The new rules for rocking black tie from day to night

"Recently I have been invited to three separate weddings, each with a daytime ceremony and a night time reception, each stipulating a 'black tie' dress code. My understanding is this is for evening events only. I would love if you could clarify black tie etiquette for the stylistically challenged. With your help, hopefully we can avoid satin lapels, patent leather shoes and satin seamed pants seeing the UV light of day."

LR, Brisbane.

Decades ago, black tie could only be cracked for events after 6pm. But like an Hermes bow-tie at the end of a long charity gala, the rules have loosened up considerably.

Back when you waited for the King to be served before eating, tipped the house staff and sipped port with the lads post bombe alaska, the rules of black tie were rigid, requiring a dinner jacket with silk lapels (peaked or a shawl collar) and no vents. Covered buttons, a fold down collared shirt with a bib-front and dress studs completed the look.

Men were effectively rendered into a boring black and white backdrop for women in their unique finery but thanks to the influence of men's luxury labels and the Hollywood red carpet, the rules are more flexible and blurry as a government minister's expenses.

See a black tie invitation, even for daytime events (stop clutching those Paspaleys), as an opportunity to look your best with some rough guidelines to stop you from being mistaken for the poor cousin, or the waitstaff.

Rule One

You can't go wrong with the classics

A dinner jacket with matching trousers (calling it a dinner suit is like uttering serviette in polite company or using the word 'moist') is one of those investment pieces a man should own once he has reached a certain level of success.

It doesn't matter if the jacket is single-breasted or double-breasted but ideally there should be no vents and if they are necessary, request them at the side.


In Australia pay particular attention to the weight of the wool. Heavier European jackets can leave you sweating buckets of Bollinger during a daytime wedding or while you perform the obligatory chicken dance in an overheated reception centre.

Black cummerbunds are optional while those of the paisley, emerald or cartoon print will guarantee that your next invitation to a formal event will be to a five year old's birthday party as the balloon twister.

Patent leather shoes complete the look and instantly set you apart from guests in chisel-toed work lace-ups.

When it comes to trousers, that satin stripe down the side seam is an optional, especially since it's found its way onto casual pants thanks to Raf Simons at Calvin Klein.

Rule Two

Mix it up

Black tie can today be interpreted as wear your best attire and the perfect example of this was the Oscars' red carpet where leading men peacocked the feathers off a range of formal and fun attire.

Armie Hammer in Giorgio Armani, Oscar Isaac in ISAIA, Daniel Kaluuya in Brunello Cucinelli and Ansel Elgort in Tom Ford, wore a rainbow of velvet jackets, setting themselves far apart from the seat fillers.

Sam Rockwell in charcoal Prada and Lakeith Stanfield in blue Ermenegildo Zegna were shady in a good way, while Chadwick Boseman's Givenchy couture embellished knee-length jacket and Timothee Chalamet's white Berluti suit were next level examples of individuality.

The basic rule is bring your game, as long as your game isn't denim or your best office suit.

Rule Three

Never hire

It alright for your Year 10 school formal but wearing a jacket that's well into four figures on the odometer is creepier than stepping out in a dead man's shoes.

For the first few minutes the effect will be great but once the scent of BO from groomsmen-past starts to rise and the shine of the dry-cleaned fabric catches the light, the gig is up.

Improvise with your absolute best attire and focus on a flawless flit, immaculate finish and impressive accessories that let the host know you've made an effort.

Finally, the tie

If you're wearing a bow-tie either learn how to tie your own or buy one that looks has the slightly off-kilter look of a hand-tied piece. Leave small symmetrical bow ties to your local barista who still looks to the cast of Glee for style inspiration.

The only area where my laissez faire approach lags is when it comes to shirt collars. Avoid winged collars. The peaks at the front may be cool but seeing the tie from behind is like spying a white bra strap on a black ballgown.

Check out the gallery above to see some of the best black tie looks from this year's Oscars.