What Is a White Tie Dress Code?

Most men would feel comfortable with the requirements of a black tie dress code but the return of the white tie into fashion is proving a stumbling block for many. Earlier this year, at the Met Gala in New York, even the most refined red carpet regulars failed to get to grips with what was expected from them. Many faced harsh scrutiny from the fashion critics but their faux pas has only spurred a resurgence of the look as a way to separate the gentlemen from the boys.

As we approach the party season, whether white tie is the suggested attire for the evening or you’re simply looking to stand out from the sea of generic men’s tailoring, the look is the height of men’s fashion and formalwear at the moment. As the most formal men’s dress code, it also makes an excellent choice if you’re looking for a bespoke wedding suit with panache.

What are the rules of a white tie dress code?

  1. Unsurprisingly, a white bow tie is protocol. Note: a neck tie is not appropriate, even in white. 
  2. A white shirt and white evening waistcoat are also essential. 
  3. Swap your dinner jacket for black tails (worn unbuttoned). Trousers should also be black.
  4. Wear patent, lace-up shoes such as Oxfords or Derbys.
  5. Cufflinks are a necessity and mother of pearl is a popular choice for white tie dress. 
  6. A pocket watch is preferable over a wristwatch.
  7. If there’s a nip in the air, it is acceptable to wrap up in a long, black coat and a slim, white scarf.
  8. Whilst top hats, gloves and canes are technically a part of the dress code, they can look ‘costumey’ and lose the air of sophistication.
As our everyday wear, and even office suit wear, has become more casual over the decades, the reverse has happened for special occasions as we look harder for those excuses to dress up. The return of the white tie has upped the ante from the black tie; make sure you know how to play the game.