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NYE: “Black Tie Creative”

December 28th, 2012

In the spirit of ringing in the New Year in style, here’s my interpretation of the infamous “Black Tie Creative” dress code.

As always, keep in mind this is my personal point of view. Our posts are meant to be used as inspiration and interpretation, not direct replication.

When it comes to “black tie” formal dress, there are hundreds of traditional “rules”.  And of course, there are several long-form “rulebooks” on formal etiquette availbale online (for example, this one is pretty good).

After all, as the old adage goes, “you have to know the rules before you can effectively break them”. With that said, once you understand the foundations of formal dress, being creative while respecting its tradition can be a lot of fun.

The key to “black tie creative” is to show that you know the rules by subtly bending them, rather than boldly breaking them. Here are five examples.

1. Devil in the Details

The safest way to tackle “black tie creative” is to keep the foundations of formalwear in check, but tweak the details a little.

For example: the black velvet trim on the midnight blue tuxedo, the matching velvet tie, the subtle print on the white french cuff shirt, the doillie pocket square, etc.

At first glance it looks traditional, but when you look closer you see the subtle creativity behind the look.

Traditionalists would say a tuxedo should be worn with a clean shave, but I’m not losing the beard anytime soon.

That said, I probably should have cleaned up the lines for this shoot…

Midnight navy tux?

Why not some midnight navy loafers.

Midnight Essential Tuxedo

2. Winter Texture

A “black tie creative” winter party is probably the only time that a man can go full-velvet.

Lush winter fabrics like velvets and furs add an interesting dimension to an outfit. Not only are they soft and warm, but their depth tells a story of its own.

A three-piece tuxedo typically comes with a U-shaped waistcoat. The lower stance acts like a cummerbun covering the waist, and gives enough room to show off all four shirt studs.

I’m not a huge fan of patent leather shoes. A plain toe lace-up, with a fresh shine, works for the office and the gala.

  • Midnight blue velvet 3-piece tuxedo ·
  • Rabbit fur scarf from Flea Market in Canada ·
  • Black silk grosgrain bowtie by Brooks Brothers ·
  • Vintage shirt stud set ·
  • Vintage mini-revolver cuff links ·
  • Watch by Montblanc Timewalker Automatic ·
  • Black alligator watch band by Montblanc ·
  • Black Seamless Lace-Up Shoes by Ferragamo Tramezza
  • · Bib front studded formal shirt by Thomas Pink

Textured White Broadcloth Shirt

3. Black Suit Jammin’

No tux? A black suit can work just fine.

If you’re going to invest a black suit, make it one with peak lapels so it can double as formalwear. You shouldn’t be wearing it to the office anyway.

This is one of my best kept secrets. Even as The Style Blogger, some things I like to keep for myself.

This “shirt” is a flannel pajama top that I had taken-in by my boys over at The Tailoring Room.

Blackwatch plaid is a formal-appropriate pattern, and with an ascot under it, nobody even notices that I’m jamming out in my jammies.

  • Blackwatch plaid flannel pajama top by Polo Ralph Lauren ·
  • Black polka-dot ascot by Polo Ralph Lauren ·
  • Black linen pocket square by Armstrong & Wilson ·
  • Watch by Montblanc Timewalker Automatic ·
  • Black alligator watch band by Montblanc ·
  • Forest green velvet slippers by Del Toro
  • · Black wool flannel suit

Black Essential Suit

 4. Conversational Bowtie

The “creative” element can be as simple as a statement bowtie.

Just makes sure it’s regal enough to stand up to your tux, like these awesome handmade genuine feather joints by Brackish Bowties.

A contrasting cummerbund is a nice touch as well. It doesn’t have to be loud, just complement the neutral color palette of formal occasions.

I just realized we didn’t include any outerwear in this post. For any kind of formal occasion, a black chesterfield is your best bet, but any sharp dark topcoat (navy, charcoal or black) would work.

Midnight Essential Tuxedo

Textured White Broadcloth Shirt

5. Wine & Tartan

You don’t need a tux, you just need to look sharp and have formal elements.

Take any dark solid jacket (black, charcoal, navy, budgundy, etc) and pair it with a white hidden-placket shirt, black bowtie and dark tartan pant.

Simple. Smart. Creative.

Take the formality (and creativity) up a notch with an unexpected cummerbund.

The traditional waist-cover creates a flattering shape by keeping the shirt (and gut) tucked in.

It’s one of the most underrated accessories in menswear.

  • Black silk grosgrain bowtie by Brooks Brothers ·
  • Watch by Montblanc Timewalker Automatic ·
  • Black alligator watch band by Montblanc ·
  • Grosgrain cummerbund (vintage) ·
  • Tartan plaid wool trousers by Rugby ·
  • Black Seamless Lace-Up Shoes by Ferragamo Tramezza
  • · Burgundy suit jacket
  • · White hidden placket formal shirt by Boss Black

Burgundy Worsted Suit

Textured White Broadcloth Shirt


Thanks, as always, for reading – and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford