Current State of Black Tie Attire?

Discussion in 'General Attire & Accoutrements' started by MondoFW, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. MondoFW

    MondoFW Practically Family

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    Hopefully this is the appropriate section, a moderator may move this to Suits, if not.

    I was hoping to canvass the Lounge's opinions, observations, gripes, etc with the way black tie is worn today. Now, as some may know, I'm likely the youngest member to grace the Lounge (someone may correct me on this, I'd love to be proven wrong), incidentally I have only gone to a few black tie events. Two weddings, and a dinner for my aunt's law firm, all three in which I wore my grandfather's shawl lapel Saks Fifth tuxedo and opera shoes, and cummerbund. Unfortunately, grandma is still holding onto pops' black tie ensemble, so don't expect any pictures :(

    Anyway, to the point. At these three events, all of which were prior to my interest in vintage fashions and when I was observant about how it's changed with culture, I could not help but notice many faux pas's that break the conventions of black tie. Notch lapels, two-button closures, brown shoes (eek!), cap-toes, suspender + belts (really?), unconventional colors, neckties, the list goes on. Some don't either follow the dress code at all, and instead disguise black business suits as tuxes.

    Has this lack of interest in following the conventions of black tie been a continual process since, say, the 1970's? Is it a matter of being able to afford all the pieces required? What do y'all think?
     
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  2. Zoukatron

    Zoukatron One of the Regulars

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    I would argue it is part of the general trend towards more casual dress which dates back way before the '70s. A lot of people have no interest in dressing formally and do not like being forced to dress formally. It's not surprising that people have lost knowledge of the details has basically been eroded to no more than: it's a black suit with silk lapels. I would also argue that in conjunction with this, modern clothing manufacturers push towards dinner suits just being black lounge suits with silk lapels - it makes it much cheaper for them to make in bulk (this would not be an issue if people generally went to tailors still). If price has anything to do with it, I think that is just because of a perceived idea people may have about formal wear being more expensive.
     
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  3. MondoFW

    MondoFW Practically Family

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    I suppose you're right about people not wanting to don black tie forcefully. I've heard that people will sometimes opt out of an event if it's black tie. A shame, really. There are also a plethora of tutorials on the internet--lack of knowledge is almost inexcusable, no?
     
  4. Zoukatron

    Zoukatron One of the Regulars

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    To an extent I think a lot of people don't even recognise faux pas to be excused.

    I think another reason we see things like this is because some people are uncomfortable with being dressy at all. Look at neckties for example: lots of people don't like being forced to wear neckties for work, so they buy ones which are less conventional. These may not be completey casual examples with cartoons on, but maybe some sort of weird pattern that they don't perceive as being conservative and stuffy. Unfortunately, in my opinion at least, these ties end up looking worse. For similar reasons, I think some people would actively choose a notch lapel on a dinner suit.
     
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  5. avedwards

    avedwards Call Me a Cab

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    I would say it's a combination of clothing having become more casual for several decades and a lack of knowledge of black tie as a dress code.

    It's a shame because black tie can be done correctly relatively cheaply. Off the peg one button dinner jackets with a shawl collar or peak lapel are available and turndown collar dress shirts, bow ties and cummerbunds are not difficult to find. When I worked in the private sector our annual Christmas party was a black tie occasion and I tried to encourage as many people as possible to wear self tying bow ties (with the offer of tying them for people if they couldn't do so themselves) in an effort to improve the standard.
     
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  6. Guttersnipe

    Guttersnipe One Too Many

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    I would echo that any loosening of formal wear rules merely parallels a broader relaxing of sartorial conventions. In the twenty-first century, for the vast majority of men, suits are a costume of adulthood and certain professions rather than everyday clothing. Formal wear is an extreme example of this because the average American man probably wears a tuxedo once in his life, when he gets married.

    However, is bears saying that certain pet peeves of the Fedora Lounge hive mind are not actually formal wear faux pax. For example, notch-lapel dinner jackets have existed since the early twentieth century and have never been considered incorrect, but rather just too informal for certain occasions. The same is true of colored ties, cummerbunds, and cap-toe shoes.
     
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  7. Zoukatron

    Zoukatron One of the Regulars

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    I think whether notch lapels on dinner jackets are faux pas or not really comes down to personal opinion. I'm sure many people throughout the lifetime of the notch lapel dinner jacket have considered it a faux pas. Personally, I don't see the typical notch lapels, two-button, flap-pocketed etc. dinner jacket not so much as a faux pas, but as something that makes me ask: why even bother with black tie?
     
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  8. avedwards

    avedwards Call Me a Cab

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    A one button notch lapel dinner jacket with jetted pockets, worn with a turndown collar dress shirt, black self tied bow tie and black cummerbund would be perfectly acceptable and elegant. However, all too often notch lapel dinner jackets come with two buttons, pocket flaps and are worn with a coloured clip on bow tie, a shirt with a tiny attached wing collar and a waistcoat cut like a daytime waistcoat.

    I personally don't think coloured bow ties have any place in black tie. Coloured cummerbunds can be done, providing they every other element of the outfit is "correct". Cap toe shoes are passable providing they are well polished.
     
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  9. Jaxenro

    Jaxenro One of the Regulars

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    I think it is a lack of uderstanding that following the "rules" is what makes black tie so elegant and anything else is cheap and gaudy. People wnat to stand out when one of the purposes of black tie is not to stand out, or only to stand out by the proper application of the correct elements.

    Fit, materials, and tieing it all together as a comprehensive whole are what makes black tie work. Once you get all that correct if you want to try a two button or a notch lapel you can.

    But as for the conventions they are gone people wear what they want and call it black tie even if the tie isn't black

    Also Hollywood bears a large responsibility if you look at what passes for black tie today at awards shows it is disgusting. Yet people take their cues from there and figure if some multi millionaire celebrity wears it it must be OK. Often today, as was the case historically, money and taste don't always travel in the same circle
     
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  10. MondoFW

    MondoFW Practically Family

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    Definitely agree with this. I tune into the award shows occasionally, and can't help but notice the inherent deviation from traditional black tie. I've yet to even attend a prom, but have seen others don zany, wacky, unconventional garb in order to stand out. But the charm of black tie is the simplicity and conventions of it, for sure. If you want to stand out that badly (sporting a pac-man tuxedo to prom isn't the BEST method), express it creatively through lounge or casual attire, go ahead.
    I suppose cap toes get a pass if they're cleaned. I second the part about colored ties, though. Luckily, I rarely see the colored necktie, it's usually a black one. I don't wear bow ties, but surely learning how to tie one isn't THAT hard, right? Besides, even I can admit they look more dapper than neckties, and I'm necktie all the way when it comes to the world of cravats.
     
  11. Jaxenro

    Jaxenro One of the Regulars

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    Re colored ties what is it about black tie that is hard to understand that you should wear a black tie? I mean it’s called BLACK TIE because you wear a BLACK TIE. Wearing a colored tie is a bit like playing tennis with a bowling ball
     
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  12. avedwards

    avedwards Call Me a Cab

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    True, most celebrities don't wear black tie very well, which sets a bad example. Brad Pitt is an exception and usually wears properly.

    Bow ties are relatively easy to tie once you learn how to do it. There are plenty of YouTube videos showing how it's done and I've found that sales assistants in higher end menswear stores are sometimes able to demonstrate.
     
  13. Upgrade

    Upgrade One of the Regulars

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    It truly depends on how formal the occasion is.

    Weddings and dinners mostly tend to be slightly above business casual, especially by young people. As these are usually celebratory occasions, people still want to be respectful, but relaxed and show off personality. Same goes for prom, quinceanera, bar/bat mitzvah, graduation etc.

    For funerals, suits and attire are unquestionably somber and unconventionality is frowned upon. Though this can change for a non-Western funeral or if the person particularly celebrated unconventionality in life.

    For most young people, there isn’t much call for a suit except for a few select instances when one is required. Hence the advice proffered to high school grads about keeping one suit for the wardrobe for the job interview/wedding/funeral.

    Actual black tie is more rigidly enforced for state dinners, cotillions, ballroom dances, theatre/opera etc. (and perhaps some awards shows) At that point, you might as well and go all the way to white tie.

    That quote from Downton Abbey about black tie being slovenly compared to white tie is somehow appropriate to this.
     
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2018
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  14. avedwards

    avedwards Call Me a Cab

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    Lounge suits can be worn in a way that can looks relaxed and shows personality, for example with coloured ties, pocket squares and unusual cufflinks. The era this forum focuses on is an excellent example of how suits could be worn without looking like a uniform.

    Black tie on the other hand is a reasonably rigid dress code. Departing from it without knowing how to do it properly risks looking sloppy. I suspect that most people who wear black tie poorly are doing so because they don't know how to do it properly or they can't be bothered to put the effort in, rather than an attempt to look different.
     
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  15. Jaxenro

    Jaxenro One of the Regulars

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    I think you are 100% spot on. Black tie is a uniform of sorts just made to a pattern like officers used to private purchase as opposed to being issued. Not doing it correctly looks sloppy and “out of uniform” so to speak

    The ironic thing is so many do it incorrectly to be different that doing it correctly is now “different”
     
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  16. MondoFW

    MondoFW Practically Family

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    Wholeheartedly agree with this. Can't people still be creative with black tie without looking stupid (boaters, homburgs, brocade waistcoats and the like, etc)? Why not go this route?
     
  17. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    I am into my fifth decade and I have only ever been asked to wear black tie once about 30 years ago. It just almost never comes up in my experience. Times have changed. Yes, there are people who cultivate formal attire as part of a hobby, but really black tie is a boutique interest generally reserved for certain subcultures.

    I have needed a suit only once or twice in my life and I am fortunate that in my work I have always been able to wear what I want. Anything formal I have needed to go to I generally wear black clothing. I wear a lot of black so it has never been an issue.
     
  18. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    IT's interesting the thins that can be 'correct', but that to me seem... euw. I'm not a fan of the notch lapel DJ; it can certainly be wholly correct, as you note, though more commonly it's a business suit jacket in some black with a satin lapel panel, because it's so much cheaper to manufacture. As the opportunities outside major cities and certain professions to wear black tie diminish for many people, that probably only exacerbates the drive to keep it cheaper to produce at one end of the market. (I've never had a problem finding opportunities for black or white tie, but it does require a certain preparedness to wear it out places where you might be the only one. As a larger gentleman with a shaved head, I have once or twice been mistaken for the doorman, which I found amusing.) There are those who favour the notch, of course - Prince Phillip (arguably the best dressed of the royals, largely beating his eldest son because he looks so comfortable in his own clothes, or, indeed, skin, which Charles never does) prefers it. A lot of the upper classes also seem to prefer a regular, white shirt for black tie wear, with ordinary buttons exposed. I really don't care for that, myself, though some would suggest it is 'correct'.

    Clip on bows I do not care for at all. The odd thing is, in my mind a bow tie is no harder to tie than a four in hand; it's just unfamiliarity. What I really loathe, though, is when guys wear a pre-tied bow, then later in the evening switch it for a matching, untied bow, and try to pretend they did tie it themselves. I find that tacky, though it may also be that the association with a certain type of man has a lot to do with that.

    Cap toes I have no issue with; if anything, I think it helps to preserve the patent finish on a pair of evening shoes from cracking for that little bit longer. Coloured bows, though - yuck. One step too close to novelty cartoon-character waistcoats. I remember when I first wore black tie, in my final year of school. I was eighteen. I did wear a clip on (noone at the event did otherwise...), but I stuck with black, didn't care for the colours. At the time, it was a thing for guys to wear a bow the same colour as the dress their date for the night wore. I went on my own and wore a black tie. Interestingly enough, looking at the photos now (twenty-five years ago next month!), my outfit doesn't look dated.

    Cummerbunds... I like a burgundy silk one with a SB ivory DJ in the Summer, but never a coloured tie. A burgunsy pocket square also with the ivory DJ. With black tie, always a white one - unless I'm feeling frisky and opt for scarlet....

    I've always said the true joy of black tie is wearing the same thing as everyone else does, but better.

    [/quote]Also Hollywood bears a large responsibility if you look at what passes for black tie today at awards shows it is disgusting. Yet people take their cues from there and figure if some multi millionaire celebrity wears it it must be OK. Often today, as was the case historically, money and taste don't always travel in the same circle[/QUOTE]

    I tend to the same view... though that said, I also try to bear in mind that not everyone is 'set in time' the way my tastes are. Black tie only began to appear in the 20s; it didn't fully evolve into what we regard as classic black tie until into the 30s; during the 30s and 40s, there were still people alive who looked upon it as we now look at 'Hollywood Black tie'. There's certainly an argument that what we see as 'wrong' is simply 'evolution'.

    Pitt and Clooney both. I think, from what little I've seen of the awards season (it's been years since I paid attention to the Oscars), the fashion for a black four in hand instead of the bow is at least subsiding, which is something. Evolution is one thing; dissolving all the lines between black tie and lounge suit seems to rather denigrate the point of black tie.

    Definitely; problem seems to be people perceive it as difficult. Not sure why - maybe the wide availability of clip-ons translate in people's minds as "we need these because they must be hard to tie"?

    Though, as I've said before in these parts, it is arguable that, relative to contemporary standards, people at weddings now dress much more formally on average than was once the case. My maternal grandparents married right at the end of the war. He wore a lounge suit - that was quite normal at the time. Thing is, in those days, a lounge suit was just 'clothes' for most people - not the 'dressy uppy' standard that they have become viewed as now. So, by the standards of their own time, folks now dress more formally for weddings than their grandparents did....

    I don't think that's limited to the young nowadays.... Since the lounge suit went 'out' for social wear, for the most part, anyone who doesn't need one for work may never or very rarely wear one; I've know plenty of people now well into their sixties who never wear and may not own a suit. My brother, early forties, owns one suit which he has had for several years, and which is exclusively for weddings and funerals. I think it might be three or four years since he last wore it. He's in IT, of course, where a certain dress code is de rigeur. At his last employer, a new guy wore collar and tie for the first week, then conformed to the jeans and sloppy t-shirt norm after the vicious mockery of the first few days. I don't think this is a new normal - it's been the case for years outside of certain white collar professions where it is still required to wear a suit.

    Even in academia, where I am, there are plenty of us who do wear suits, and others, of all ages, lost in the sixties thinking suits and ties are for squares. At the last Summer graduation ceremony I attended, there was a man in his middle fifties from the politics department who loudly bragged that this was the first time he'd worn a tie in four years....

    In truth that was always the case - at least, perhaps for certain classes, rather than subcultures. I very much doubt if my grandfathers, both working-class men in Northern Ireland in their prime in the 30s through 50s, ever wore black tie in their lives, sharp dresser as especially Granda Marlowe was.

    I very much enjoy working in a job where I have the luxury of wearing what I choose - which so happens to be a suit, or at least jacket and trousers, mostly with a tie, often a bow.
     
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  19. Tiki Tom

    Tiki Tom Call Me a Cab

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    Well, ball season is slowly starting to wind down here in Vienna. The (one) ball I went to clearly said black tie. Yet it seemed like many were more interested in showing how trendy and individualistic they could be by wearing all manner of colors and strange accessories. Everything from white tie to red suspenders to leopard print lapels. The list goes on, but my main take away was that tattoos that may seem hip and edgy at a night club look absolutely atrocious with a formal ball gown! o_O
     
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  20. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    No, I do mean subcultures (class may be an additional factor is some cases) but I work in the area of psychological services and for some time in media and most of my contacts and acquaintances and friends are in publishing, journalism and the arts and I have never been to a function or event that required black tie or even a suit. Of course some folks - probably half (usually administrators or business people) - do wear suits to events, like fundraising dinners, openings and launches but they are certainly not compulsory.
     
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2018
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