There is a generally recognized standard for black tie events, however; within that standard are categories for accessories where there are a variety of choices that one may make.
We begin with formal socks (also called men’s hosiery) made from silk or very fine wool that are long enough rise up above the calf when worn. As an option these may be held in place by sock garter belts. Sock garter belts must be used if there is even the slightest possibility of your socks falling down your ankles to rumple at the top of your shoes and thereby exposing some skin.
That would be a social faux pas not quite as serious as Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction during her performance at the U.S. Superbowl, but in a smaller way it would be the men’s equivalent. The only thing worse would be wearing a set of ill-fitting trousers, that suddenly rip when you bend slightly to offer your hand to a lady. Get the right kind of socks and make sure they stay in place.
The formal black tie attire requires that you do not use a belt which causes too much bulk around the waist. The belt is replaced with a waistcoat (or cummerbund) but that item is not intended to function as needed to hold your trousers up. For that purpose you must use suspenders. Choose suspenders with button holes not the type that are clip-ons. Suspenders should be made from silk and either black or white. Both suspenders and sock garters are considered part of your undergarments so they should never be seen by anyone at the black tie event. That is why you must resist the desire to remove your jacket at such events. That would be similar to a woman removing her blouse to expose her brassiere. Save that kind of behavior for going to rock concerts.
Cufflinks are used for the shirt with the chain type preferred over studs. Chain type cufflinks are attractive because they are finished on both sides in the same manner. A short chain connects the two pieces. They come in many varieties so this is where you get to express your creativity in your choice. Shirt Studs are used instead of buttons for the formal shirt. Cufflinks and shirt studs may be be black, gold, silver, or mother of pearl. They should be tasteful, elegant and be sure that they match.
Pocket Squares may be worn or Boutonnieres. A Boutonniere is a single flower such as a dark red carnation worn in the buttonhole on the left lapel of the suit jacket. Unless your pocket square and boutonniere are white, it is not a good idea to wear both at the same time, because they can conflict with each other and be a distraction.
A classy dress watch is an optional accessory, but do not be looking at your watch often at the formal event to show it off, even if it is a US$ 50,000 Rolex, because that makes you appear to be bored with the company at the event.
You can also wear a white silk scarf with tassels as an optional accessory. And there you have it, your look is complete. Have a final check in the mirror and off you go to the black tie event.
Hendrik is a fashion writer and also teh founder of a shop for neck ties, bow ties, ascots, as well as dress code information including black tie attire.