Black tie ethos, tuxedo and bow tie optional

While a black tie dress code should always be interpreted strictly, there are plenty of variations on the theme that allow for more creativity and personalization.

Black tie optional, black tie creative and cocktail attire are just a few of the alternatives to traditional black tie attire you may encounter. And just as there are many variations on black tie, there are many ways to approach those black tie alternatives.

Here is one of those ways along with some things to keep in mind.



| WEARING | Ermengildo Zegna suit, Ted Baker shirt, Drake’s tie, Brooks Brothers pocket square, Cartier watch, Cole Haan shoes | PHOTOGRAPHY | by Rob McIver Photo

Remember: it’s a uniform… Traditional black tie or black tie in any of its various forms is a uniform. What that means is that while there is room for a personal take when it comes to the “optional” or “creative” versions, you still need to embrace the black tie ethos. Stick with dark colors and keep it simple.

…And a uniform requires uniformity. Personal touches should be subtle, not flamboyant. Don’t be the guy “making a statement” with the proverbial sartorial “ironic t-shirt”, such as overtly loud and jarring colors or patterns. In France, they’d call that déclassé.

Substitute. Instead of a tuxedo, try a dark navy suit. Instead of a white button-up, wear a black one. Instead of a bow tie, wear a black necktie with some subtle texture.


I’ve already had a few questions about whether it is appropriate to wear a watch with black tie. We’re going to be cover this topic more in-depth next week, but for now here’s some very simplified guidance. If you’re wearing classic black tie, no watch. And with a black tie alternative, a watch is fine.


Thanks for reading.

Stylishly Yours,

Brian Sacawa
He Spoke Style


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