Q My girlfriend gave me a very nice light blue Oxford shirt. She wants me to wear it with my tuxedo to our first post-vaccination black tie affair. I’ve never seen a blue shirt worn for a black tie. What do you think?
A You are right; this is definitely not the right shirt to wear for a black tie event. Still, a blue tipped Oxford cloth shirt is a great addition to a well-dressed man’s wardrobe. My advice: make sure you wear it for another special event as you go, so that she knows you appreciate her thoughtful gift.
In general, information on what to wear for men falls into two broad categories: 1.) helpful advice and flexible guidelines on what a man wears in various situations, and 2.) often referred to as ” formal dress code ”, fairly strict rules for both types of formal outfits, black tie and white tie.
In the first of these categories, choices vary across the menu, depending on the degree of casualness or dress of the occasion, the time of year, and the wearer’s taste and budget. Clothing can be casual, business or elegant / dressy. The final choices depend on the preference of the man wearing the clothes (or perhaps their loved one). Before deciding, he takes into account what he likes to look like, what image he wants to project in the world, how much clothes mean to him, and how much he’s willing to spend. Some choices are better than others, but they are generally not “right” or “wrong”. They are all the wearer’s choice.
But the second category, evening wear, is actually prescribed by a rather firm set of “rules”. These rules are not open to discussion, nor are they very flexible.
There are specific cuts and colors for ceremonial costumes. And, there is only one correct color for formal shirts … white. A blue shirt, no matter how thin the fabric, is simply not eligible. This is mainly wrong because of the color, and also because the fabric and details of an Oxford cloth shirt are not correct for formal dressing.
Looks like you have the right costume. The costumes are made of wool. The black jacket and pants are for the white tie; the same is generally true for the black tie (the tuxedo you have), although some may wear dark midnight blue or a seasonal white evening jacket. The suits come in one of three different collar and cuff styles: shawl, peaked, or notched. Cuffs are either satin (a silky, smooth, shiny fabric) or grosgrain (a thicker ribbed fabric). In addition to the three types of collars, there are two types of closures: single-breasted and double-breasted. By the way, double-breasted jackets are always buttoned up.
Naturally, the pants of the evening suit match the fabric of the jacket (except when wearing a white tuxedo). A ribbon runs on the outside of the pant leg; it matches the fabric of the reverse. Another note on the pants: this is the only time the cuffs are never worn. Wearing cuffs on trousers originated in England; they were called “cuffs” because the men pulled up the hem of their pants to protect them from dirt as they walked around their estates. So, men wore cuffs on their tweed or country flannel suits, but not on formal evening wear.
Black tie dress shirts have French cuffs, cufflinks and studs, are white with pleats, and have a turn-down point collar. Wing necklaces are so flattering that they are often worn but not as traditionally correct.
Optional black tie items include cummerbunds and vests (vests), but not both together. Belts are not suitable for formal clothing. Not optional – but mandatory – black tie items include a bow tie, shiny black shoes, and classic black socks.
While black and white is the decent and most elegant look, small touches – including colorful bow ties, cummerbunds, and buttonholes – have become acceptable in limited circumstances; but to be sure, count on black and white to be right.
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