Expertise

black tie optional dress code

‘Black-tie optional’ is one of those formal dress codes that creates more doubt than clarity. What was once invented to make party-goers feel more liberated with flexible choices in their formal dressing, has become the cause of a slew of panicked questions at the sight of the phrase on an invite;”What color suit to choose?””Do I need to wear a tux?””What does optional mean?” “Do I need a cummerbund?” What IS a cummerbund?”

Ironically in the Art Deco period of 1920’s famously known as the ‘The Roaring Twenties’ or ‘The Jazz Age’, King Edward VII had passed on, and the far more conservative George V was making his mark in an attempt to reintroduce the formality his father had let slide in the courts. Edward VII had swapped his tailcoat for a blue silk smoking jacket with matching trousers, made by Henry Poole & Co. of Savile Row. It provided the monarch with a more comfortable alternative to the formality of evening tails.

It was Edward VII’s inspired loosening that eventually morphed into the birth of black-tie in 1885 among the well-to-do. This black-tie suit style was then adopted by members of the Tuxedo Club in New York.

Back then it was easy to decipher what black or white tie meant. Today, with when we enjoy a more relaxed  dress codes, it’s a tangled mess left upto the majority of men trying to decode what exactly the invite means. Therefore, we have compiled an informative guide from experts from around the world regarding everything you need to know about black-tie optional.

What does black-tie optional mean?

A simple definition of black-tie optional is that the host of an event is planning on wearing standard black-tie and hopes that their guests try to adhere to that as well, though it isn’t necessarily required.

The “Optional” is for men who don’t own traditional black-tie ensembles. It’s a judgment-free acceptance that not all men certainly own or can afford one. If you wish to wear a standard black-tie outfit for a black-tie optional event, you’re perfectly welcome to do so. The fact is that these black-tie optional events are a good opportunity to wear your occasion wear in accordance with all the traditional rules of proper black-tie. Although it’s safe to note that the “optional” part in the dress code shouldn’t be an excuse to dress down parts of a conventional tuxedo or incorporate other less formal elements.

What to wear to a black-tie optional event?

In a broad sense the dress code calls for a dark suit, a white shirt, a dark conservative tie, dark over the calf socks, black leather shoes, and maybe a few conservative accessories.

Suit: The dark suit should be very dark to stay on par with the black tuxedos and to maintain the decorum of the black tie event. Charcoal and midnight blue are also great alternatives. Solid coloured suits are your best choice, though faint patterns such as a light and broad windowpane could be acceptable. Two piece or three piece, single or double-breasted would work.

Shirts: For a significant contrast with a dark suit a white shirt is ideal for black-tie optional events. It’s best to avoid any other colours as it would be too informal for such an event.

Neckwear: The neckwear worn should be dark and solid instead of patterned. A black necktie could be worn but black bow ties should be avoided with dark suits. Keep that for tuxedos. To choose wisely instead of a black necktie you could go with burgundy, navy, a very dark forest green, or dark plum.

Footwear: Simple and classic black Oxfords are your best bet. Black derby shoes, if conservatively styled, could also work. The part that gives you most range in choice and flexibility would be in your accessories. Cufflinks can be silver, gold or any other solid coloured metal and they could feature designs and subtle embellishments.

What to avoid at a black-tie optional event

  • Light-coloured suits: Black-tie optional events take place in the evening and a suit in light grey or khaki would definitely not cut it.
  • Going without a tie: It’s simple, a black-tie event requires you to wear a tie. It doesn’t matter if it’s a bow tie or a neck tie, but you need to wear one.
  • Odd jackets and trousers: If you choose to be creative by wearing khakis or lighter hues with a mix and match blazer, they are simply too casual for an affair involving tuxedos.
  • Crazy socks: Socks in bright bold colours, funky patterns can be saved for a more casual event. For black tie-optional events, keep your socks the same colour as your trousers.

Understanding different invitation requirements

  • White tie or full dress: Wear a white wing-collar pique shirt, crisp white pique vest, white tie, classic black trousers with formal satin stripe, black tailcoat and black patent shoes.
  • Black tie: Wear a classic tuxedo with white shirt, dark vest or cummerbund and black tie. Accessorise with black patent shoes.
  • Black tie preferred: This generally means formal evening attire. Black tuxedo, white dinner jacket or dark tuxedo (no tailcoats). Non-formal dress suits are acceptable but not preferred.
  • Black tie optional: Not as rigid about formal attire as “black tie” or “black tie preferred.” Still, formal dress is appropriate and acceptable, including black tuxedo and dark contemporary-style tuxedos.
  • Black tie invited: This means that you are welcome to dress in formal attire if you like, but it is not required.
  • Semi-formal: Allows tuxedo or dinner jacket.

Finally it comes down to this. For someone who doesn’t own a tuxedo and chooses not to rent one, a black tie-optional event is your best friend. You can utilise your existing wardrobe, minimise your expense and still look like a million bucks when you’re at an event amongst the tuxedo-wearing masses. Just make sure that your suit’s well-fitted(ideally made to measure), brushed and dry-cleaned and that your whole look comes together to create a memorable impression. 

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slim fit vs regular fit shirts

There’s no debate to the fact that the two most popular types of shirts for men are the regular and slim fit shirts. That being said, most men do face a dilemma when choosing between the two. Let’s find out why.

Slim fit shirts are in trend nowadays, and with more men taking care of their bodies in an effort to show it off, slim fit shirts are becoming a go-to option. But just because it’s in trend does not mean it’s perfect for everyone, even those with toned physiques. And if you want a fitted shirt, slim fit isn’t your only option.

Most men confuse regular fit shirts for relaxed fit shirts. And therefore, when they require a shirt that needs to be tucked in (dress shirts for office wear, for example), they opt for slim fits, thinking it won’t look billowy. But the truth is that regular fit shirts can be tapered to skim your body. This still leaves plenty of room to breathe without big.

So let’s look at the difference at the construction level.

Construction:

Slim fit shirts are usually tapered, with darts in the back (and sometimes the front too) to conform to narrow waist. Some even come with a curved fit along the sides. Most slim fit shirts often have tighter sleeves than other shirt fits too. Though slim fit shirts are made with 100% cotton, the most comfortable ones usually have lycra for added stretch.

Regular fit shirts have an airy feel without being boxy. They don’t have darts, though a tapered finish can be given by taking in the side seams. They’re more generously cut over the chest and waistlines too. Regular fit shirts can be made of 100% cotton with no added stretch.

Despite the difference in construction, both shirt fits should feel comfortable to wear and move in, or else the tailoring is off. Plus, both these fits look good tucked in with no excess material draping over the belt.

Body types:

To make things easier, let’s look at the kind of body types these shirts are best suited for.

If you’re lean or “skinny”, then slim fits are perfect for you. People with this body type have a tendency to find tucked-in shirts spilling out, giving a muffin-like appearance, and slim fits are a smart alternative. Similarly, if you’re short and lean, a slim fit shirt will look great on you.

On the other hand, if you have a regular toned physique, then a slim fit shirt can fit you less like a glove and more like sausage casing. For everyone who falls in the slightly overweight to average to toned physique spectrum, the regular fit shirt will do nicely.

We can’t stress how important it is to get great fitting shirts; they look great, feel comfortable without all the stretching or bunching and they last longer too. Therefore, when going for ready made shirts, you’ll have to choose the shirt brand that gives you the right fit via trial and error. Therefore, we recommend you giver made to measure shirts a try, especially if you’re very particular about fit and comfort.

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mens suit patterns

If the phrase “patterned suits” made you think of Austin Powers, we forgive you. Most men find patterned suits too risky an option, and instead stick to safe bets like black, navy blue and grey suits. But patterned suits can be everything from fun to sombre. Here we take a look at six of the most popular suit patterns in the market.

1) Glen plaid suits

Reminiscent of European aristocracy, the Glen plaid enjoys a rich and distinguished history. It’s essentially a woollen fabric with a woven twill design of small and large checks. Owing to the check design, the making of a Glen plaid suit calls for a tailor with expertise since the checks have to align harmoniously at the seams. Glen plaid suits can easily be worn in formal work environments.

2) Windowpane

Unlike regular plaids, the windowpane checks give a more checkered effect owing to the wide spacement of the checks. The look can be sombre or bold based on the color or the check stripe. If the stripes of the check are close to the tone of the body, then it can be worn to formal settings, but if the check stripes are bold and contrasting to the body, then it’d be more suited for parties.

3) Pinstripe suits

Pinstripes or bankers stripes started out in the 19th century, when they were used in banker uniforms, with each bank having their own stripe. Even today, it’s associated with banking and financial institutions. The pinstripe, looks exactly like what the name suggests – stripes made by a pin. Pinstripe suits are ideal for corporate settings, thanks to the subtlety of the stripes, and the closer it matches the body, the more sombre it looks. Pinstripe suits are traditionally worn to jobs in the finance field, but they can easily be worked into every man’s formal wear repertoire.

4) Chalk stripe suits

Chalk stripes are closely related to pinstripes, the only difference being the width of the stripe. The name is derived from the fact that they look like stripes made by a tailor’s chalk on fabric. Chalk stripe suits are flashier than pinstripe suits and are ideal if you want the stripes to be predominant. Wear chalk stripe suits for boardroom meetings, when you need to draw attention and convey a powerful image.

5) Herringbone

The herringbone suit pattern comes from the repeated inverted V’s created by the twill weave. It’s a versatile pattern, and can be found on everything from semi-casual olive or brown blazers to neutral toned business suits.

6) Houndstooth

The houndstooth pattern can trace its roots back to Scotland in the 1800’s. The fabric got its name because it looks like a repeated hound’s tooth pattern. As such, houndstooth fabric is mostly used in suit jackets and blazers rather than full suits. It’s a very bold look, even when employed only on suit jackets or blazers, so wear them to casual events and parties.

We hope this helped you familiarise yourself with the six most popular men’s suit patterns. There are a few things to remember though – a patterned suit is memorable and therefore should not be part of your core suit collection. They can ideally be your fourth or fifth purchase. And high quality fabrics and beautiful tailoring are very important here since patterns make mistakes show more easily compared to a solid dark suit. And finally, don’t forget the importance of pairing your patterned suits with the right shirts and ties. Thankfully we’ve done a post on the subject that you’ll find helpful.

Image Credits: Herringbones – sprucelondon.com, Houndstooth – stylemakerfabrics.com

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purchase custom clothing

Over the years, custom made clothing have gained popularity as more companies offering made to measure menswear have come online. That being said, it’s not as popular as it should be, owing to the misconception that purchasing custom made clothes online is expensive and tedious. We’re here to put those myths to rest. Let’s begin.

What are custom made clothes?

Simply put, custom made or made to measure clothes are made to the specifications of the customer. This includes great attention to fit and also additional personalized features like fabrics, buttons, linings, collar and cuff styles, etc, chosen as per the customer’s preferences.

Benefits of custom clothing versus ready made clothes

Most people expect custom menswear to be exorbitantly expensive, but it’s marginally more expensive than something off the rack. But in so many ways, it’s a superior product. Let’s compare:

Fit: Custom made clothes are tailored to fit perfectly, whereas readymade clothes come in predefined sizes. The human body needn’t always conform to the readymade clothing sizes. Therefore, many times readymade clothes call for extensive alterations, whereas custom made clothes elude that issue in the very initial session when the tailor takes all the personal measurements.

Comfort: This is closely tied in to the point above. Some menswear staples like suits call for complicated construction with various materials and layering. Therefore, all elements have to drape the body well so that there is no bunching or pulling, even on parts that aren’t visible, like the lining. This part is hard to nail for off the rack clothes.

Longevity: Some of the factors leading to quick wear and tear in clothing are incorrect fit, low quality fabrics, and bad production practices. Custom clothing skirts this issue by paying close attention to fit before tailoring, and correct processes while tailoring. For example, did you know that a certain number of stitches per inch have to be maintained while tailoring, or that there are different types of seams, etc.? A good tailor would be aware of these and implement them too.

Choices: Unlike ready to wear clothes, custom clothing is made to suit your personal style and lifestyle, therefore everything from fabrics to trims to design elements are chosen by you. This especially pertains to fabric choices. Ready made clothes can come in low quality fabrics and threads to meet production price points, whereas custom clothing can maintain the highest standards. The tailor, and in some cases, in-house personal stylist (as seen in Tailorman stores) can assist you in making the right choices from a wide selection.

Customizations: When something is custom made for you, there’s literally no second piece like it. Therefore, a wardrobe filled with custom clothing is akin to your own designer label where the only client is you. Companies like Tailorman even offer monogram services, which act like your personal logo!

Repeat buys: One of the best things about custom clothing is that, once you’ve nailed the fit the first time around, you can have your other clothes customized easily every single time. In Tailorman, for example, the measurements of each customer is stored for future use.

But, are all ready made clothes bad?

No, custom made clothing require some time and effort on the customer’s end. Ready made clothes on the other hand are convenient to buy if you’re in a hurry. If your body matches the available sizes, then too, you’re in luck.

We hope that you’re feeling more confident about buying customized clothing. We suggest you walk into one of the Tailorman stores, or book an appointment online to ease yourself into the made to measure experience.

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take care of your suit

Suits are one of the most most expensive clothing items a man can own. If you’ve purchased your basic suits, added patterned jackets and blazers, and a tuxedo, then you’re now the proud owner of an enviable wardrobe.

But once you have all the right suits, how are you going to maintain them?

Your first instinct may be to get your suits dry cleaned. But the truth is that most men are dry cleaning their suits too often. You could just as well keep suits fresh by brushing them, airing them out and spot cleaning them regularly.

Let’s talk about how long your suit can last.

As a general rule, if you buy a well-fitting suit in a classic style, crafted from good quality fabric, it can easily last your at least ten years. Steer clear of trendy elements and patterns and no one would be able to tell that it wasn’t a current purchase.

Next, how many wears can you get out of a suit?

As a general rule, you can get at least 130 wears out of a suit. This is a conservative estimate, because things like how often you wear your suits, how long you wear them each time, how much dust and stains your suits are exposed to during each wear – all can affect the longevity of your suit.

And finally, how to take care of your suit.

Storage

First of all, hang your suits on a wide wooden hanger in your closet. Make sure that the hanger is wide enough to reach the shoulders so that the shoulder padding stays intact. When you have to store your suits away for a season, it’s best to dry clean them first and store them in a breathable garment bag.

Brushing

Buy a suit brush specifically for brushing your suits. All you need is fifteen seconds to brush the dust and food particles off your suits. This buildup if left unchecked can lead to fiber decay, which in turn can lead to a dusty appearance and tearing. Therefore, regular suit brushing can add to the longevity of your suit.

Airing

Don’t pack your suits in like sardines. Give them an inch or two on either side so that they air out naturally between wears. This can get rid of light odors.

Steam cleaning

Use a steam cleaner to get the wrinkles out. It also gives the additional benefit of freshening your suit.

Spot cleaning

Spot cleaning comes in handy when your otherwise clean suit is marred by a stain. This way, your suit does not have to undergo drycleaning just to get rid of a tiny stain.

Washing suits

Though people wash their suits at home, we suggest you look at the care instructions that come with the suit first. Otherwise, we suggest maintaining it using the methods given above and dry cleaning it occasionally.

Dry cleaning

It’s best to take your suits to the dry cleaners every six months or when it starts to smell funky or look visibly dirty or when it gets a stain. This is because dry cleaning uses chemical solvents and regular dry cleaning can be bad for suits made from natural fibers.

Now that you have all the requisite information on keeping your suits clean, we suggest you buy made to measure suits with confidence – after all, they’ll keep for years to come and make you look amazing every time.

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