When most guys start prepping for a black tie event, it seems like the dress code is fairly standard. You select a black tuxedo. Maybe you go with navy if you’re adventurous. You steer clear of adventurous throwback moves like Rami Malek’s white dinner jacket at the Emmys. Your shoes are black and made of patent leather. Your woven dress shirt is white. And your tie is black. Perhaps there’s a white pocket square or a pair of modern cufflinks somewhere in the mix. But essentially that’s it, right? Wrong.
While a tuxedo is business as usual, there are many options when it comes to your accessories. The black tie that officially makes your outfit a “black tie” look comes in all sorts of fabrics, finishes, and styles. If you want to stand out at your event, make sure you put some thought into choosing the right black tie.
While most guys know how to tie a classic tie, the bowtie remains a source of mystery and challenge. Like classic ties, there are several ways to tie a bowtie. When it comes to bowties for a black tie event, they’re preferred over classic ties. Most of the versions you’ll find on the market are made of velvet, pique, worsted wool, or other subtly ribbed fabrics. They’re also cut into specific shapes.
The Pointed Bowtie stays true to its name with sharply pointed ends. The Straight End Bowtie is the more minimalistic choice of the bunch with its squared off edges. The Semi-Butterfly is the most common bowtie you’ll see at black tie events. If you’ve ever looked up how-to videos on YouTube to learn how to tie a bowtie, it’s likely you were tying this knot. It’s the classic bowtie style with the double-layered points. The Butterfly is for the peacocks. It’s like the semi-butterfly on steroids. It’s tied in the same classic fashion, but the ends are exaggerated and fanned out in an aggressive manner.
It’s also important to note that pre-tied bowties don't have quite the sophistication that a self tie bowtie has. It’s better to push through the frustration of learning to tie a bowtie on your own. It’ll stick with you for life, and you'll also have a more polished and refined look than a clip-on.
For a true black tie event, you’ll want to avoid a traditional black necktie. On a great tuxedo, the jacket is designed to stand alone without any assistance. Your lapels will have a sheen. When buttoned, the jacket will close in, only leaving an angled view of your dress shirt. If you wear a full necktie, you’ll look like you’re drowning in a sea of black.
The only time you’ll want a necktie is if you’re going semi-formal or black tie optional. These are occasions where you can sport a traditional suit in lieu of a tuxedo.
Black tie has rules that you must follow, but just because there’s tradition doesn’t mean there isn’t room to play. Be sure to feel comfortable and choose the bowtie that works best for your personal tastes and style.