How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Looking for an attainable, affordable way to nail the black tie dress code? We've got just the tips and tricks to help you...

Black tie; it’s one of the most rarefied, refined dress codes there is. But it brings with it a certain set of challenges. Should you be wearing a belt or braces, for instance? Or can you get away with a pre-tied bow tie? And what, in tuxedo’s name, is a cummerbund for? 

But perhaps the biggest challenge is that of budget. Most dinner jackets and eveningwear ensembles have price tags to match their luxurious looks — and many of us just don’t get invited to enough black tie bashes to justify such a chunk of change. You may not want to hire a tux, but you still want to get the look right. So what can you do?

Thankfully, we’ve got the answers. There are certain shortcuts and sidesteps to dodge this black tie dilemma — from finding a statement jacket to distract from your plain black suit trousers to investing in a quality shirt you can also wear to the office. Here are our top five tips for nailing black tie on a budget…

Buy a shirt you can wear again (and again…)

Wing-tip collars and ruffle-front shirts are all well and good — but their wider style applications are limited. While you’ll turn heads on the black-tie night, you’ll rarely find an occasion to slip on a silky, double-cuffed chemise in everyday life.

Which is why you shouldn’t bother. Any quality white shirt will do the tuxedo trick for most men. And these versatile designs, from retailers including Charles Tyrwhitt and Hawes & Curtis, will work just as well with a bow tie. Our only shirt-selecting piece of advice? Opt for a cutaway collar — so the points don’t peak below your bow tie.

How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Charles Tyrwhitt Cutaway Collar Poplin Shirt

£44.95

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Hawes & Curtis White Fitted Slim Shirt

£25

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Uni Qlo Super Slim Fit Shirt

£24.90

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Dress to impress with your bow-tying skills

Unless they grab you by the lapels and lean in to inspect it, no-one will be able to guess the thread-count of your bow tie on sight. So don’t bother investing more on your neckwear than you need to. Instead, stick to classic silk or satin — nobody needs a velvet bow tie — and wow your fellow guests in other ways.

Ways like tying it yourself, for instance. Most modern men have lost the ability to knot a proper bow tie, and instead plump for pre-tied options. If you can prove that you’ve learnt the ‘common shoelace knot’, there’s not a person in the place who’ll judge you for spending under £30 on your tie of choice.

How to master black tie without breaking the bank

M&S Pure Silk Self-Tie Bow Tie

£15

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Moss Bros Silk Self-Tie Bow Tie

£20

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

T.W. Lewin Satin Self-Tie Bow Tie

£30

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Find a modestly-priced, boldly-designed dinner jacket

And so we come to trousers. Or not, as the case may be. Because, despite proper dinner suit trousers featuring a strip of high-shine material running down their sides, these satin-trimmed strides are otherwise useless. So we’d always recommend ditching tradition, and wearing a plain pair of black suit trousers. 

To counter (or continue) this dinner suit deviation, also pick up a statement jacket — perhaps something in velvet. Many brands, from Mango to Zara, offer handsome options in bold, rich colours. And, with one of these luxurious-but-affordable blazers buttoned up, nobody will give your trousers a second thought. 

How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Zara Shawl Collar Blazer

£89.99

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Mango Khaki Velvet Jacket

£89.99

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank


M&S Collection Velvet Blazer

£99

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Amplify your black tie with affordable accessories

Much like the trouser trick above, affordable accessories are the ideal way to elevate your economical black-tie ensemble. If you drape a printed silk scarf around your neck, there isn’t a person in the place who’ll pick you up on the provenance of your budget bow tie. 

Similarly, if your shirt isn’t the bells, whistles and wing-tipped creation other guests think it ought to be, why not zhuzh it up with some choice accessories? A set of simple tuxedo studs and a pair of patterned or embellished cufflinks should do the trick; hints of class for a fraction of the price. 

How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Soho Scarves Aviator Scarf in Paisley

£32.95

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Savile Row Company Dress Studs

£25

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Simon Carter Knot Cufflinks

£35

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Forget about shining your shoes, and style your hair instead

If there’s one part of black tie you can’t skimp on, it’s the shoes. There are no acceptable alternatives to the patent pairs crafted in Northampton by heritage shoemakers including Crockett & Jones and Edward Green. So instead, of buying a sub-par pair, focus your high-shine energy elsewhere. Namely, your hair.

That’s right; black tie isn’t all about your clothes. No eveningwear ensemble is complete without a beard trim, splash of aftershave and, perhaps most importantly, a trimly-tamed hairstyle. Slick it back, tease up a tight quiff or just comb in a parting — it’s a simple, inexpensive move that will make all the difference. 

How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Hawkins & Brimble Water Pomade

£10

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How to master black tie without breaking the bank

Mason Pearson Styling Comb

£9.50

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Want more black tie tips? Here’s why you need a velvet jacket this party season…

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