Black-tie attire necessary for the well-dressed man

Posted: October 29, 2017 at 2:17 a.m.

Q. I was thinking of buying a tuxedo for New Year's and a wedding coming late next year. It occurs to me that if I buy it this week I can James Bond myself for a high-end late Halloween party I'm attending. What do I need for it to fit all three?

A. I wish you had written to me earlier, I hope you still have time before the party although, with any needed tailoring, that seems unlikely.

Even so, I believe the purchase of black-tie wear for a professional man is always a wise decision. You will have many opportunities throughout your lifetime to enjoy playing real-life James Bond by dressing the part. It has always been beyond my understanding why any adult with financial capability to buy his own would rent such clothing. Buying a tuxedo -- either a new one or one found in a vintage or "gently used" clothing store -- is a good investment. This is true if a man has, or can find, occasion to dress formally as often every year or so. The purchase only hurts once.

Why miss an opportunity to look your best? A traditional tux is highly versatile. It can be worn to almost any formal event at any time of year. Despite the current swing to more casual dressing, it never goes out of style. A huge advantage of black-tie attire is that it eliminates the too-many-options problem that is a puzzling part of today's casual dressing. It is hard to go wrong with black tie; either a man wears the called-for clothes, or he does not. He doesn't have to wonder whether something is too dressed up. The closets of sophisticated dressers may contain one or two small flourishes, but the common ingredient in tuxedos is restraint, a timeless generic elegance that almost never changes.

You do not need to spend a lot, but lightweight, all-wool fabric and a good fit are critical. For years of wear and assurance, choose a classic style. The rules: The suit is black; the shirt is always white with vertical pleats in front and with French cuffs and cuff links. The tie, shoes and socks are also black. In summer, the jacket can be white. All else remains the same.

Suits are fashioned in one of three different collar styles; shawl, peaked, or (less classically) notched. Lapels are either satin, a silk-like smooth, glossy fabric; or grosgrain, a heavy ribbed fabric. Grosgrain is also known as faille.

Along with the three types of collars, there are two types of closings: single-breasted and double-breasted. Double-breasted jackets are kept buttoned at all times. Single-breasted is the safer and more enduring style.

Naturally, the trousers match the fabric of the jacket. A ribbon runs down the leg that matches the lapel material. Another note on trousers: This is the one time when cuffs are never worn. The style of wearing cuffs originated in England. They were called "turn-ups." They resulted from a man' turning up the bottoms of his trousers to protect them from soiling as he walked around his country estate. Accordingly, men wore cuffs on their tweedy suits or country flannels, but not on their formal wear.

Socks are black and to-the-calf or over-the-calf length. Shoes are black and shiny: either they are the material that is correct only for formal wear, patent leather, or they are the almost as acceptable well-shined calf.

My advice to all men ahead of the holiday season: Do yourself a favor (and make the woman in your life happy). Buy a dashing set of black-tie attire; wear it whenever an appropriate occasion occurs; collect compliments; and discover just how good it makes you feel. It would be foolish not to.

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High Profile on 10/29/2017