Back To The Black Tie Basics

Almost everyone can relate to the confusion and slight intimidation that usually accompanies the words “black tie optional” or “formal attire”, or even just “black tie”. “What does that even mean?”, might cross your mind while you try and scan the invitation for clues. Luckily, we have come up with a handy guide to the black tie basics for all you puzzled gentlemen out there.


Suits and Tuxedos

For most people, it is hard to tell the difference between a suit and a tux, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. To start, here are the primary physical differences:



  • Jacket and pants are black or midnight blue
  • Lapel and buttons are satin
  • Trousers have a satin side stripe
  • Lapel would be peaked, notched, or shawl
  • Jacket can be double or single breasted
  • A cummerbund is worn with the folds pointing upward
  • A waistcoat can be worn instead, but only with a single-breasted jacket



  • Jacket and pants can be any color
  • No satin
  • The lapel can be any style
  • Instead of a cummerbund or waistcoat, a regular vest is more common

Note: A three-piece suit is NOT a tuxedo



9tailors bonus tip: Shawl lapel = slimmer silhouette.



As far as shirts go, a regular button down shirt is not acceptable at a black tie affair. The convention is a white dress shirt with a turned down collar. The plackets are covered and the front panel is a heavier material, typically with texture. If you want to add a little flair without straying from tradition, try horizontal-ridged pleating on your tuxedo shirt. Below is what your shirt and tuxedo should look like put together.





Hair should be washed and brushed.  Similarly, you should be clean-shaven (unless you always have a beard or moustache). If you have a beard or moustache, make sure it is trimmed and brushed.



Bow tie: Don’t let the words black tie fool you. At black tie events, a hand-tied bow tie is the convention. If you need help learning how to tie one yourself, check out our Instagram tutorial (@9tailors).

Pocket Square: You’re pocket square should be plain white and preferably silk. You can find several tutorials on how to make various pocket square folds on our Instagram as well.

Socks: Black silk evening socks are technically correct but these are not widely sold and most people wear conventional black wool or cotton socks

Shoes: Well-polished, black dress shoes are perfectly acceptable (patent leather or otherwise).

Belts: Belts are not usually worn. Opt for suspenders (black), or rely on the side buckles on your trousers.

Other: Studs and cuff links, in silver of course, are a must.


Now that you’re all set up to look your best at the next black tie event you attend, be sure to contact us at info@9tailors for the perfect tux!