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Monday January 16th 2012

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Fall/Winter FORMALWEAR

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“How am I supposed to stand out when everybody gets dressed up?” – Kanye West.

Well, here are 4 ways to stand out (in a goood way) wearing black tie formal – whether it’s a big night out or your big day.

1. The Midnight Shawl Tuxedo

Everybody has a black tuxedo – it’s been done a million times. A subtle way to stand-out from the colorless crowd – go with a very dark (almost black) midnight blue tuxedo. And don’t worry it’s not “trendy”, men have been wearing midnight tuxedos for decades. In fact, many purists (especially English purists) will tell you that it is the proper choice because it actually looks darkest and richer under evening light.

Although the fabric of the tuxedo is midnight blue, the lapels, pocket trimings, covered buttons and pant stripe are typically black satin or, in this case, black grosgrain (which gives the trimming a sharp and distinct look because of it’s subtle ribbed texture).

Tuxedo tips:

  • Go one button, with a low stance – creating a longer, more lengthening (and thus more flattering) “V” shape.
  • Cut it slim. Garments look dressier and sharper the slimmer they fit (within reason and without being “tight”). Therefore, your tuxedo should be your slimmest, most sharply tailored garment.
  • For a clean and minimal look, go with a hidden placket shirt with a point collar (not spread, which is more appropriate for business). And french cuffs, of course. The fabric should be a solid white with a visible texture (like this gentle birdseye) which gives the shirt substance and makes it look more formal. Leave the poplins for the yachts.
  • Leave the straight ties for the office. It’s a tux – go with a bowtie (if you’re wearing a shawl collar, it’s a must). Traditionally, the bowtie should be cut from the same cloth as the tuxedo’s lapels & trimmings (again, in this case, black grosgrain).
  • Keep your cufflinks simple, elegant, and a stick to silver, black and/or white palette. I’m partial to these black onyx links for formalwear.
  • A black alligator watchband is the most formal choice (as is a simple, uncolored and non-oversized 30-35 mm watch face).
  • Tuxedos are minimal garments. Originally men wore these simple black & white outfits to let women in their gowns garner the deserved attention. With that said, tuxedo trousers should not have belt loops. Go with side-adjusters (preferably button adjusters over metal slides) or a plain waistband with suspenders.
  • Back in the day the standard tuxedo was ventless. But that was back in the day. A double vented jacket is most flattering and looks most chic.
  • Going sockless with a formal look is not a good idea. Your hosiery should be thin and tight so they keep their shape and don’t slide down the ankle. As with a suit, they should be one shade darker than your trousers

Bonus Tip: if you are only going to have one bespoke garment, make it a tuxedo. Black tie events are the one time when a man should look his absolute best.

Bonus Tip II: leave your jacket on, and keep it fastened during the ceremony or formal portion of the evening. Once the the drinks start flowing and the music gets turned up, its fair game to lose it.

Midnight blue tuxedo, white hidden-placket shirt and black grosgrain bowtie all by Michael Andrews Bespoke (custom made, my own designs). Navy velvet loafers by Scarpe di Bianco. Cufflinks by Jan Leslie. Watch and strap by Montblanc.

The irony of a tuxedo is that it’s the one garment that should always look pristine, but it’s also the one garment that is most likely to get dirty since it’s typically worn for celebratory occasions.

Last time I wore mine the next morning it had a number of stains on it – liquor, cigar ashes, lipstick, and who knows what else. Just make sure to bring it to the cleaners the next day, so that stains don’t settle and it’s ready for your next Hurrah.

2. Velvet Dinner Jacket + 3-Button Shawl Vest

Velvet, which is essentially corduroy without the ribbing, is a Fall/Winter fabric. Not only does the texture and sheen stand out from the crowd, but it is also functional in keeping you warm.

This is a slightly more “dandy” look, so I went with a pleated shirt (1/2″ pleats on the bib), shirt studs, and a formal waistcoat (which is cut in a lower “U-Shape” with a three-button front, sort of like a contemporary take on the outdated cumberbun which serves the traditional function of covering the waistband).

Aside from a shawl collar, which is strictly formal, a full peak lapel is your best (and most classic) choice. It accentuates the chest and shoulders and dramatizes the tapering at the waist.

Remember, it’s a velvet dinner jacket not a velvet tuxedo. These are the same pants from Look 1 above. I hate to say never, but don’t go full velvet.

Bonus Tip: there is a current dilema in contemporary formal wear. Men have, for all intensive purposes, stopped wearing cumberbuns (although I do like them, on tall slim guys).  The problem is, when you wear a studded-front shirt (which has only 4 stud holes) without a cumberbun, the bottom one or two (depending on how tall you are) shirt buttons are visible. There are four potential solutions to this. One – keep your jacket buttoned at all times to hide the exposed shirt buttons (not practical). Two – find a set of six studs (which is nearly impossible) or buy two sets and have your shirt cut with 6 stud holes. Three – wear a vest to cover the exposed 2 buttons (as shown here). Four (recommended) – have the four stud holes cut through a hidden placket shirt.

Bonus Tip II: as I’ve said a million times, breaking the rules can make for a very stylish outfit. In this case, rather than matching the bowtie fabric to the lapels and trims, I had it cut from the same velvet as the jacket. Special thanks to Carolina Montesino for hand-making this bowtie!

Midnight velvet one-button dinner jacket, 3-button shawl collar waistcoat, pleated/studded shirt, and midnight tux trousers all by Michael Andrews (bespoke, my own designs). Shirt studs and cufflinks by Tiffany & Co. Watch and strap by Montblanc. Black seamless leather lace-up shoes by Ferragamo Tramezza.

Bonus Tip III: since velvet can get a little warm, I usually pair this jacket with a waistcoat. The beauty of a waistcoat is that once you lose the jacket (and hit the dance floor) you still look sharp and buttoned-up since the “billowing” of your shirt is hidden. It’s also a sliming garment for heavier guys who take their jackets off.

Bonus Tip IV: while a pleated shirt cannot double as a business shirt, a studded shirt can. Your tailor should provide a removable placket to replace the stud holes with regular shirt buttons.

Bonus Tip V: leave the patent leather shoes for the rental shops. Go with a seamless black leather lace-up shoe instead. Again, the more minimal the better. This is not a time to show off your cool new brogues or captoes.

3. White Diner Jacket

A white dinner jacket is not actually white, it’s ivory. It’s also typically worn in warmer weather – but personally I think it looks even more chic with snow is on the ground. Winter white.

This one, in fact, is cut from a heavy 10-once cloth, which is certainly more appropriate for January than July.

Again, it’s a dinner jacket. Pair it with your tux pants (these ones are, once again, the same pants from look 1 above). The midnight pants give a great subtle “pop” under a white jacket.

It doesn’t get much more minimal than this jacket. One self-covered button, besom pockets (no flaps) and no breast pocket. Clean.

White dinner jacket, midnight tux trousers, white shirt and black grosgrain bowtie all by Michael Andrews Bespoke (custom made, my own designs). Silk scarf Vintage. Loafers by Bally. Watch and strap by Montblanc.

On Formal Grooming: as you probably have realized, I’m rarely clean shaven. I have no need to shave and like the way I look with light stubble. For formal occassions, however, always be clean shaven. And have your cleanly and neatly arranged (however you do it).

Bonus Tip: a subtle accesory for formalwear is a black silk scarf. I love the way it pops under a white dinner jacket (something you can’t do if you follow the “rules” and only wear the white jacket come summer).

Bonus Tip II: the midnight tux pants

Bonus Tip II: you can wear loafers. Just makes sure they are black, shined and brogue-less.

4. Semi Formal? The Bad-Ass Grey Suit Option

“Semi Formal” fools alot of guys. What does that even mean? For me, it’s a great excuse to look sharp, and bad-ass at the same time.

Go with a slim charcoal grey peak-lapel suit, white french-cuff shirt, black straight tie and formal accessories (watch, cufflinks, suspenders, shoes, etc.)

Bonus Tip: need outerwear for your formalwear look? Go with a black chesterfield (distinguished by it’s velvet collar), preferably with covered buttons, like this one. It would work over all 4 looks.

Charcoal grey suit and white shirt both by Michael Andrews Bespoke (custom made, my own designs). Chesterfield coat by Brooks Brothers Black Fleece (size 2). Tie by Ralph Lauren Black Label. Tie Bar by Tiffany & Co (2″). Formal suspenders by Trafalgar. Gloves by Saks Fifth Avenue. Shoes by Ferragamo Tramezza.

Bonus Tip II: unlined black leather gloves are not only formal and slim enough to send a text-message, but there is also something murderous about them. Maybe I’m f*cked up, but there is something I like about that.

One Last Bonus: if you invest in the right tuxedo, and have a certain level of panache, you can wear it for more casual occasions as well. See here for the jacket as separate, and here for the pants on their own.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

Yours in style,

SB

Photography by Alex Crawford. CLICK IMAGES TO SEE FULL SIZE HI-RES.


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71 Comments

  • EB says:

    I like the ideas Dan! Although it would have been awesome if you had thrown in a white tie look, I just love the elegance of it.
    Maybe this year?

  • Marcel Vos says:

    Great post, although i am not much of a rules person i love the idea behind not wearing a watch when wearing a tuxedo, since time is not important at a party.. Just make sure you dont pick up your date to late

  • russell jones says:

    Guys, I just purchased navy formal jacket on . Cheap.
    It is elegant !!! However, only pants I have are Black.
    Will they go .Thanks for response.

  • Mike says:

    awesome. where can i find a fully black chesterfield coat??

  • Fred says:

    You know where I can find a midnight blue tuxedo in Manhattan?

  • RC says:

    Hey, love the midnight blue tuxedo – what is the fabric? It seems to have a shine to it, but i hear that mohair (matt) is best for tuxedo.

    Thanks

  • Jonathan Marquez says:

    I’m shopping around for a midnight blue tux, being that it so close to black, would black shoes be appropriate? I see you wore navy suede shoes. What are you thoughts and suggestions?!

    Best,

    JM

  • James K says:

    Quick question for anyone, I have a wedding in a couple weeks that I just realized was black tie and need to rent a tux for the occasion… any recommendations on a good place to rent a tux that isn’t a piece of garbage? Thanks

  • DR says:

    Just had my high school prom and i rocked the midnight blue tux! got a ton of compliments, thanks so much SB!

  • Diandra Fernandes says:

    Wonderful tips!

  • John Stalkot says:

    One of your best ever posts. The midnight blue tux is amazing! Any recommendations for cheaper shawl lapel tuxedos?

  • Julian says:

    An awesome post. I’d really like toget a tux but i just don’t need one. Over here the tux is not worn as often.
    If I ever buy one it would look like your midnight blue one. It’s just the perfect cut and the dark blue looks way better than black.

    I just got a few questions.
    -I saw some guys wearing red (one time even purple) bowties on formal occasions. Whats your opinion on this?
    -How about patternd tuxedos? Tartans seem to be normal, since RL offers a Black Watch tartan one in their collection.
    -What about pocket squares? Are colours appropriate?

    Thanks for the inspiration and the advice!

  • Dave says:

    I like the suspender idea. I wore suspenders to my wedding. Got them at Suspender Store I think it adds a nice touch.

  • Tande says:

    Since it’s winter, maybe you could give us a post on scarves and such? How to wear them and what works with what. Would be much appreciated.

  • JT says:

    What do you think of the whole velvet dinner jacket complete with the ascot look for a younger guy? Or in a somewhat frivilous colour such as deep green or maroon.

    Love the second style.

    • SB says:

      I think velvet and ascot is a better look for an older, refined, experienced man. And if you’re going velvet and ascot, no need for frivolous color.

      Hope this helps.

      Best,
      Dan

  • Titus says:

    Awesome post man, I was wondering if you could help me out. I’m getting some pocket squares made and was wondering what size you prefer or would recommend. Everywhere I look, the suggestions seem to be different. Is 17″ by 17″ too big?

    I featured you in a post of mine btw (with proper reference of course), hope that’s cool:
    http://shoesdepierre.blogspot.com/2011/02/italia-independent-suede-driving-loafer.html

    • SB says:

      Hey Titus. In my opinion, pocket square dimensions depend on the fabric. If it’s think silk or linen, 17″ x 17″ could work. But if it’s a blend, or cashmere, or something more hefty, I like 15″ x 15″ (which is my favorite size regardless).

      Hope this helps.

      Best,
      Dan

  • Les Frères JO' says:

    Great post man, Simple & elegant !

    If you like french men street looks : http://les-freres-jo.blogspot.com/

  • Lavish-Livez.com says:

    Oh man!

    There is no other blog that can give tips like this! What a great post. I have learned so much about tuxedos thanks!

    Please check out my Style blog also!
    http://lavish-livez.com/blog

    Thanks!

  • Dane says:

    Dan long time reader, but felt the need to post, this post was amazing I have many formal events coming up and absolutely love the midnight blue tux, definitely my next purchase. Thanks so much for the posts keep ‘em comin’!

  • JMRouse says:

    Really like the tux and glad you finally featured it. Have to agree the grey suit is bad ass. Keep up the good work!

  • Jared W. says:

    Man, I love this blog! Wonderful stuff.

    I’ll be attending a wedding this Friday, and my look is going to be very similar to the last one you’re showing here (grey suit). The tie I’ll be wearing is black with a thin off-white diagonal stripe pattern. Is it considered a faux pas to wear a tie bar with a diagonal stripe tie? I can’t decide what I think about that.

    Thanks, and as always: Great post!

  • John says:

    Hey Dan,

    I don’t know why but you look like you’ve aged 5-8 years in this set of photos. It must be the cold air that’s attacking your skin. No disrespect.

  • David says:

    This post goes so hard. You’re doing a big favor, so many guys need this.

    http://stylethroughtrial.tumblr.com/

  • Anonymous says:

    Great Post SB, keep it coming. You are killin it.

  • Preplee says:

    Wow Dan,
    The outfits are great, even better is the creativity of the photos, very nostalgic of Cary Grant. Sophisticated, rakish, and tapping into all the necessary subtleties. I’m going to have a lot of competition for my own blog. Preplee.com Due out official February 10th, 2011.

  • mikey rocks says:

    alex, your photos are awesome. can we get more variety with the shots however? i.e. the shots are all pics of dan “buttoned up” and from a forward facing view. he makes it a point to speak about the details such as the waistcoat or the scarf under the white dinner jacket but no pics with jacket off to see that. also shots from different angles..profile, rear etc to see all the details (vents etc). just a thought b/c this is all about the clothes. thanks!

  • Mr John says:

    Hey Dan I’m hating on you men (in a good way) that was a excellent shot, I’m looking forward for the STYLE BLOGGER THE MOVIE, were you could get all the new york city style blogger heavyweights like you and make it happen.
    God Bless you and keep it up!

    • SB says:

      Haha. The Movie. I love it. We’re just taking it one day at a time…although we have BIG plans for the near future…

      Thanks for reading.

      Stay tuned,
      SB

  • Robin says:

    Amazing.
    Reading this is music to my ears.

  • Danny says:

    You didn’t mention peak lapels at all! Also, velvet is the enemy! Long live corduroy! (well not for tuxedos, but for everything else)

  • Mike Ny says:

    Dan the midnight blue tux just killed (in a good way) it for me.. Is it going to be part of your collection? Would really love to get my hands on that especially for an upcoming wedding this year. Please keep up the good work and let me know.

    Thanks

    • SB says:

      Thanks Mike. I am working on curating/editing my first collection…that tux (or something like it) is in the conversation, as of now. More on this to come soon..

      Thanks for reading,
      Dan

  • Matthew Mejias says:

    Love ALL the looks… Every one of them are very elegant, but I would have to say that my favorite is the last on with the leather gloves and the suspenders… It has somewhat of a “Mad Men” quality to it…it’s awesome!! Good job dude, and keep it coming…

  • Jen Smith says:

    You look so handsome! I must say that even though I do love a man in a tux the bad ass grey suit is my fav. The braces are an added bonus!! See I remembered braces, NOT to be confused with suspenders. LOL!!! :)

    jen
    http://blankwhiteframes.blogspot.com

  • Carter says:

    SB,
    The posts keep getting better! I have invested in a midnight navy tuxedo jacket and wondered how you felt about pairing it with the slacks from a black tux I own. Safe play or stick with black-on-black? Appreciate your opinion.
    Be Well!

    • SB says:

      Hey Carter. The midnight jacket didn’t come with pants? You could pair it with black trousers – it could play well with the black trimmings. Besides, most people won’t even notice. Best, SB

  • Anonymous says:

    men always look best in tux.
    love your look Dan.
    Regards from Malaysia.

  • JMN says:

    That 2nd pic down + comment about unlined gloves = gettin’ your Patrick Bateman on.

  • Rich says:

    Haha excellent looks SB! Your clean shave also adds to your murderousness.

  • Mark says:

    Amazing looks.

  • KobeDeWayneJames says:

    SuperDopeCoolIntellect…..Awesome post bro….In five years you will be a major player in the fashion game. Bigger than you could even imagine!

  • cam says:

    dan,
    i noticed a shawl collar waistcoat paired with the peak lapel dinner jacket. i assume this was done b/c the waistcoat is from the shawl collar tux (or maybe it is velvet as well but i don’t believe you stated that or not). does this look better in your opinion vs a peak lapel waistcoat? i suppose i’m asking if you should keep your waistcoat and coat lapels the same? also, wouldn’t you traditionally wear gray socks with a gray suit vs black? thanks, awesome looks and great post…cheers

    • SB says:

      Hey Cam. The shawl vest is also velvet – it is the same fabrics as the dinner jacket. A formal waistcoat doesn’t generally have lapels, so I “transitioned” this U-Shape with a shawl lapel (a stricktly-formal lapel style). I like the contrast between shawl vest and peak jacket.

      Yes, the socks are grey. As a general guideline, socks should be one shade darker than pants.

      Thanks for reading,
      SB

  • Paul says:

    Dan — splendid work! The tuxedos and evening wear is terrific.

    Kudos to your photographer – wonderful work indeed.

  • The Shoe Snob says:

    Nice stuff SB! Your fits in this post are very nice and your suit game has me quite jealous! The velvet and shawl collar suits are killer. Considering that they are your own designs, I will be excited to see when you get your line up and running.

    • SB says:

      When we finally open the store here, there will be one design that is similar, or inspired by, one of these formal looks. Stay tuned. Thanks for reading. -Dan

  • James says:

    Nice ring. Where did you get the inspiration for that? I think the Duke of Windsor wore one like that one on his pinky.

    • SB says:

      Generally with a tux less is more, but I wanted to add some kind of unexpected accessory. A simple silver ring (or in this case a collection of 3 thin ones) is a good way to do so. Thanks for reading! -SB

  • vali says:

    the midnight blue tuxedo is just amazing! the white jacket is killer too. then again all the looks are classy and sophisticated. I can’t believe I didn’t find your blog sooner, I’ve read all the blog in these past few days since I discovered it, awesome!!!

  • Phil says:

    I love everything in this post.

    The only thing I wouldn’t recommend is loafers with that outfit.

  • Zulhilmi Rahman says:

    Dan,

    To be honest, I really wanted to leave comments to all your posts but it’s just that I rarely got in front of my laptop & u could probably imagine how does one feel to type on a touch screen phone. Haha

    Withoit further ado, I’m here telling u that this post is awesome! For me, formality is the key to respect when it comes to dressing up. My favorite? The kick ass grey suit!

    I hope u’ll publish more posts in formality in the future.

    All the best,
    Zulhilmi

  • Female Reader says:

    SB, I’ve been a long time reader as a fan of fashion/style. I just wanted to say I love your different takes on classic looks. Your formalwear selections in this post are incredible. I like the scenery as well. Keep up the good work.

  • Chase Alexander says:

    Simply phenomenal post, Dan. Each look is elegant with a touch of class and style. Looks one and two are my favorites, but I would wear all four. Keep up the great work.

  • GMich says:

    I love each look. Keep up the good work. I’m differently taking little things here and there to compliment my own style.

  • ciara says:

    Daniel Craig showed up to an event with a midnight blue tuxedo similiar to yours( however i think it had peak lapels). Bond man looked way more elegant and attractive than the other men present. proof that midnight blue can be equally edgy and tough as well as elegant and refined. great choice!

  • Jason says:

    Great looks! Too bad that there are, for me at least, a dearth of black tie events in one’s lifetime to attend. While I’d love to own a sharp tuxedo like your midnight shawl collar, it’d see less wear than virtually anything else in my closet…

    BTW, this blog just keep getting better and more sophisticated! Great work!

  • KLEE says:

    SICKKKK

  • Michael says:

    That midnight blue tux is the single best tailored thing I have ever seen you wear. Flawless!

  • GP says:

    I like it! I really really like it! Its fresh classy and sophisticated!
    Keep it up!

  • Mr. Sartorial says:

    Great post Dan! I love all the looks and your advice is spot on! Especially digging that midnight blue with the grosgrain!