The tradition of men’s formal wear began in a time when horses were the most common form of transportation. Prior to sitting down to dinner, it was customary to change into evening clothes to avoid bringing the smell of horse to the dinner table. Like many traditions, evening apparel has its roots in practical practices. After the invention of the automobile changing for dinner was no longer necessary, but remained a custom especially among the upper classes of Europe and North America.

The definition of this classic dress code, according to the experts, is very narrow. Gentlemen should wear an evening suit of black or midnight blue which can be single or double breasted. The lapels of the jacket should be a peaked lapel or a shawl collar, not the more popular notched collar associated with day wear. The lapels should be faced in satin or grosgrain and the sleeve buttons should be covered in the same fabric as the lapels. It is permissible for the jacket to have vents, but the most formal jackets do not have vents.

The trousers of the evening suit should match the jacket and there should be a braid of the lapel fabric covering the the side seam. The trousers should be cut for suspenders.

A formal evening shirt for black tie most often has a turn down collar. The wing collar is considered more appropriate with white tie. The shirt from can be pleated or pique. The front of the shirt should have eyelets for studs and all formal shirts should have French cuffs. Some experts believe a fly front shirt is allowable.

The tie should be a black bow tie made of silk or fabric that matches the lapels of the jacket. The most formal shoes are black patent leather pumps, but oxfords made of highly polished black leather are acceptable.

Accessories for dressing in tux and black bow tie include black or white suspenders, shirt studs in gold, mother of pearl or black, cufflinks that match or harmonize with the studs, and a white pocket square made of linen or silk.

In colder climates, a dark colored dress overcoat and an evening dress scarf made from white silk with tassels should be worn over the suit.

In tropical climates and warm weather, it is acceptable to wear tropical black tie. The standards are the same for shirts and trousers, but the jacket is usually white or off white. Cummerbunds are usually worn with tropical black tie, but they are optional for standard formal dress code.

There have been many fads in formal wear over the decades, but these are the guidelines for classic formal wear and they apply in any black tie situation. This formal dress code for men should not be worn during the day and most properly, not before 6 PM. While custom once dictated when this dress code should be worn, now it is most common that the invitation to an affair include the information that it is black tie or formal. Proper formal attire during the day is the morning suit.

Hendrik is the owner of Bows-n-ties.com/ – a website dedicated to neckties, bow ties, cufflinks, pocket squares, ascots, and silk scarves. There is also alot of information on dress codes such as the proper Funeral Dress Code