Black Tie opportunities these days are very few and far between. The fact that so few men currently own a black tie rig is behind why event invitations so often include phrases like ‘black tie optional’. This allows men to arrive in lounge suits if they don’t own a dinner jacket and aren’t enthused about the expense and time involved in renting.
When I was at university there were occasional formal functions, which came around frequently enough for some of my mates to acquire their own dinner jackets even when they weren’t interested in sartorial matters on a day-to-day basis. Despite the opportunities back then I didn’t own my own rig. It seemed like a step too far for my own tastes and I didn’t want to attend a party if I wasn’t going to feel comfortable in my clothes.
So what caused me to change my view? My memory may be playing tricks but I have a vague recollection of seeing the singer Paul Young at the BRIT awards back in the eighties, when attendees often attended in formal threads. He was wearing a dinner suit with a short jacket similar to a mess jacket. I’ve had a hunt around but can’t find an image to illustrate this. Did I imagine it?
This is the kind of jacket that originated from a formal tail coat with the tails removed. Many formal military uniforms incorporate this style and I understand they enjoyed a brief period in vogue midway through the last century before rapidly falling out of favour and becoming more commonly seen on serving staff rather than party guests. The look quickly changed from being an interesting addition to the Black Tie ouvre into being a huge no-no.
Anyway, my recollection is that Mr. Young looked great and soon after the very brilliant Terence Trent D’Arby made a similar style jacket part of his signature on-stage look.
So these better-than-the wait-staff versions influenced me to consider my own Black Tie options. During my summer break from university in 1987 I acquired a similar short jacket from Strip in London’s Kensington Market. Mine was double breasted with peak lapels and I got some great strides to match with a fishtail rear and buttons for braces. Above is the only picture I have in this rig, taken at Headingley Cricket Club in Leeds during our graduation party in June 1989:
Recently we were invited to an event for the Tampa Bay Ghanaian Association which stated “Dress code formal or traditional. Black tie preferred”.
I was tempted to give the ‘Goldfinger’ ecru jacket an outing – it was certainly hot enough – but in the end I went with the more traditional ‘Thunderball’ midnight blue rig. It was broad daylight when we left which explains the paradox of wearing sunglasses with an evening outfit:
Sunglasses – Ray Ban Gatsby Metal Squares
Dinner suit – midnight blue one button shawl lapel with satin facings
Shirt – Thomas Pink marcella
Bow tie – midnight blue silk from The Tie Bar
Pocket square – no name
Cufflinks and studs – Kent Wang
Socks – Uniqlo
Shoes – Allen-Edmonds