So, you've been invited to a black tie event, and now, you need to dress yourself for success (with the ladies or the boss?) in a dinner jacket (known as a tuxedo in them thar parts of America). But you need to know what kind to get and what to wear with it? Well, I had a similar problem and I scoured the web and couldn't find a simple guide to evening dress, so I wrote one.
The Simple Guide to Black Tie Dressing for Men
The DJ (a.k.a. tux): simple - black, with shiny lapels and a shiny stripe on the leg. That was easy, right? If you are very adventurous and it's summer, you can try a white jacket (with black trousers), and still be socially acceptable.
Jacket style: single-breasted is more 'in' these days, but if you're portly, go double-breasted (covers the belly better). By the way, if you're standing up, your double-breasted jacket better be buttoned! And don't take off your jacket, ever; unless everyone else does.
Shirt: white. Simple, see? The collar can be one of those fancy tabbed ones with the little folding corners (wing collar) or like a regular shirt collar (lay down collar), your choice. The breast of the shirt will have either pleats or a fancy material that will make you look really nice. The cuffs can be either French or regular, your choice.
Shirt buttons: the studs (buttons) on the shirt and the cuff links should generally match. Cheaper shirts will have the studs sewn on. They are small enough to get away with cheapness, so don't worry too much; but do splurge if you can, since this is one of the few things that will make you look different than the other penguins in the room.
Tie: a bow tie, preferably not pretied. Black. Nothing to even joke about here. Just figure out how to tie it with the help of any number of websites.
Vest (a.k.a. waistcoat): very optional, but if you choose it, wear only with a single-breasted DJ. guess the colour? Right, black!
Cummerbund (a.k.a. crumb catcher): optional, but will probably make you look better, but only with a single breasted DJ, and not with a vest. Folds face up. Colour to match the tie: black!
Shoes: yes black, but as shiny as possible. Patent leather is nice, but not required, as long as the shoes are of nice leather, with clean lines and no designs
Belt: none. That's right. The trousers should be well-fitting, and not require a belt. You could consider suspenders though, white ones should be nice, you could get away with black, just keep your jacket on.
Ok, ok, you've seen movies or whatnot with folks wearing all sorts of other colours (not James Bond, though). Here are the rules for that:
DJ: non-black only for high school proms, or if you're rich and can deal with a bit of ridicule
shirt: can be off-white, or other colours, just make sure your tie and vest match it for a good overall look
tie: white tie only for the most formal occasions; other colours or patterns can be worn if it is a dinner jacket event, but not too serious, and you want to get away with a bit of individuality
cummerbund: must still match your tie
vest: as with the tie, you can choose colours or patterns for individual expression, if the event is less formal
other neck gear: cravats, ascots, neckties, etc. should go with vest (generally colour-coordinated, not necessarily same pattern)