Classic Black-Tie Accessories
Classic accessories add the
finishing touches to a man’s black-tie kit and allow him to inject a
dash of swank without degrading its inherent formality.
Savvy dressers can use the following
traditional variations to add a new twist to their tuxedo each time
they wear it.
Cufflinks and Studs
Classic black-tie shirt
studs, cufflinks and waistcoat studs (if applicable) are typically
gold or onyx but formal jewelry is a perfect opportunity to
tastefully personalize a formal wardrobe. Just be sure that
the designs are conservative and that the studs and links are a set
or that they closely match. Mother-of-pearl jewelry is
preferred by many when wearing the full-dress shirt with a dinner
jacket as those are the shirt’s traditional accompaniments when worn
with white tie.
Suspenders (Braces), Sock
Garters (Sock Suspenders)
Unless trousers are custom
tailored to stay securely in place, suspenders (braces in the UK)
are always worn with a tuxedo. This is not just a matter of
tradition but also of style because they ensure that the trouser
waistband does not slip below the bottom of the waistcoat, they
align the trousers’ pleats with the waistcoat’s points and they
avoid the extra waistline bulk that would result from wearing a
Classic black-tie braces can
be black or white silk or a combination of both. Ultimately,
the preferred color is irrelevant because suspenders are underwear
and as such are never meant to see the light of day. (This is
one of the primary reasons that a gentleman never removes his jacket
at a formal function.)
Formal suspenders are always
the button-on variety – never clip-on – and they customarily feature
soft, knitted ends instead of the stiffer and more bulky leather tabs found on ordinary
Socks should be held in
place by a sock garter (sock suspender in the UK) to ensure that
they do not sag or bunch, an unfortunate trait of silk hose.
Drooping socks are not only unsightly but can also result in exposed
shins when a man sits or crosses his legs. Formalwear purists
can opt for garters that match their
Dress Watch (Optional)
Some consider it gauche to wear a timepiece to
a formal occasion arguing that clock watching is contradictory to
the celebratory nature of such events and insulting to the hostess.
Those men who can't conceive of being
without a wristwatch for an entire evening should at least heed the advice of
Glenn O'Brien, GQ’s Style Guy. “Just
because it’s gold, is diamond festooned, and costs more than the
average car doesn’t mean it’s a dressy watch,” he says.
“Instead, opt for a slim, unadorned timepiece with a black
leather band. A formal
watch should keep time, not flash it.” A watch face with
markings and a seconds hand that are minimal or non-existent is
particularly well-suited to black tie's refined minimalism.
The metal trim should match the metal of the cufflinks.
Alternately, a formal affair
is a wonderful excuse to carry a classic pocket watch and at least
pretend to be unfettered by temporal constraints (see sidebar).
Pocket Square (Optional)
The classic pocket square is
a white handkerchief of fine white linen, preferably hand-rolled.
Some style authorities suggest that the handkerchief be casually
stuffed into the pocket in an irregular shape so as to add a human
touch to an otherwise highly disciplined appearance. Other
experts prefer the formal simplicity of the square-folded
handkerchief. As for the precision-folded silk handkerchiefs
seen on formalwear displays, they are best left to the mannequins.
Silk pocket squares are a modern variation and are discussed
Boutonniere (Buttonhole) (Optional)
Although rarely seen outside
of weddings since the Second World War, a boutonniere (buttonhole in
UK) can be correctly worn in the
on the left lapel of the dinner jacket. The Encyclopedia of
Men’s Clothes advises that men seeking to add this classic flair to
their black-tie outfit will require a flower that is small yet
sturdy: “You don’t want it “clown” size, nor do you want it to
disintegrate while wearing”. A white or deep red carnation is
the most classic choice. For
wedding boutonniere options see the
Formal Evening Weddings page.
Note that flowers such as
standard carnations cannot be simply purchased from a shop and
inserted into a lapel because the bud is usually too thick to fit
through the buttonhole. To ensure that such flowers fit
properly The Boutonniere: Style in One’s Lapel suggests that they be
adapted into true boutonnieres. A florist will remove the bud,
wrap the stem and even level the base of the flower all so that the
bloom sits flat against the lapel.
Remembering that boutonniere
is French for “button hole” will help you remember that these
flowers are inserted through the lapel, not pinned on top of it.
Also keep in mind that a boutonniere is not a miniature bouquet; the
stereotypical accoutrements of baby’s breath, leafy stems and
colored berries belong at a wedding, not at a black-tie gala.
Boutonnieres are not worn
decorations. And to avoid gilding the lily (so to speak), it is
also best not to combine them with pocket squares unless one or both
A Note About Remembrance Poppies
Since World War I, wearing an artificial poppy to commemorate the
sacrifice of veterans and civilians in past wars has been a popular
tradition in many Commonwealth countries prior to Remembrance Day
or Armistice Day
November 11. To a much
lesser extent the practice also exists in the
in the weeks preceding Memorial Day on the last Monday in May.
This symbol should not be
regarded as a type of boutonniere.
Rather, it is a sign of respect for those who gave their
lives to defend our freedom and as such is every bit as appropriate
on a tuxedo as it is on any other type of jacket.
General etiquette for the wearing of lapel poppies varies by
country. In Britain it is governed by the
Royal British Legion (although
tradition varies in the UK), in Canada by the
Royal Canadian Legion, in Australia by the RSL (Returned and
Services League) and in America by the
Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Evening Scarf (Optional)
scarf worn with overcoats can be worn indoors as an accessory on particularly formal
evenings. Sometimes known as an opera scarf, it is more
commonly seen in Britain than in North America where it will more
than likely be viewed as an affectation.
Evening Dress Gloves (Obsolete)
Outside of a few rare
white-tie balls, indoor gloves are only for servant liveries and
military dress uniforms.