Unsolicited Thoughts | Black Tie

Unsolicited thoughts is a recurring column on the standards of men’s clothing by ACL’s friend and adherent rule follower Mr. David Coggins.

Dear Sir,

Approaching Inauguration here are a few thoughts on the tuxedo.

A tuxedo is the pinnacle of formality, it exemplifies class and style. It hasn’t been improved upon over time because it cannot be improved upon. That’s to say: regardless of your everyday sartorial prerogatives you should own one and own it proudly. If that idea scandalizes you, then consider withdrawing from civilization.

Sinatra arriving to the Inaugural ball, January 20, 1961.


A man shouldn’t look forced into a tuxedo any more than he should look forced to drink champagne. Unless you’re attending your mother’s third wedding you should not carry an air of dutiful malaise. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity to wear a timeless suit that serves you well.

Some guidelines:

-A tuxedo need not be expensive, just properly tailored. That’s true for any suit but more important with a tuxedo because the contrasts are so stark and the elements to simple. Slightly narrow shoulders are smart; the unwieldy overlarge coat that resembles a hand-me-down is not.

-Simplicity reigns. Don’t reinvent anything or tempt fate with novelty. Aspirational cleverness–the bold bow tie, the thematic suspenders–reek intolerably. (Incidentally, your clothes should never reflect your hobbies–golfers, you know who you are.) If you’re Scottish then wear trousers made of the family’s tartan. Since you’re not, don’t.


-It’s a tuxedo, wear a bow tie. Like notched lapels, the long tie is meant to dress down a tuxedo. It’s a mistake in both cases. Unless you’ve been nominated for your portrayal of Che Guevera, do not dabble. Men who know wear bow tie–the rare rule with no exceptions.

-Keep your daring to the periphery. If you have to express your individuality do it around the edges–suede pumps, for instance, or your grandfather’s cufflinks–but your shirt and tie should be as clean and undistracted as possible.


-It’s time to learn to tie a bow tie. Clip-ons are for people who spike the punch at prom and then drink too much of it. Like many sartorial matters, once you’re attuned to it, you gratefully recognize your fellow travelers as long as you’re in this waking life.

The purpose of the tuxedo is to show respect to cultural tradition and to your hosts. Should you feel less than sympathetic towards either of those concerns consider this: it’s the ensemble that puts every man in the best possible light.

All good things,
The Last of the Trencherman.

Comments on “Unsolicited Thoughts | Black Tie

    Rob on January 19, 2009 12:25 PM:

    Good read.

    I’m young and just starting out on the post college social scene. That said, i hate looking like i’m playing ‘dress up.’

    This holiday season I had a few parties to attend where black tie was required. I had an old tux from college but realize that i will have to get a decent one for next year.

    As a side note, what’s the deal with slippers? Are these yay or nay? or should footwear be kept to patent shoes?

    Cheap-Neckties.com on January 19, 2009 12:41 PM:

    Nice post!
    I agree that tuxedo’s must stay classy and formal. I have seen so many men, mostly of younger age, dressed in colored tuxedos such as light blue ones. IMHO a true fashion faux pa! Tuxedos MUST be black when worn at night. The only time you can opt for a white dinner jacket (jacket only not the pants) is during so called “warm-weather black tie”.

    White tie attire also exists and is even more formal than black tie dress code requiring a white bow tie and a tail-coat jacket. Probably not something most people, including myself, will ever get invited to…

    Thanks for posting this!

    Rich on January 19, 2009 1:16 PM:

    If you’re Cary Grant there is no nay

    porter hovey on January 19, 2009 1:45 PM:

    Yes, David Coggins really does know all.

    Hollister Hovey on January 19, 2009 1:48 PM:

    It’s also a must that when wearing a tux and a heavily starched, pristine white shirt you attend a pre-event dinner and offer your assistance to anyone struggling with a pesky cork on a bottle of red wine. The results are disastrous, but will make you arrive at the actual event looking like the life of the party.

    g.b. on January 19, 2009 2:06 PM:

    “A tuxedo is the pinnacle of formality” – well, more like a pinnacle of semi-formality, to be pedantic…

    jacob on January 19, 2009 3:57 PM:

    G.B., are you alluding to the fact that Black Tie is already a less formal than White Tie? If not… what?

    E on January 19, 2009 5:29 PM:

    Well I was a bit disturbed by the “pinnacle of formality” claim as well.

    Black tie is formal, but not exactly the top of the “food chain”, which I think is what g.b. meant.
    White tie does after all still exist and is used in certain circles, although properly more so in Europe then the US.

    JP on January 19, 2009 6:34 PM:

    A very worthwhile read. Thank you.

    Patrick on January 19, 2009 8:48 PM:

    p.s. On Sinatra that motherfucker was for real. I mean some real deal make the paint peel off the walls gangsta shit.

    Hobo Ken on January 19, 2009 9:05 PM:

    Doesn’t Connery look great ? Bet he’d never carry a bloody tote bag !

    Michael Williams on January 19, 2009 9:28 PM:

    Hobo Ken — that was a good one.


    Christopher on January 20, 2009 9:47 AM:


    Candace on January 20, 2009 1:12 PM:

    Oh that Frankie! <3

    Jordan on January 20, 2009 3:20 PM:

    Any recommendations for a good tuxedo under $1,000? I need a new one, but don’t have the world to spend.

    EnzoAGC on January 20, 2009 4:17 PM:

    Take note, no notched lapels in formal wear!

    Jared on January 21, 2009 11:14 AM:

    Did you notice that Obama was wearing a white tie but no tails or waist coat for the inaugural balls? His tuxedo shirt is also a size and a half too big. I noticed that during the roast in October, too. Could this be the end of white tie in the U.S.?

    Chocoball on January 22, 2009 2:44 AM:

    White tie is the pinnacle of formality for civilians. As recently as the 50’s, people used to wear black tie to dinner as a matter of course.

    Carl Browne on February 6, 2009 1:02 PM:


    If only our new president would heed your advice.

    His dress rig makes him look like a high school kid on his way to the prom.

    WOW CD KEY on January 21, 2010 10:35 PM:

    Truly, we are rich, far richer than we think; rich in what we already possess, richer still in the possibilities of production of our actual mechanical outfit;

Comments are closed.