A Formal Introduction: After-Six Elegance
For a man, no other form
of dress is as steeped in such a ritualistic sense of propriety as
formal wear. There is something so elegant about the simplicity of
black and white, with its stark contrast and lack of pattern, that
when the elements are properly put together, they present a man at
his most debonair.
Considering that black tie began as dining attire for
Victorian aristocrats its longevity and ongoing popularity have
been nothing short of astonishing.
It is almost inconceivable
that such a regulated and formal dress code has
managed to withstand the informal dressing and casual manners
effected by two World Wars, a counterculture revolution and GenX
infantilism. Yet the classic tuxedo has not only survived more
than one hundred years of adversity but has evolved into an icon of male
elegance in the process.
Its allure has been immortalized by some of the best dressers of the
twentieth century from bon vivants Cole Porter and Noel Coward, to
suave hipsters Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra to the fictional
playboy superspy, James Bond.
This triumph over a century
of tremendous adversity would never have been possible for a fashion
that was merely a product of its era. Instead, black tie has
survived because it embodies principles of style so fundamental that
they transcend time and place. Furthermore, it does so without
the exacting requirements and stiff garments of white tie, its even
more formal but virtually extinct progenitor. Thus, despite the
tired clichés about waiters and penguins, the fact is that the
conventional dinner suit remains unparalleled among modern garments
in its ability to transform a man and inspire an evening.
For the wearer the magic
begins the moment he dons this last remnant of upper-class attire.
While any good suit will transform a boy into a man, classic black
tie elevates a man into a gentleman. It employs ingenious aesthetic
techniques to make the wearer look taller, stronger and younger, the
embodiment of the male ideal.
“Nature created men unequally,” the Wall Street Journal once
observed, “tuxedos were invented to even the score.”
Once dressed the wearer becomes a part of
black tie’s rich tradition of civilized decorum. Without a
word, his appearance announces his respect for a host’s desire to
instill an evening with a sense of the exceptional. This same sartorial complement is extended
to his female companion by emphasizing her colored finery and
sensuous décolletage through their contrast to his understated
civilian uniform. Besides echoing a chivalry of
days gone by, this visual distinction between genders also fosters a sartorial camaraderie
amongst fellow males. The overall result, in the words
of Robb Report magazine, is that "of all the days that
blend into years that drift into the past, tuxedo days are, without
exception, special days."
But like all magic, successful execution of black tie is
dependent upon a competent practitioner. When the average man
faithfully followed the rules of formal dressing as laid down by its
most distinguished patrons the tuxedo’s trade secrets were common
knowledge. Then along came the baby-boomers, the “don’t trust
anyone over thirty” generation, who viewed their parents’ traditions
and formality as relics of the past. In their infinite
youthful wisdom they reinvented the tuxedo as a powder-blue, clip-on
polyester wedding costume. Subsequent generations of Americans
consequently grew up oblivious to the existence of black tie’s
fundamental principles, believing the tuxedo to be little more than
party clothes dictated by the whims of fashion and the hues of
bridesmaid dresses. And so we arrive at
today’s world where well-intentioned prom-goers and grooms set out
to channel James Bond but end up dressed like the waiters who are
The Black Tie Guide is your
ticket out of waiter-dom. By assembling the lost knowledge of
our forefathers and their tailors this primer contains all the
information necessary to maximize the full potential of the tuxedo.
It applies to all men, regardless of their financial means
or their sartorial skills (which
is why some of the style advice may seem ridiculously basic to
experienced suit wearers). Whether
renting or buying, this site will establish you as a master of black
tie and prepare you to release your inner Cary Grant, George Clooney
or even double-O seven.
Let the magic begin . . .