The Guide to Black Tie Optional for Men

black tie optional men

Written by Tanya Zhang

Introduction to Black Tie Optional for Men

The origin of the black tie optional affairs is not clear, but it is believed to have emerged as a way to give guests more flexibility in their formal attire while still maintaining a certain level of elegance for the event.

The term "black tie optional" was likely coined by event organizers or fashion experts who sought to create a dress code that was less rigid than traditional black tie attire while still conveying a formal and sophisticated tone. Similarly, here is our guide on creative black tie.

black tie optional wedding attire dress code for men visual infographic

What does Black Tie Optional Mean?

With more formal events popping up on everyone's calendars, party attendees are expected to dress to impress with the range of semi-formal vs formal dress codes.

In this guide, we'll break down the black tie optional attire and how you might dress for the occasion, especially at a wedding party. Check out our other resources for men's dress codes like smart casualsemi-formal attire, black tie wedding attire, white tie attire, and what is business casual attire for men.

"Black tie optional" is a dress code often used for formal events such as weddings, galas, or upscale parties. This dress code typically means that guests are encouraged to wear black tie and formal attire, but it's not mandatory.

For men, "black tie optional" typically means they can choose to wear either a tuxedo or a dark navy suit and tie. For women, the black tie optional look means the dress code usually implies a formal evening gown, but a cocktail dress or a dressy suit may also be appropriate.

In general, it's best to err on the side of caution and dress up rather than down if you're unsure about the dress code. When in doubt about black tie dress code, it's always a good idea to ask the host for clarification.

black tie optional look

What to Wear to Black Tie Optional Weddings for Men

For men attending a black tie optional wedding, the dress code typically allows for two options: a tuxedo suit jacket or a dark suit and tie. Here are some guidelines to help you decide how to wear black tie optional:

  1. Tuxedo: If you want to go all-out, a tuxedo is the most formal option for a black tie optional wedding dress codes. A classic black tuxedo jacket and dress pants, white tuxedo shirt, black bow tie, black patent leather shoes, and black socks are a timeless and elegant look.

  2. Dark Suit: If you don't want to wear a tuxedo, a formal suit in black, navy, or dark gray is a good alternative. Make sure the suit is well-tailored and fits properly. Pair it with a white dress shirt, a conservative tie, black dress shoes, and dark dress socks. Try wearing a blue shirt with black suit if you're looking to impress!

  3. Shoes: Black leather dress shoes are the best choice to wear with a tuxedo, while black leather dress shoes work well with solid colored suits. Dress shoes should be polished and in good condition.black dress shoes for black tie optional

  4. Accessories: Accessories are an important part of any formal outfit. A black bow tie is a classic choice for a tuxedo, while a slim fit tie is appropriate for a dark suit. A pocket square can add a pop of color and personality to an outfit, and cufflinks can be a subtle way to add a touch of sophistication. A dress watch can complete the look. 

    black tie for black tie optional attire
  5. Grooming: Grooming is also an important part of dressing for a black tie optional event. Men should be clean-shaven or have neatly trimmed facial hair, and hair should be styled in a neat and conservative manner. Nails should be clean and trimmed, and cologne should be used sparingly.

Aim to look formal and polished, but not as if you're going to a funeral or business meeting. Avoid wearing light-colored suits, loud patterns, or flashy accessories. Keep your hair and facial hair neat and tidy, and make sure your shoes are polished and in good condition.

Some ways to accessorize men's black tie optional attire include wearing a black bow tie, polished black shoes, a pocket square, cufflinks, and a dress watch.

Black Tie Optional Wedding Etiquette
dark suit jacket for black tie optional

Attending a black tie optional wedding requires a certain level of etiquette and respect for wedding guests and the occasion. Here are some tips to help you navigate the event:

  1. Dress appropriately: A black tie optional attire typically allows for a tuxedo or a suit and tie for men, and a formal evening gown or a dressy cocktail dress for women. Make sure to choose appropriate attire and follow the dress code specified on the wedding invitations.

  2. Err on the side of formality: If you're unsure what to wear, it's better to dress more formally than less. It's always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

  3. Avoid casual clothing: Jeans, t-shirts, sneakers, or any other casual clothing are not appropriate for a black tie wedding. Here's a separate guide if you're looking for casual wedding attire for men.

  4. Accessories should be formal: Men should wear a bow tie or necktie and dress shoes, while women should opt for formal jewelry, heels, and an elegant clutch.

  5. Pay attention to fit: Your attire should fit properly and be tailored to your body. Ill-fitting clothing can make you look sloppy or unkempt.

  6. Be respectful of the occasion: A black tie optional wedding is a formal event, and it's important to show respect for the couple and the occasion. Dress appropriately, act courteously, and enjoy the festivities.

  7. When in doubt, ask: If you're unsure about what to wear or have any questions about the dress code, don't hesitate to ask the couple or the wedding planner. They will be happy to help you choose appropriate attire.

Frequently asked questions about black tie optional

What is black tie optional mean?

Black tie optional is a dress code that suggests guests wear formal attire such as a tuxedo or a suit and tie, but also allows for some flexibility in their choice of outfit. It typically means at black tie optional events that guests can choose between wearing a tuxedo or a suit, depending on their personal preference or wardrobe.

What is the difference between black tie and black tie optional?

The main difference between black tie and black tie optional dress codes is that black tie is a more formal dress code that specifically requires a tuxedo, while black tie optional allows for more flexibility by allowing guests to wear a suit and tie instead. While black tie requires a tuxedo, black tie optional suggests that guests can choose between wearing a tuxedo or a dark suit, depending on their personal preference or wardrobe.

What is acceptable at black tie optional?

At a black tie optional event, it is acceptable for men to wear a tuxedo or a suit and tie, and for women to wear formal evening gowns or cocktail dresses. The key is to dress formally and elegantly, while also keeping in mind the specific dress code guidelines provided by the host or black tie invited event organizer.

What do you wear when an invitation says black tie optional?

When an invitation says black tie optional, men can choose between wearing a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie, while women can wear formal evening gowns or cocktail dresses. It is important to keep in mind the specific dress code guidelines provided by the host or event organizer and to dress in a formal and elegant manner.

What does black-tie optional mean at a wedding?

At a wedding with a black tie optional dress code, guests are expected to dress formally and elegantly but are given some flexibility in their choice of outfit. Men can choose a black tie optional ensemble, between wearing a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie, while women can wear formal evening gowns or cocktail dresses, but it's important to consider the specific dress code guidelines provided by the wedding hosts or organizers.

What is acceptable at black-tie optional?

At a black-tie optional event, it is generally acceptable for men to wear a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie, while women can wear formal evening gowns or cocktail dresses. The key is to dress elegantly and formally, while also taking into consideration any specific dress code guidelines provided by the host or event organizer.

Do you have to wear a black tie to a black-tie optional wedding?

No, you don't have to wear a black tie to a black-tie optional wedding, but it is still important to dress formally and elegantly. Men can choose between wearing a tuxedo or a dark suit and tie, while women can wear formal evening gowns or cocktail dresses, based on their personal preference and wardrobe.

Is it OK to wear a suit to a black-tie optional wedding?

Yes, it is generally acceptable to wear a suit to a black-tie optional wedding, especially if you don't own a tuxedo or prefer not to wear one. The key is to choose a dark-colored suit and pair it with a professional dress shirt and tie, while also considering any specific dress code guidelines provided by the wedding hosts or organizers.

What is black tie optional for a man?

Black tie optional wedding attire for a man means that he can choose between wearing a tuxedo or a suit and tie. The key is to dress in a formal and elegant manner, while also keeping in mind any specific dress code guidelines provided by the host or event organizer.

What a man should wear to black tie optional wedding?

For a black tie optional wedding, a man can wear a tuxedo or a dark suit and black tie ensemble. It's important to dress elegantly and formally, while also taking into consideration any specific dress code guidelines provided by the wedding hosts or organizers.

Is a blue suit black tie optional?

While a blue suit is generally not the traditional choice for a black tie optional dress code, it can still be acceptable if paired with a dress shirt dinner jacket and tie in darker colors. Here's a guide for best tie color for a navy suit. The key is to dress formally and elegantly, while also considering any specific dress code guidelines provided by the host or event organizer.