From the Mailbag: The Tuxedo Free Black Tie Preferred Outfit
Top Photo Credit: Chad Magiera
My wife and I are invited to a friend’s wedding next Spring. The ceremony starts at 3pm and the cocktail hour is at 5:00pm with a sit down dinner to follow. The reception is at a very nice resort here in Charlotte. The invitation says Black Tie Preferred. I will not rent a tux as they always end up being ill fitting. Buying a tux really is not in the cards as we just had our second child and my wife is taking time off from work to raise our girls. Do you think I have to wear a tux? I’ve included a list of what I plan to wear instead. Would this be appropriate?
Two things. First, “Black Tie Preferred” is odd. It means male guests are requested to wear a tuxedo, but a dark sharp suit with minimal flash will also be acceptable. It’s especially risky at a wedding because the groom runs the risk of not being the sharpest dressed guy there. And that can be awkward. Say the groom is in something that’s a little too big, a little on the dated side, or a rental. Then a guest shows up in a made to measure Tom Ford. Ouch. Now the second point is this: black tie is evening wear. The ceremony is starting at three? In spring? The invite might say “preferred” but the meteorological / horological conditions seem to give Steven and other guests leeway. Here’s what he’s got planned, with some quick analysis and your take is welcome in the comments…
JCrew Factory Thompson Suit in Dark Charcoal – high $100s – high $200s
The use of the word “preferred” is kinda annoying. Some could interpret that as implying: “We want you in a tux, but if you just can’t seem to make that happen you knuckle dragging nincompoop, well then I GUESS that’s OKAY. Gosh. Really. Whateva.” Of course that’s not how the couple to be wed feels (better not be) but it puts pressure on those with financial priorities that don’t include owning evening wear. A dark, well tailored suit with white shirt and dark tie & shoes is a more than fine play. The only ding against the Thompson is the slight marling to the fabric, but honestly… it’s 3 o’clock in the afternoon and that marling is barely noticeable. Gives it some nice depth too. Full review here.
C.T. Wool Waistcoast – $50 ($230) , Ratio Pinpoint French Cuff – $89, & a Black Silk Tie
Good on Steven here. Well played. He says the waistcoat, even though it’s from Charles Tyrwhitt and not J. Crew Factory, matches exactly. Uncannily well. That’s key because it has to match. It also increases the dressed-up factor, as does the french cuffs on the shirt. Lose the waist coat and french cuffs and you’d probably still be okay, but those two things show the extra effort. The black silk tie keeps it formal.
Allen Edmond Chester Wingtips – (out of production)
Sorry fellas. Chester’s dead (whether butts were above the hard deck or not is inconsequential here). It’s a discontinued wingtip that Allen Edmonds isn’t currently making, but AEs last forever, and these are the black shoes Steven wants to wear. Yes they’re a full brogue / wingtip, but the lacing is closed (true oxford) and that keeps them from looking too casual. Would they look right with a tuxedo? Nope. They wouldn’t. You want smooth, sleek shoes then. And wingtips and brogues have a casual history. But if Steven shines them up before the wedding, they’ll merge well with the depth of the suit fabric. Black leather belt of course to match the shoes.
Garnet with white dots pocket square – $8.00 via thetiebar
Didn’t get a picture from Steven of his pocket square, but this might be in the ballpark. It’s the one sliver of color his outfit has, and it’s probably best to keep it a sliver instead of an enormous poof. Black Tie is supposed to be as sharp and without color as it gets (unless it’s a midnight navy tux.) Adds some personality while looking a hell of a lot better than some fire engine red paisley cummerbund a guy in a rental might wear.
The Bottom Line:
This is tricky. Everything from the time of the wedding, to that damn “preferred” word, to the awful state of the rental tuxedo industry. If the purpose of Black Tie is to get people looking their best, than isn’t a well tailored getup like this light years ahead of what most would consider “following the rules” and getting a rental complete with bad plastic patent shoes? Thoughts, suggestions, all of it are welcome in the comments.