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What is Black Tie for Men?

You’ve received an invitation to a party, wedding, or corporate event and you notice it mentions a black tie or cravate noire dress code. Do you panic? You’re not alone! Many men don’t know where to start when it comes to dressing for a black tie event, largely because they aren’t aware of what the dress code requires.

So, what does “black tie” refer to for gentlemen? In short, it’s a dress code that requires evening semi-formalwear. The components of this are:

  • Black or midnight blue tuxedo jacket and trousers
  • Vest, cummerbund, or braces
  • White tuxedo shirt (or a plain white French cuff shirt)
  • Black patent leather oxfords or Venetian loafers. Black calfskin captoe oxfords or wholecuts with a high shine are also acceptable
  • Black satin or grosgrain self-tie bow tie
  • White linen, cotton, or silk pocket handkerchief

Even though the guidelines above are pretty straightforward, lots of men fall into black-tie traps when trying to add their own twist to things. That why we here at Henry A. Davidsen, a company that is well-known for luxurious custom men’s suits in Philadelphia, created this guide so you’ll be dressed to impress at your next black tie event!

Black Tie Style Mistakes to Avoid 

  • Wearing an Actual Black (Neck)Tie
    One of the most common mistakes men dressing for a black tie event make is wearing a black necktie. A necktie (that is, a long tie) is appropriate for business and casual outings, but it dilutes the formality of the black tie ensemble. A black silk or grosgrain bow tie is a simple, classic option that can’t miss. Whatever you do, leave the clip-on ties at home.
  • Wearing A Tux Jacket That Looks Like A Business Suit
    As a dashing evening dress code with some formality to it, it’s important to minimize bulk while making your tuxedo distinct from your everyday suits. Avoid pocket flaps and button stances of more than one button (unless double-breasted, of course), as these elements add heft to what should be an otherwise minimalist outfit.


Tuxedo jackets should have either peak lapels or shawl collars, unlike their notch-lapeled business suits. A dinner jacket with notch lapels is a sartorial oxymoron.

  • Not Wearing a Tuxedo

Another common mistake is assuming you can wear your office suit to a black tie event. The only time this is acceptable is if the invitation reads “black tie optional,” and under those circumstances, your suit must be a very dark charcoal, dark navy, or black.

If the invitation reads “black tie,” “cravate noire,” or “semi-formal,” you must wear a tuxedo.

  • Choosing the Wrong Shoes

You could be wearing the most expensive tuxedo and classic, stylish accessories, but wearing the wrong shoes can ruin your entire outfit. Here’s a quick run-down of what works and what doesn’t from a footwear perspective:


-Oxfords, wholecuts, Venetian loafers in black patent leather

-Velvet formal slippers

-Opera pumps (yes, this refers to a men’s shoe)

-Black calfskin oxfords or wholecuts with a very high shine


-Bluchers or derbies, even if black patent leather

-Unshined black shoes

-Shoes that aren’t black


If you’re in need of a tuxedo for your next black tie event or a custom tailored men’s suit in Philadelphia, look no further than the master tailors at Henry A. Davidsen. Call 215-310-0219 to schedule an appointment for a one-on-one image consultation or to learn more about the clothing and accessories we offer in our showroom!


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