Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide. 
Part 2: The Evening Shirt
While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 
A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:
French cuffs
Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
Spread or wing collar 
Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)
Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 
As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 
Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 
I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.
Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 
Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 
-Kiyoshi
(Photo via Time/Life)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our series on putting together an ensemble for black tie affairs on time and on a slim budget continues. Today we discuss finding the proper shirt. Click here to read the rest of the Black Tie Guide

Part 2: The Evening Shirt

While you can find fairly good deals on eBay for the tuxedo, it can be tougher when it comes to the shirt, especially if you have a preference for something that fits a bit more trim in the body and sleeve. 

A few things you want to look for in a tuxedo shirt:

  • French cuffs
  • Placket should allow for studs (bib front) or use mother-of-pearl buttons (pleated front)
  • White cotton that’s thinner, i.e.: poplin or broadcloth — avoid heavier weights
  • Spread or wing collar 
  • Bib or pleated front (this means no pockets)

Which collar should you go with? Wing collars come from a more formal tradition — white tie — and it depends if you believe they have their place in black tie ensembles. I think their visible points compliments tuxedos with peaked lapels. If you have a shawl-collared jacket, which relates closer to the casual smoking jacket, then consider going with the less formal spread collar. 

As for bibs or pleats, it’s again worth looking to the traditions of white tie for stylistic cues. The bib front often is made with a pique fabric (also called “marcella”) that’s associated with white tie and considered a more formal choice. Still, I think you could safely pick either and just go with your personal preference. The vertical lines of a pleated front could be beneficial to those looking to elongate their torso visually. 

Unfortunately, off-the-rack options for such shirts are limited under the $100 pricepoint. Charles Tyrwhitt’s shirts start at around $80 and they offer a slim fit version. The next best deal is the bib front from Suitsupply at $99 (slim fit) and for $20 more you can get a pleated front instead (extra-slim fit). 

I’ve personally owned the Hugo Boss Black slim fit bib front with a fly placket and darts on the back and found it to be quite good for $125. Remaining south of $150, you can pick among Brooks Brothers, Polo Ralph Lauren and Kent Wang.

Of course, when you’re around $150, then you might want to consider going with made-to-measure, at which point your options really open up quite a bit. But at this point, you might be pushing your luck with receiving your shirt in time for New Year’s Eve depending on your shirtmaker and shipping time. 

Finally, remember to avoid wearing a regular white dress shirt with your tuxedo — especially one with barrel cuffs, plastic buttons and a chest pocket. 

-Kiyoshi

(Photo via Time/Life)

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Our new contributor Kiyoshi Martinez has expensive tastes - but not a lot of scratch. In this series, he’ll show you how to put together a black tie ensemble without breaking the bank.
Part 1: The Tuxedo
It might just be the circles I travel in, but it’s rare I have the opportunity to wear black tie. Still, I find the excuse at least once a year to don the tuxedo for New Year’s Eve. Now’s a good time to start thinking about getting the various elements of a black-tie ensemble together if you want to have everything in place for the end of the year.
Black tie items don’t often go on sale or come cheap, but I’ll still be trying to offer some of the best values that can hopefully be affordable, starting with the tuxedo itself.
First, you’ll want to avoid renting one, as most rentals are polyester monstrosities that drape like a trash-bag poncho. Here’s a few key things to look for in your tuxedo:
Peaked or shawl lapels — avoid notched lapels
Single-button fastening for single-breasted jackets
Double-breasted jackets work fine, too
Preferably jetted besom pockets (if it has flaps, tuck them in)
Unvented or double-vented backs, depending if you want to be traditional or modern
Satin or grosgrain faced lapels and piping on the trousers
Preferably midnight blue in color, but black will do
If you’re on a budget, then I suggest looking at eBay. I prefer to search eBay U.K. using the term “dinner suit” or “dinner jacket” instead of “tuxedo”, which is an American term. You can often find a vintage one for $100-$200. It’s where I found mine. 
If you want to buy off the rack, I’d take a look at Tommy Hilfiger’s slim-fit line. It comes in both shawl and peaked lapel versions, however, it also has flapped pockets and a two-button front. Still, the price is a moderately reasonable $350 and I know several friends who’ve been perfectly happy with this line of suits. 
If your budget is higher, then consider Suit Supply, whose peaked lapel, one-button tuxedo looks like one of the best deals under the $500 price point. I recommended it to a friend of mine who wore one at his wedding and it looked fantastic on him. 
Keep in mind that you’ll need time to ship it to your home and get alterations done, so there’s a bit of a time crunch. Hopefully you have a good relationship with your tailor so he or she can have it ready in time. 
When getting your tuxedo altered, be sure to bring the appropriate shoes and shirt to the fitting so the sleeves show the correct amount of cuff and the pants can be hemmed precisely. 
Finally, keep your tuxedo simple and basic as much as possible. Avoid the temptation of a white dinner jacket, which is only really suitable for warm climates or summer, and avoid straying into jackets with flashy elements, odd colors or too-trendy cuts as they’ll look dated and the tuxedo is only a value when it’s timeless in design.
- Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Our new contributor Kiyoshi Martinez has expensive tastes - but not a lot of scratch. In this series, he’ll show you how to put together a black tie ensemble without breaking the bank.

Part 1: The Tuxedo

It might just be the circles I travel in, but it’s rare I have the opportunity to wear black tie. Still, I find the excuse at least once a year to don the tuxedo for New Year’s Eve. Now’s a good time to start thinking about getting the various elements of a black-tie ensemble together if you want to have everything in place for the end of the year.

Black tie items don’t often go on sale or come cheap, but I’ll still be trying to offer some of the best values that can hopefully be affordable, starting with the tuxedo itself.

First, you’ll want to avoid renting one, as most rentals are polyester monstrosities that drape like a trash-bag poncho. Here’s a few key things to look for in your tuxedo:

  • Peaked or shawl lapels — avoid notched lapels
  • Single-button fastening for single-breasted jackets
  • Double-breasted jackets work fine, too
  • Preferably jetted besom pockets (if it has flaps, tuck them in)
  • Unvented or double-vented backs, depending if you want to be traditional or modern
  • Satin or grosgrain faced lapels and piping on the trousers
  • Preferably midnight blue in color, but black will do

If you’re on a budget, then I suggest looking at eBay. I prefer to search eBay U.K. using the term “dinner suit” or “dinner jacket” instead of “tuxedo”, which is an American term. You can often find a vintage one for $100-$200. It’s where I found mine. 

If you want to buy off the rack, I’d take a look at Tommy Hilfiger’s slim-fit line. It comes in both shawl and peaked lapel versions, however, it also has flapped pockets and a two-button front. Still, the price is a moderately reasonable $350 and I know several friends who’ve been perfectly happy with this line of suits. 

If your budget is higher, then consider Suit Supply, whose peaked lapel, one-button tuxedo looks like one of the best deals under the $500 price point. I recommended it to a friend of mine who wore one at his wedding and it looked fantastic on him. 

Keep in mind that you’ll need time to ship it to your home and get alterations done, so there’s a bit of a time crunch. Hopefully you have a good relationship with your tailor so he or she can have it ready in time. 

When getting your tuxedo altered, be sure to bring the appropriate shoes and shirt to the fitting so the sleeves show the correct amount of cuff and the pants can be hemmed precisely. 

Finally, keep your tuxedo simple and basic as much as possible. Avoid the temptation of a white dinner jacket, which is only really suitable for warm climates or summer, and avoid straying into jackets with flashy elements, odd colors or too-trendy cuts as they’ll look dated and the tuxedo is only a value when it’s timeless in design.

- Kiyoshi

Improv Everywhere: Black Tie Beach 2012
Charlie Todd & Company invade beaches wearing black tie. Delight ensues.

Improv Everywhere: Black Tie Beach 2012

Charlie Todd & Company invade beaches wearing black tie. Delight ensues.

People often ask me for “alternative” tie knots. I call this one the “If You Are The Greatest Film Comedian of Our Time.”

People often ask me for “alternative” tie knots. I call this one the “If You Are The Greatest Film Comedian of Our Time.”

Tom Hanks. World Champion.
I’m even throwing my support behind the slightly louche tie. That’s called panache.
(Side note: at what point did Tom Ford get the exclusive concession on making showbusiness dudes look like anything other than goofuses at these events? It is possible to dress formally, elegantly, respectfully and still have some flair, people other than Tom Ford.)

Tom Hanks. World Champion.

I’m even throwing my support behind the slightly louche tie. That’s called panache.

(Side note: at what point did Tom Ford get the exclusive concession on making showbusiness dudes look like anything other than goofuses at these events? It is possible to dress formally, elegantly, respectfully and still have some flair, people other than Tom Ford.)

The Black Tie Shoe That’s Good For Something Else
Kent Wang just announced a new shoe, a black plain toe balmoral (pictured to the left, above). In keeping with Kent’s commitment to basics (he started making white pocket squares and double-sided cufflinks from vintage buttons), the shoe is a simple as can be.
(The balmoral, in American usage anyway, refers to a shoe with closed lacing - you can see in the photos above that the bit of leather with the lacing holes is sewn into the body of the shoe, rather than left open, as in a blucher. This makes for a dressier aesthetic.)
Kent says he made a plain-toe bal because it’s the simplest black dress shoe there is. It’s appropriate for any formal occasion, from wearing with a suit all the way up to black tie. That’s a convincing argument, if you ask me.
Shoes are one of the biggest problems for men who want to have their own black tie rig rather than renting. Tuxedos are available at a variety of price points, especially if you’re willing to go vintage. Shoes are tougher.
Patent leather looks like a cheap rental to my eyes no matter how high-quality the shoe. Cheap rentals look fantastically awful. Evening slippers (also called opera pumps), the most elegant option, can be prohibitively expensive - the Brooks Brothers version, while handsome, costs a hefty $448, and they’re tough to find used. Five hundred bucks is a lot for most folks to spend on shoes they’ll wear once a year.
Many men simply wear black wingtips with their tuxedo, or worse, black loafers. Frankly, you might as well wear sneakers - only you don’t get any rebel points for wearing loafers. Black cap toes are marginally better, but still look out of place, particularly if they feature any broguing. They simply read as, “I was doing great until I got to the shoes, then I gave up.”
A plain-toe black shoe, with closed lacing, highly shined, is a very reasonable alternative to evening shoes with black tie. You avoid the cheap, plasticky look of patent leather, and you get a shoe that can actually be worn for more than just black tie events. That’s a very solid investment, if you ask me.
Kent’s version, which is made in Vietnam (albeit to a high standard), is $350. The Alden version, with a more American shape, is about a hundred dollars more. Crockett & Jones Wembley model, available made-to-order from Pediwear, runs at about $390, plus shipping. Brooks Brothers’ offering, made in England (quite possibly by C&J) is $448.

The Black Tie Shoe That’s Good For Something Else

Kent Wang just announced a new shoe, a black plain toe balmoral (pictured to the left, above). In keeping with Kent’s commitment to basics (he started making white pocket squares and double-sided cufflinks from vintage buttons), the shoe is a simple as can be.

(The balmoral, in American usage anyway, refers to a shoe with closed lacing - you can see in the photos above that the bit of leather with the lacing holes is sewn into the body of the shoe, rather than left open, as in a blucher. This makes for a dressier aesthetic.)

Kent says he made a plain-toe bal because it’s the simplest black dress shoe there is. It’s appropriate for any formal occasion, from wearing with a suit all the way up to black tie. That’s a convincing argument, if you ask me.

Shoes are one of the biggest problems for men who want to have their own black tie rig rather than renting. Tuxedos are available at a variety of price points, especially if you’re willing to go vintage. Shoes are tougher.

Patent leather looks like a cheap rental to my eyes no matter how high-quality the shoe. Cheap rentals look fantastically awful. Evening slippers (also called opera pumps), the most elegant option, can be prohibitively expensive - the Brooks Brothers version, while handsome, costs a hefty $448, and they’re tough to find used. Five hundred bucks is a lot for most folks to spend on shoes they’ll wear once a year.

Many men simply wear black wingtips with their tuxedo, or worse, black loafers. Frankly, you might as well wear sneakers - only you don’t get any rebel points for wearing loafers. Black cap toes are marginally better, but still look out of place, particularly if they feature any broguing. They simply read as, “I was doing great until I got to the shoes, then I gave up.”

A plain-toe black shoe, with closed lacing, highly shined, is a very reasonable alternative to evening shoes with black tie. You avoid the cheap, plasticky look of patent leather, and you get a shoe that can actually be worn for more than just black tie events. That’s a very solid investment, if you ask me.

Kent’s version, which is made in Vietnam (albeit to a high standard), is $350. The Alden version, with a more American shape, is about a hundred dollars more. Crockett & Jones Wembley model, available made-to-order from Pediwear, runs at about $390, plus shipping. Brooks Brothers’ offering, made in England (quite possibly by C&J) is $448.

Our pal Paul Feig on his way to the Golden Globes. Have fun!

Our pal Paul Feig on his way to the Golden Globes. Have fun!

voxsart:

Party Hearty.
Many, many parties: Brooks Brothers patent pumps from 1938, in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

And their place in the collection well-earned.
I’ve written it here before, but slide on a pair of evening slippers, and you’ll know you’re ready to go out for a seriously sophisticated evening. Patent oxfords have nothing on these. If you think they look effeminate, just wait until you see them as part of the ensemble… and until the ladies start pawing at you.

voxsart:

Party Hearty.

Many, many parties: Brooks Brothers patent pumps from 1938, in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

And their place in the collection well-earned.

I’ve written it here before, but slide on a pair of evening slippers, and you’ll know you’re ready to go out for a seriously sophisticated evening. Patent oxfords have nothing on these. If you think they look effeminate, just wait until you see them as part of the ensemble… and until the ladies start pawing at you.

(via voxsart-deactivated20120827)

I once wore black tie to a “gala” theater opening, and literally four different people asked if my wife and I had just been married. I can only dream of living in a world wherein owning “fun formal” is appropriate.
One day I’ll find a tartan dinner jacket in a thrift store in my size, and I’ll buy it, and have to find a way to wear it.
Heck, I’d throw the party myself if I knew even one person who owned a tux. Or a suit.
Vox, as always, looks tremendous.
voxsart:


F/W 11-12 black tie event #3, or the dying habit of the formal informal party.
My favorite black tie party is not the big soirée brimming with strangers and rubbery hors d’œuvre, but small parties with family and friends for which customs of moderation and austerity in semi-formal dress can replaced with something a bit more eccentric.  I suspect that we are about the last members of the last generation of Americans still to do parties like this.  It is done fewer times each year, and some years not, but off we go with like-minded chums to celebrate a friend’s birthday party held at her home.

I once wore black tie to a “gala” theater opening, and literally four different people asked if my wife and I had just been married. I can only dream of living in a world wherein owning “fun formal” is appropriate.

One day I’ll find a tartan dinner jacket in a thrift store in my size, and I’ll buy it, and have to find a way to wear it.

Heck, I’d throw the party myself if I knew even one person who owned a tux. Or a suit.

Vox, as always, looks tremendous.

voxsart:

F/W 11-12 black tie event #3, or the dying habit of the formal informal party.

My favorite black tie party is not the big soirée brimming with strangers and rubbery hors d’œuvre, but small parties with family and friends for which customs of moderation and austerity in semi-formal dress can replaced with something a bit more eccentric.  I suspect that we are about the last members of the last generation of Americans still to do parties like this.  It is done fewer times each year, and some years not, but off we go with like-minded chums to celebrate a friend’s birthday party held at her home.

(via voxsart-deactivated20120827)

Vox Sartoria takes on the issue of formal pumps with black tie.
I’ve worn both oxfords and pumps with black tie in the past, and the latter is my strong preference. Vox is correct: as part of a full black tie ensemble, they are elegant, and not feminine at all.

Vox Sartoria takes on the issue of formal pumps with black tie.

I’ve worn both oxfords and pumps with black tie in the past, and the latter is my strong preference. Vox is correct: as part of a full black tie ensemble, they are elegant, and not feminine at all.