In this article, we’ll be discussing the most generous of all dress codes: black tie optional. We’ll address what you can wear and offer other helpful tips for your attire including:

If you’ve found yourself here in error or need information on a different dress code, take a quick look at our dress code guide.

Not every man owns a tuxedo. In fact, relatively few do. Furthermore, dinner jackets can be quite expensive, especially if you go the made-to-measure or bespoke route. Black tie-optional offers such men the opportunity to attend semi-formal evening events without having to shell out a ton of money for new clothes. How thoughtful!

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What Does Black Tie Optional Mean?

Black tie-optional refers to a dress code in which a tuxedo/dinner jacket (black tie) is requested, but guests have the option to wear a dark business suit if they so choose. They take place in the evening, just as standard black tie events do.

We call this the most generous of the dress codes because it’s a judgement-free acknowledgement that not all men own or can afford true semi-formalwear. Tuxedos aren’t necessarily expensive, but they’re always more expensive than comparable suits due to the additional material needed for the facings.

Which Types Of Events Are Black Tie Optional?

Any event that’s otherwise black tie can become black tie-optional if the host decides it to be so. These could be weddings, evening celebrations for religious rites of passage like communions and bar-mitzvahs, and even certain galas.

Black Tie Optional Weddings

Weddings are becoming an increasingly popular event to embrace black tie optional attire as an alternative to more traditional dress codes. By opting for black tie optional, the bride and groom retain a level of formality while providing some flexibility to their guests.

While many of the rules are the same, some freedom is often permitted given the celebratory occasion. For instance, there may be room for a splash of colour with the guests’ choice in tie or pocket square.

Nevertheless, it’s recommended that guests try to stay loyal to the requested dress code as much as possible out of respect for the wedding couple’s wishes.

What To Wear To A Black Tie Optional Event

Black-Tie-Optional

To begin with, your options are two-fold: a tuxedo or a suit. If you want to wear a tuxedo, you must adhere to the rules of black tie.

It’s not quite that simple, though.

If you opt to wear a suit to a black tie-optional event, that’s totally fine. To keep up with tuxedos in the same room, you’ll essentially follow a strict, evening wear-driven version of the business professional dress code.

Let’s break down the various garments that you can wear at a black tie optional event.

Black Tie Optional Suit

Ideally, we’d opt for a tuxedo. However, we realise that not everyone would do the same. And given the dress codes name, you don’t have to do so.

If wearing a suit, it must be dark. This is one of the rare occasions in which it’s acceptable to wear a black suit. Dark charcoal and deep navy are also perfectly acceptable options.

If you don’t have anything in your wardrobe that’s appropriate, we can recommend a number of excellent suit brands. Should time be on your side and you’re planning ahead, we’re very fond of the custom suitmakers Black Lapel and Indochino.

With these services, you can submit your measurements online and the suits are made for you. However, the process takes a number of weeks so it requires foresight.

Nevertheless, if this is the route you want to follow, head to our guide to the best custom suits to buy online as we have exclusive voucher codes for both of them.

If you’re in a hurry, Suitsupply has yet to let anyone down. They offer excellent quality for the price that you pay and your garments will arrive very quickly.

All the above retailers have options for both black tie and business suits. Therefore, they’re ideal for whichever you choose.

Black Tie Optional Shirt

Whatever you choose, your shirt should be white. While barrel cuffs are fine on this occasion, French cuffs are the ideal choice. In a pinch, a light blue shirt will work too but we’d avoid it if possible.

Should you wish to wear a tuxedo, we’re particularly fond of the evening shirts made by Eton. These are excellent for black tie optional as they’re not overly formal. Instead of shirt studs, they have a covered placket and they’re made with a turndown collar.

Meanwhile, if you want to pick up a quality shirt for the occasion, head to our guide to the best shirt brands on the market. We recently updated this guide to feature a number of options for different budgets. However, we made sure only to select trusted Jermyn Street brands or similar.

Black Tie Optional Shoes

When it comes to black tie optional shoes your best is to go with a pair of black leather dress shoes. If you’re wearing a tuxedo, you can opt for shoes for that particular occasion such as patent leather slippers. We have a detailed guide for the best black tie shoes to buy online.

Meanwhile, if you’re wearing a suit, we suggest classic cap toe Oxfords. We have a guide on this shoe style, which suggests the best ones available on the market. However, we generally recommend the ones made by either Ace Marks or Beckett Simonon, which cost $300 and $200 respectively.

Black Tie Optional Tie

When choosing something for black tie optional, opt for an understated tie. A black, navy, deep plum, or deep burgundy tie will work wonderfully. Whether you choose a necktie or a bow tie, select a solid colour as opposed to one with a pattern.

What Accessories To Wear For Black Tie Optional

In keeping with black tie guidelines, colourful accessories are best reduced to a minimum. For instance, novelty braces and wild socks will seem somewhat out of place. Nevertheless, feel free to throw on a boutonnière for some added flair!

The beauty of this is that if your capsule wardrobe is fleshed out, you will already have everything you need to attend a black tie-optional affair. Click the preceding link if you’re unsure of what a capsule wardrobe is (and if you don’t know, you’ll find a ton of value in it!).

What Not To Wear To A Black Tie Optional Event

Sure, there are options. It’s in the title of the dress code, isn’t it?

Man In Khaki Suit And Sunglasses

Of course there are, but not all of them are available to you on this occasion. Here are some basic things to avoid:

  • Light-coloured suits: Black tie-optional events take place in the evening, and a suit in light grey or khaki (pictured above) simply won’t cut it.
  • Odd jackets & trousers: If you’re thinking about wearing khakis and a blazer to a black tie-optional gathering, think again. Even the smartest “odd” combinations are too casual for an affair with tuxedos.
  • An outfit without a tie: You need to wear a tie. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bow tie or a neck tie, but you need to wear one. And you need to tie it yourself.
  • Crazy socks: You may wear crazy socks to a casual office, the movies, a date, a crazy sock convention, or similar situations. For black tie-optional events, keep your socks the same colour as your trousers.

On a related note, we recently updated our socks guide with the best brands currently on the market. If your sock wardrobe needs refreshing, it’s a great place to start!

What Next?

For a man who doesn’t own a tuxedo and wisely refuses to rent one, black tie-optional events are his best friend. You can minimize expense by utilizing your existing wardrobe and still look like a million bucks when you’re out on the town amongst the tuxedo-wearing masses.

However, we believe it’s worth investing in a tuxedo when the opportunity arises. After all, you’ll never know when you’ll need it until it’s too late!

For more information on other dress codes, see our guide to dress codes. Otherwise, we have a host of other resources at your disposal:

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About The Author – Paul Anthony

Paul Anthony Sidebar PicPaul is a the founder and creative director of Bespoke Unit. His interests range from: suits, shoes, watches, sport, and travel. See his full profile here, and read latest articles.

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