The new rules of Black Tie
Some of you are cross already. 'New rules?' you say with a shudder. Isn’t black tie sacred? They did it right in the 1920s and a hundred years later who are we to mess with man's most elegant ensemble? And you may have a point. Certainly they knew how to party back in the Jazz Age and look sharp while doing so. But times change and while there's a lot to be said for a straight-up tux with all the trimmings, there are less formal 'formal' occasions where you want to mix things up a little.
But first of all, a statement of fact: a beautifully fitting tuxedo will never fail you. It should have strong peak labels, or a swooping shawl collar, in satin or grosgrain that’s echoed in the stripe down the outside of the leg. Team with a crisp white Marcella shirt (the one with a raised, criss-crossed pattern), mother-of-pearl dress studs and matching cuff-links and patent black shoes – or dress slippers if you're feeling natty – and you'll look like a film star. A proper one.
Gieves & Hawkes at No 1 Savile Row has an elegant one-button tux (£1,895 ($A3370), gievesandhawkes.com) while Thomas Pink is your go-to for Marcella evening shirts (£100 ($A177), thomaspink.com). One request, and it’s not negotiable – tie your own bow tie. Those prim little ready made ones look awful: set aside half an hour in front of a YouTube tutorial and you'll emerge a better man.
So there you are then, looking sharp. But you may find you're also looking like everyone else, including the waiters. So here’s a chance to flex your sartorial muscles a little further, by going blue. Tuxedos in midnight blue have around ever since Edward VII (then the Prince of Wales) invented the dinner jacket in 1865 as a less formal alternative to tails – he ordered his in blue from Savile Row tailor Henry Poole & Co. The beauty of midnight blue is that it looks darker than black under lights or flash photography (good for weddings and awards shows then). Italian tailoring titan Caruso has a splendid example in a rich wool-mohair blend (£1,233 ($A2193), farfetch.com).
And that used to be that, with the exception of the occasional ivory dinner jacket worn in the summer. But increasingly designers have been playing with texture to the extent that the smoking jacket is having a resurgence in velvet and even, this season, in corduroy. Cord can be tricky for evening wear as it's inherently casual, but Ralph Lauren has a magnificent double-breasted shawl-collar jacket in black cord (£2,150 ($A3824), ralphlauren.co.uk) which is a guaranteed head turner.
But if you really want to make a statement, here are two options. In his AW17 collection, the always dapper Jason Basmajian, Chief Creative Officer at the French house of Cerruti, styled a tuxedo with a black dress shirt, tie pin (but no tie) and fedora. The all-black look was undeniably classy. Over at Richard James, a silver shawl collar slub jacket was paired with a graphic black and white shirt and black bow tie. Not for the faint hearted, but it worked a treat. But whether you go classic or contemporary, the only real rule is wear it with confidence. And be nice to the waiters. They got dressed up too.