As we head into the party season, stylist to the stars Gareth Scourfield shares his tips on how to make black tie work, and how you can play with the rules to add your own personal style and flare.
Firstly, with black tie, its all about fit – it has to start with that. Whether you go down the formal route of a traditional two piece black tuxedo, or you want to mix it up with a velvet jacket and tartan trousers, it’s the one time when tailoring has really got to look sharp and has to fit.
Secondly, I think you should be very aware of the occasion you’re going to. The devil is in the detail – all the way down to the footwear. If it’s a very grand at-home party then maybe an elegant velvet slipper might be suitable, but at a bigger, more public event I would stick to a more traditional patent shoe or loafer. But in general, people are getting a bit braver and looser with it.
Bending the rules
There are fundamental rules within black tie that shouldn’t be tampered with, but once you understand them you can move within these limitations and have a little fun. Classic brands such as Gieves & Hawkes and Turnbull & Asser are playing with the shirt. They are pushing the boundaries of the traditional white Marcella bib-front shirt – with a black-watch check or a really dark denim or black – but keeping the important details: the point collar for the bow tie and the double cuff for your cufflinks.
Even if you have some movement with the jacket, shirt and trousers, its still within certain limits. So, to add a little more fun and flare, its down to the cufflinks. There can be a kind of irreverent, humorous take on a cufflink that is still neat and small – perhaps a vintage car, or something with a precious stone in it if you’re going above and beyond traditional, round, oval, square, silver or gold ones.
I’ve got several cufflinks I wear for black tie. One is a black tie oval with a diamond strip. So that’s fairly reserved, but I would recommend that if you want a cufflinks that has a fun, jokey element, then just make sure its not too bulky – nothing so three-dimensional that its really poking out from the cuff.
Metal on metal
Probably the only other jewellery piece you’ll have is a watch. You want to keep the metals similar in terms of colour. If it’s a gold dress watch, keep the cufflinks rose gold or yellow gold, and if there is silver or steel on the watch, you should mirror that in your cufflinks. When you’re in such close proximity to people, chatting, drinking or eating, you’re showing your watch and cufflinks, and you don’t want it too be too busy in that area around the cuff.
A final tip – learn to tie a bow tie. It gives a much better shape and looks more fully formed than a pre-tied one. Little things like that – and a tastefully playful set of cufflinks – will really separate you from the crowd and make black tie look seriously good.