Fashion

Why Black Tie Optional Is the Worst Dress Code for Formal Events

The "optional" part of the dress code should never be an option.
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As wedding season comes to a close, I'd like to issue a plea for anyone planning a formal affair next year: Forget about black tie optional.

I know you have our best interests at heart. You want to host a dressy event, but you don't want anyone to feel badly if they don't have a tuxedo. Or they prefer their dark suit. Or they feel the need to exercise free will at every possible juncture.

But here's what happens: Instead of a soigné party full of elegant men and women dressed to celebrate in the most special and rarified way, you get something that looks like a mashup of prom and the office Christmas party.


Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby didn't stray from traditional black tie.

A tuxedo works perfectly for every man and is a wonderful foil for every woman.

And I can imagine that my comrades who opt for a suit feel equally self conscious. I mean, if at least half the room is dressed like James Bond, wouldn't you feel like you'd taken some shortcuts with your attire?

And think of the pictures! Would you like your reception to look ever-so-slightly like Truman Capote's Black-and-White Ball? Everyone needs to be in black tie for that. You don't want to spoil the shot with half the men standing around in the suits they'd wear to their next job interview.


Why mess with what works?

Here's the thing: Most of us like being told what to do (at least in this regard). It's not a burden—it's a liberation. And if you're one of those people who's wary of black tie, take it from me: There's real pleasure in slipping on a dinner jacket, matching trousers, a bow tie, cummerbund or waistcoat, and black patent-leather or calfskin pumps, or laced oxfords. There is not a lot of room for interpretation—and that's the way it should be.

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I'm not alone. Derrick Miller, who with his brother runs the New York City-based bespoke tailor and boutique Miller's Oath, says men who are offered the opportunity to dress in black tie and choose not to are selling themselves short.

"People have very few times in their life these days to actually dress formally, and I don't know why you would ever choose not to wear a tuxedo on the rare occasion that you get to do that," says Miller.


From Connery to Brosnan to Craig, every Bond has been properly attired.

G. Bruce Boyer, a former menswear editor at T&C and the author of True Style is on our side, too. He argues that "optional" evening dress "needlessly complicates an outfit that works perfectly for every man and is a wonderful foil for every woman." And the "idiotic little trend" he really can't stand? "This stupid idea of wearing a four-in-hand tie with a dinner jacket" which mercifully, he says, is "dying on the vine."


'Come on, guys. Just put on a tux,' one can imagine Warren Beatty saying.

Don't own a tuxedo and don't want to buy one? Renting a good one is surprisingly easy. (Here's where you can do it.)

To sum up: I ask that you pick perfection. Make a commitment to classic style. Stand up for what you believe in.

And don't even get me started on "festive dress."


With a perfectly tailored shawl-collar dinner jacket, it's no wonder David Beckham got the girl.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Sam Dangremond
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