The Black Tie Dress Code For Men: Expert Guide Plus Tuxedo Inspo

It's time you took your tuxedo game to the next level.

The Black Tie Dress Code For Men: Expert Guide Plus Tuxedo Inspo

Image: Brioni

Black tie attire’, ‘dinner dress’, ‘penguin suit’, whatever you call the most formal dress code going, you’ll never look better than when you’re dressed to impress with the help of our expert guide.

In the 1860s, men of the British upper classes began easing out of the stuffy fashion formalities that had long been the accepted standard in high society. Prim and proper day wear was replaced by casual suits, and the formal evening tailcoat gave way to a simpler, shorter version: black tie was born.

Men’s fashion has come a long way from the 19th century, but black tie has never lost its charm. Trends may come and go, but a tuxedo is forever. Unfortunately, with the 21st century’s lack of occasions to dress up to this degree, many men are at a loss for how to effectively execute the look.

We think that’s a crying shame, so today we’re offering a crash course in the forgotten art of donning black-tie attire…

Short For Time? Here’s What You Need To Know

Tom Ford wearing a Tom Ford tuxedo
Tom Ford wearing a Tom Ford tuxedo
What does ‘black tie’ dress code mean?
It means you’ve been invited to a formal occasion, usually in the evening; tuxedos for men (and floor-length gowns for women) as the benchmark.
What should a man wear for a black tie event?
A tuxedo, ideally. If you’re unable to do this, opt for a black suit with a plain black tie or bow tie.
Can you wear a normal suit for a black tie event?
Yes, you can. A tuxedo would be ideal, but a black suit with a black necktie or bow tie is fine in its place.
What is the difference between ‘formal‘ and ‘black tie’?
‘Black tie’ means a tuxedo or a black suit with a black necktie, whereas ‘formal’ allows for any smart suit in pretty much any colour.
Can I wear a grey suit to a black tie event?
You probably shouldn’t. It’s better than no suit at all but really you need a tuxedo or a black suit.
Do men have to wear tuxedos to a black-tie wedding?
Ideally, yes. However, if you don’t own a tuxedo then a black suit with a black necktie or bow tie will suffice.
Can men wear colour to a black tie event?
In certain situations, you can experiment with the colour of your tuxedo. However, if you’re wearing a suit it should be black. Shirts, trousers, and ties should always be black too.
What colours should you not wear to a black tie event?
If you have a tuxedo, you can experiment with jacket colours. If you’re wearing a suit, stick to black. For shirts, trousers and ties: don’t wear any colour whatsoever; black and white are your only options.
What can I wear instead of a tuxedo?
You can wear a normal suit with a white shirt and a black tie, just make sure it’s an all-black suit.

What Exactly Is Black Tie Attire For Men?

Dumb and dumber tuxedo
Whilst technically a tuxedo, this is not recommended for ‘black tie’

Black tie remains the gold standard in formal attire which means it’s essential to get it right. Conventions of the dress code have evolved subtly over time, but if you follow certain key guidelines, you can’t help looking good.

Let’s start with the basics: what constitutes black tie in the first place? The basic components of black tie attire are as follows: a black dinner jacket with matching trousers, an optional black formal waistcoat or cummerbund, a white formal shirt, a black bow tie, black dress socks and black formal shoes.

Tuxedos For Black Tie Attire

Picking The Perfect Tuxedo

At its most traditional, the tuxedo is made from black wool with satin or grosgrain facings found on the lapels and buttons, though velvet is an increasingly common alternative. Of course, traditions have been toyed with and these days you’ll find black tie that is no longer black: midnight blue is a dapper alternative and some gents are even braving bolder colours — see more below…

Both single- and double-breasted varieties are acceptable, but the former is currently more popular. A peak lapel is the most formal and traditional option, but a shawl collar can be a polished, chic alternative if you get the proportions right. A notched lapel is reserved for your more casual suits.

The trick here is to blend personal expression with a healthy dose of caution. Dress to suit your body type, your personality and — most importantly — the event you’re attending.

Dinner Jacket Or Tuxedo: What’s The Difference?

Ultimately, they are the same thing is just a question of semantics. In the US, these garments are most commonly referred to as ‘tuxedos’, whereas in the UK they’re usually called ‘dinner jackets’.

However, as American vernacular becomes increasingly popularised around the world. these are becoming called tuxedos far more frequently, so no one will call you out if you drop the Americanism on foreign soil.

Recommended Tux
RICHARD JAMES Slim-Fit Wool Tuxedo Jacket

RICHARD JAMES Slim-Fit Wool Tuxedo Jacket

Richard James has been outfitting its Savile Row clients for almost 25 years, so you can count on the label for your most special occasions. This tuxedo jacket is tailored from wool in slim proportions. It has high peak lapels and is finished with covered buttons for a streamlining effect.

Black Tuxedo

Three men wearing black tuxedos, demonstrating classic black tie attire for men.

If in doubt, choose black. Classic, elegant, timeless the black tuxedo is something every man should have in his wardrobe and is the look we’d recommend nine times out of ten when you’re invited to a black tie event.

Choose either peak or notch lapel, have it tailored to fit your body, and complete the outfit with black leather lace-up dress shoes or loafers.

Blue Tuxedo

Three men wearing navy blue tuxedos, demonstrating a colourful alternative for black tie attire.

Made famous by Daniel Craig’s James Bond in Casino Royale, the blue or navy tuxedo has become a favourite come award season in Hollywood.

If you’re done with classic black, then a navy tuxedo will make a welcome addition to your wardrobe. Don’t worry, a navy tuxedo is equally as formal as a black tuxedo.

White Tuxedo Jacket

Three men wearing white tuxedo jackets, demonstrating an alternative for black tie attire.

We’ll be frank: the white tuxedo is not for everyone. Combined with black trousers, the white tuxedo jacket is best worn for more formal occasions and during the warmer months.

If you’re thinking of wearing this to a wedding you had better check with the bride and groom before doing so. Not only do you not want to be overdressed, but you don’t want to clash with a bride on her very special day…

Red Or Burgundy Tuxedo

Three men wearing red or burgundy tuxedos, demonstrating a colourful alternative for black tie attire.

The burgundy or red tuxedo is fast becoming a popular option amongst men looking to stand out at formal occasions. While we refer you to our previous advice — read the room before committing — it can be a great alternative to classic black.

Keep in mind you can either choose an all-burgundy tuxedo or simply wear a burgundy tuxedo jacket and black trousers. Pair with black lace-ups, no belt and a white shirt & pocket square.

Green Tuxedo

Three men wearing green tuxedos, demonstrating a colourful alternative for black tie attire.

A personal favourite of ours here at DMARGE is the green tuxedo. Elegant and modern at the same time, we would recommend acquiring a green velvet tuxedo jacket and pairing it with black trousers. Add a large black bow tie and you will be the belle of the ball.

A word to the wise here: the darker the green the more expensive and luxurious it is likely to look. Think deep emerald shades rather than forest green to avoid looking like The Riddler.

Black Tuxedo & Black Shirt Combo

Three men wearing black tuxedos with black shirts, demonstrating a contemporary alternative to classic black tie attire.

Another great option when it comes to contemporary black tie variations is the black tie, black shirt and black tuxedo option. In this all-black scenario, both the bow tie and traditional ties are acceptable.

If you’re feeling daring you could try something like Chadwick Boseman’s no-tie option shown above. However, this is only for radical fashionistas with the confidence and cash to pull it off. If, like us, you prefer to keep things straightforward, stick with the class look.

Other Key Pieces For Black Tie Attire


Two shirts that are suitable for black tie attire.

In general, opt for a turn-down collar over a wing collar, the latter of which is better saved for ‘white tie’ occasions. The front can be plain for a clean-cut look, pleated, or Marcella, which is a subtly textured fabric made up of small diamond shapes.

If you’re going the pleated route, make sure they’re tight and neat or you run the risk of looking like you’re wearing ruffles. Either a fly front (concealed buttons) or French placket (buttons on show) is acceptable. Cuffs should always be double.

Recommended Shirt
Dolce & Gabbana Tuxedo Shirt

Dolce & Gabbana Tuxedo Shirt

This optical white tuxedo shirt is crafted from cotton and features a classic collar, long sleeves, button cuffs, a curved hem and a jewel button closure.

Neck Ties And Bow Ties

Two Tom Ford bow ties that are suitable for black tie attire.

You need to master the art of tying a bowtie. While a clip-on will suffice, it may be frowned upon at especially formal events. As the name suggests, your bowtie should be black.

Matching the material of your bowtie to the facing of the suit is the best route for beginners but sartorial superstars can pull off a mix of textures. Barathea silk, a matte-finish alternative to shinier silks, will add a more traditional, sharper finish to your outfit.

Neck ties are acceptable in less formal black tie settings, but if you’re really looking to nail the brief then go with a bow tie.

Recommended Bow Tie
Polo Ralph Lauren Bow Tie

Polo Ralph Lauren Bow Tie

The Bow Tie by Polo Ralph Lauren is a classic accessory that adds a touch of elegance to your formal attire.


Three pairs of trousers that are suitable for black tie attire.

Your trousers should be the same material as your jacket unless you’ve opted for a velvet jacket. They should have plain hemmed bottoms — no turn-ups — with a single braid down the side.

A higher-waisted trouser is well-suited to wearing with a waistcoat but is more old-fashioned. Those with contemporary tastes can find lower, slim-leg dinner trousers with stripes down the side in place of the braids. Pleats have largely fallen out of style in favour of flat fronts. Look for side pockets that are in line with the stripe/braid as it looks neater. Finally, avoid belt loops.

Recommended Trousers
Hugo Boss Slim Fit Tuxedo Trousers In Stretch Wool

Hugo Boss Slim Fit Tuxedo Trousers In Stretch Wool

Tuxedo trousers cut to a slim fit with a straight leg in stretch wool with silk-blend trims by BOSS Menswear.


Two pairs of Tom Ford shoes that are suitable for black tie attire.

The traditional accompaniment to a dinner suit is evening shoes — old-fashioned pumps with a satin or silk bow on the top — but gentlemen who can pull off that look nowadays are few and far between!

Simple black patent leather lace-ups are now the shoes of choice. Avoid brogues, this is a surefire way to bring down the tone of an otherwise stellar black tie outfit.

Recommended Shoes
James Polished-Leather Derby Shoes

James Polished-Leather Derby Shoes

Mr P.’s ‘James’ Derby shoes are elegant classics that will last you for years. Defined by a sleek, pared-back profile, they’re made from polished black leather with storm welts.


Two sets of cufflinks that are suitable for black tie attire.

A waist covering — either a black cummerbund or a black waistcoat — is optional. If going for the cummerbund, make sure the pleats are facing up and that the material matches the bowtie and lapels. If going for the waistcoat, both single- or double-breasted styles are available. A low-cut evening waistcoat is the most traditional choice.

A pocket square or silk scarf adds an extra something special to your formalwear, and don’t pass up the opportunity to tastefully bling out your outfit with clean-cut, timeless, elegant cufflinks.

Recommended Accessory
Lanvin Logo-Engraved Silver Cufflinks

Lanvin Logo-Engraved Silver Cufflinks

Made from sterling silver with an enamel finish and hinge design, these are the definition of timeless.

Our Favourite Black Tie Outfits To Inspire Your Next Look