Using the Guide

Getting the Most from the Guide


Although it is obviously possible to jump from topic to topic, you will gain the most from this site by reading the sections in order because each topic builds on the knowledge gained in the previous one.  In fact, it's a lot like a course curriculum but without the homework, deadlines and surprise quizzes.


A primary black-tie education should include the following:  



the Etiquette section provides the absolute fundamentals: defining white-tie and black-tie attire and describing their associated traditions

the History section examines the origin and evolution of the above attire and traditions; its lessons are not essential for men who intend to follow the conventional rules but they are critical for men who think they can rewrite those rules

Classic Black Tie draws from black tie’s history to describe in detail its benchmark attire

Contemporary Black Tie looks at black tie’s contemporary trends in context of its history and classic benchmarks

Style Basics explains the important principles of well-suited and well-fitting tailored clothing


Be sure to take advantage of the illustrated Glossary (in the Supplementary section) when you come across an unfamiliar sartorial term.


The remaining sections are largely special interest.



the Buying Guide will save you time in tracking down some of the harder-to-find classic garments and accessories

White Tie is the equivalent of the Classic Black Tie section and is invaluable for anyone fortunate enough to be invited to a full-dress occasion

the Vintage section examines the finer detail of formal attire and tradition in a specific topic-by-topic approach (rather than the general era-by-era approach of the History section)

the Supplemental section is a pot pourri of interesting related topics including Red Carpet Black Tie, Scottish Black Tie and formal daytime attire

Terminology in the Guide

Because the population of the United States is roughly four and a half times that of the United Kingdom and nearly nine times the population of my own country, Canada, and because of nearly identical American and Canadian vocabulary and spelling, it is only logical for me to write in American English.


Having said that, it is important to me to make the site as accommodating as possible to visitors who are more familiar with British English.  This is a bit of a challenge because formalwear terms can be very different on either side of the Atlantic and in some cases downright contradictory.  And just to add to the confusion, many North Americans prefer original British terminologies over American derivatives. 


The following chart of comparative formalwear terminology should help to clear things up.


Tuxedo Dinner Jacket /
Dinner Suit
Tuxedo, Dinner Jacket, Dinner Suit
Dinner Jacket
when used (incorrectly) to refer specifically to a white dinner jacket
when used (incorrectly) to refer specifically to a white dinner jacket
White Dinner Jacket
Vest Waistcoat Waistcoat
Pants, Trousers Trousers Trousers
Suspenders Braces Suspenders
Formal Wear Formal Dress1 Formal Wear
Evening Wear Evening Dress or
Evening Suits
Evening Wear
  1. Traditionally, the most formal category of attire is described as formal in North American and dress in Britain.  The second most formal category – e.g. traditional business attire – is conversely described as dress in North America and formal in Britain.  Therefore a black-tie event calls for a formal shirt in North America and a dress shirt in Britain, even though both words are describing the same garment.  (Note: Some British haberdasher Web sites have recently begun to use the term "formal" in the American sense of the word, likely to make themselves more accessible to online shoppers from the US.)