Many are familiar with ‘black tie’ events, which assume you are at least smart enough, and dressed smartly enough to show up at the door in a tuxedo, the American vernacular for what refined Europeans call a “dinner jacket.” Not so familiar as “black tie” are events that call for white tie attire. White tie attire is the more formal of the two and is reserved for attending things like the opening night at the opera, special banquets, and balls. Besides the obvious difference between a “black tie” and “white tie” event, in that the tie colors are at the opposite ends of the color spectrum, there are other more subtle differences that a gentleman needs to be aware of.
You shouldn’t have any trouble distinguishing a white from a black tie, even the color blind can do that, but you may need a bit of help actually tying the tie. For goodness sakes, never use one of those inferior clip-on ties. Ask your manservant to help you with the tie, or in the worse case if you don’t have a manservant, ask your mother, wife, or girlfriend. How women know how to tie a formal bowtie better than men is one of God’s greatest mysteries!
OK you settled the problem of getting the tie tied. You may be a gentleman after all. This helps immensely when you need to regain composure later in the evening, should you gulp down too much champagne when you really “tie one on.” You can imagine where that phrase comes from, but that is another story. You want at all costs to remained dignified and never to be seen with your tie, of whatever color, askew.
What else must you watch out for? Well, resist the temptation, no matter what other crazy colors may be offered in the rental shop (purple tuxedos went out with the 1970’s!), to choose anything but a pure white tie, a pure white starched shirt without frills, a white waistcoat, a classic black dinner jacket and matching black pants that fit properly. And yes, pay most careful attention to that crisp white tie, because therein are where the really heavy traps are laid. You must not appear to be ostentatious, but you must do your best also stand out from the crowd. As subtle is the proper choice of fine wine, is your choice of the white tie.
Are there really significant differences in a simple white tie? Most definitely so, and your ability to spot them makes you five scales up on the gentleman’s register compared to the boob that puts on any old white tie that has light stains on it and is ragged around the edges. It is ok to get your attire from a rental shop. It is not OK to look as if you went to the second hand store. If the rental shop is full of dowdy over-worn materials, go get back in your car, ask your chauffer to drive you to another.
Get out fast before you create a social disaster. What? You are taking the bus? Fine. Hold your head high with the knowledge that you know how to dress properly for a significant white tie attire event, which not just any fool knows how to do, and take the double-decker (the two-story busses commonly used in London, for you Americans) to the next more refined rental shop in search of that perfect white tie.
Pohl is passionate about dressing well. His passion for fine mens clothing made him start an online retailer for mens ties and bow ties. There is also a huge selection of white ties available.
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