Style | June 6, 2016 9:00 am

A Guide to Making “Black Tie” Way Less Boring

It’s not a costume party. But there is room to experiment.

There it is at the bottom of the invitation:

Attire: Creative Black Tie.

Well now what the hell does that mean?

Allow us help.

Starting with what it doesn’t mean. It does not mean themed. It is not an invitation to bring out any old piece of Renaissance Faire fare, Burner gear or out-of-place period garb you have hidden away in a costume chest in the crawl space.

And, contrary to what some may say, it definitely does not mean it is okay to wear jeans. If you’re doubting this, just do this quick check: Ask yourself, “Am I on the way to the MTV Music Awards?” and “Am I Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses?” If the answer to both those questions is “No,” then there’s no jeans.

It’s still very much formal, and fit still matters. Think of it as trendy classic.

Here are some options for winning the night.

Add one or two flourishes but don’t overdo it. This isn’t the “flair” contest from Office Space; you just want small hits here and there to jazz things up a bit.

1. Lapel pins: Lanvin Tie Pin  and more on lapel pins here
2. Contrasting lapels: Bonobos Houndstooth Tuxedo Jacket

In the colder months, reach for some velvet to stand out from the woolen crowd. When it’s a bit warmer, go for a sheen. A little leather here and there is also allowed — but only if you’re gonna wear it with confidence, man.  

1. Velvet: Kenneth Cole Velvet Jacket
2. Sheen: Ted Baker Jacquard-spotted Navy Blazer
3. Leather: Antony Morato Tuxedo Jacket

Depending on your demeanor, it’s fine to head off the rails here and go bright and bold. Just don’t do too much: pick a single piece to play the point of emphasis and let it sing a capella against a more neutral backdrop.

1. Pattern: Turnbull & Asser Shattered Dreams Tuxedo Jacket
2. Color: ASOS Blue Jacket

The easiest way to pull of a good creative black tie? Find one knock-em-dead item that turns a classic tux into a masterwork in sprezzatura.

1. Bowtie: Christopher Chaun Genesis III
2. Cufflinks: Ted Baker Flypin Cufflinks
3. Shoes: Stubbs and Wooton College Classics