As a modern gentleman, you are quite social whether it’s professionally or personally. This means that there will be numerous invitations to various social gatherings and events. As you mentally scan the invitation checking off the details in your head….What…Where…When…What Time, you come across the dress code and it says “Black tie optional.” Your first thought might be, “Well that’s simple enough. I’ll wear my jeans, crisp button down shirt, navy blazer, and some wing tip brogues and I’ll be good!” Unfortunately, Black tie optional hardly ever means wear anything you want but leave the black tie at home.
Here are a few of the most common dress codes that you will see on an invite as well as what that means for you and your attire for the event.
In Casino Royale James Bond is getting ready for the poker game when Vesper Lynd interrupts to present him with a gift. As James insists that he already has one, she charmingly states, “There are dinner jackets, and there are dinner jackets. This is the latter.” The tuxedo is the ultimate staple of men’s formal wear and considered after 6pm attire. Consists of: single or double breasted jacket, black bow tie, white shirt, and black shoes.
Wear to: The Oscars, or to a high stakes poker game to stop international criminals from world domination.
Black tie optional
A variation of Black tie meaning that you have the option of wearing a tuxedo. If you choose not to wear one, you can wear a dark suit, white shirt and a tie. No light colored suits, or even sports coats since this event is still formal in nature. If the dress code reads “Creative Black Tie”, go ahead and get creative….within reason that is. This is a trendy interpretation of black tie.
Wear to: Award shows and other red carpet events.
Traditionally before 6pm attire, this consists of a dark suit, white shirt, silk tie or bow tie, and cufflinks. The distinction between formal and black tie is that black tie is strictly tuxedo and formal includes the option of wearing a dark suit.
Wear to: Presidential inauguration or charity fundraising event.
Semi – Formal
This is still formal so don’t bring half the style. Evening semiformal event include weddings and theater outings. Tuxedo is optional but at the very least, wear a dark suit. Consists of: Tuxedo or dark suit, cummerbund or vest, bow tie or tie, cufflinks and black shoes. Daytime semiformal is what you would wear to a day wedding: light colored suit and a tie.
Wear to: Theater performances and weddings.
Similar to creative black tie, the dark suit is the only requirement. Other than that, feel free to express yourself. This is the trendiest dress code so let your personality shine through!
Wear to: Office holiday party at a nice restaurant.
Creativity is always welcome, however always use your better judgment and err on the side of caution. Formal wear has a lot of tradition and history. Make sure that your attire compliments your date’s attire if you are going with one. Follow these guides and you will make a great impression at every event you attend.