The last couple of years haven’t been easy. But, as hard as it may have been for us, it’s been a lot harder for the black tie brigade. Traditionalists and tuxedo lovers have spent month after month divorced from their dinner jackets — with wing-collar shirts, bow ties and patent leather shoes left unbuttoned, unlaced and unloved in the bottom of their well-heeled wardrobes.
And yet, black tie will never die. Why? Because, despite ever-relaxing dress codes and a dearth of eveningwear events, the endangered dinner suit is pieced together using solely specialised, singular garments — items of clothing that really have no other use. So from cummerbunds to ‘horseshoe’ waistcoats, here are the six boutique, bespoke pieces that are giving black tie a reason to live on…
The silk bow tie has tied itself in knots...
First up; the notable piece of neckwear that gives black tie its name. Whether satin, silk or velvet, the formal bow tie has no real use outside of dinner-jacketed, tuxedoed circles. Grandfathers and geography teachers may be able to get away with tweedy, brushed cotton varieties and versions — but silky luxurious bow ties? Not so much.
As Turnbull & Asser says, ‘the classic bow tie is a sartorial starting point’. And the British brand’s contemporary slim silk design will see you through a lifetime of stylish soirées. New & Lingwood’s option is cut from the finest English silk satin and Emma Willis’ is created using black silk barathea — and is available in either self-tie or ready-tied versions.
Turnbull & Asser Black Silk Bow Tie
New & Lingwood Classic Silk Bow Tie
Emma Willis Black Silk Bow Tie
The cummerbund gets a bad (w)rap...
If the bow tie is in dire straits, then the cummerbund is really on the silk-satin edge. Bordering on extinction, this endangered accessory is an alternative to a black tie waistcoat; a broad waist sash intended to black-out any unsightly white shirt material that might out from under your dinner jacket. And sadly, if the tuxedo vanishes, it’ll have no reason to stick around.
Which would be a crying shame — because the quirky cummerbund is a perfect example of English eccentricity. Huntsman knows it; with this Savile Row-crafted satin design. But it’s not just a British favourite — with the Italian Brunello Cucinelli and the American Tom Ford also adopting the lustrous look for their black tie get-ups.
Huntsman Black Satin Cummerbund
Tom Ford Silk-Satin Cummerbund
Brunello Cucinelli Silk Blend Cummerbund
We must step up for black patent dress shoes...
Unless you’re marching in a brass band or Trooping the Colour, you shouldn’t be wearing patent leather shoes. That is, of course, unless you’re buttoned into a tuxedo. With the highest level of high-shine, these shoes are the icing on the bottom of the black tie ensemble; but a shoe that would overstep if laced up with any other outfit.
But they undoubtedly look beautiful. So, from Crockett & Jones’ plain-fronted, lightweight leather ‘Overton’ shoes to Cheaney’s highly-polished ‘Kelly’ design, let’s give them a reason to stride another day. Even Church’s statement-making ‘Whaley’ shoes, with subtly squared toes and slivers of grosgrain, wouldn’t work with anything but a sharply tailored tux.
Crockett & Jones ‘Overton’ Dress Shoe
Cheaney ‘Kelly’ Oxford Dress Shoe
Church’s ‘Whaley’ Patent Leather Oxford
The wing-collar dress shirt has been stitched up...
From ‘Cuban’ to ‘Cutaway’, there are plenty of different collar styles for plenty of different occasions. But the wing-collar — stiff of tip and rakish in appearance — is perhaps the rarest. Unfortunately, however, it’s already started to disappear from the face of formalwear; usurped by the simpler, more versatile ‘Spread’ collar. And the post-pandemic lull in parties could see it off altogether.
So let’s make sure that doesn’t happen. Because, whether it’s the double cuffs of Turnbull & Asser’s offering, the slick hidden button placket of Eton’s design or the bib front of Oliver Brown’s ‘Marcella’ shirt, this is a heritage garment that we don’t want tipping into obscurity.
Turnbull & Asser Wing Collar Dress Shirt
Eton Signature Twill Tuxedo Shirt
Oliver Brown Marcella Dress Shirt
The ‘horseshoe’ waistcoat has been laid to waste...
Like the cummerbund above, the ‘horseshoe’ waistcoat — or evening waistcoat — is another accessory that only really works when paired with a dinner suit. When else would you wear such a deep-scoop front, if not with a bib-collar shirt and a bow tie? It’s an extraneous addition, but one we consider well worth our time.
Some designs, like Ralph Lauren’s classically black version and New & Lingwood’s bright white ‘Marcella’ waistcoat, are virtually backless — with only simple waist buckles and button-neck closures in place to create an eveningwear illusion. But others, such as Oliver Brown’s, feature feature shawl collars, corded silk lapels and full back-panels.
Ralph Lauren Silk Satin Waistcoat
Oliver Brown Velvet Evening Waistcoat
New & Lingwood Marcella Waistcoat
Tuxedo trousers are on their last legs...
The last piece of the black tie puzzle? Save for perhaps the dinner jacket itself, the trousers are the most unique part of a tuxedo. These singular strides come with a satin strip running down their length, adding a hit of high-shine to complement those patent shoes. It’s a bold look, a timeless, traditional style — and one that deserves a renaissance.
Richard James’s trousers, trimmed with satin stripes, are cut from a lightweight wool and mohair-blend. Dunhill’s are finished with detailing in grosgrain; a stiff ribbon of silk with a taffeta weave. And Thom Sweeney’s navy trousers are tailored in a sleek taper — cut from lustrous wool and detailed with a sheened blue strip.
Richard James Satin-Trimmed Wool Trousers
Dunhill Grosgrain-Trimmed Wool Trousers
Thom Sweeney Satin-Trimmed Tuxedo Trousers
Want more style rules? Here’s the ultimate back-to-work style guide, with Mathias Le Fèvre…
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