearing a flower in your lapel is supremely elegant and a cost effective and correct way of standing out. It should be a simple white or red bloom and no one will ask if you are getting married.
16. Wear plain long socks and make sure your shoes are immaculately polished.
17. Pay special attention to your grooming. Ask your barber how you could style your hair differently for a formal event. The “slicked back” look is very elegant and conjures up images of the 1930s but is not achieved by over-applying cheap hair gel. Your facial hair and fingernails should be recently trimmed.
18. Do not wear a white silk scarf at the event. If you happen to have an evening scarf, check it in with your coat.