Men’s Street Style: White Tie / Black Tie?

It’s awards season and so for the start of 2011, we’re upgrading street style as we walk you down the red carpet and lay down the 411 on formal wear.

We believe that although you may or may not be a celebrity, 2011 is the year where, as we hearken back and find comfort in ye olde rituals of civility, family and tradition post the traumatic GFC and global uncertainty, we’ll be all about celebrating customs and rituals like formal dinners, balls and rich, full gatherings of family and friends.

For you men, some of these occasions may mean decking yourselves in formal wear – in this case black or white tie; a nod to the grand tradition of old school charm and glam.

So what’s the difference between white and black tie, you ask.

Well, here’s what we’ve discovered:

White Tie

Hugh Jackman topped and hi-tailed in full ‘white tie’ dress at the 2009 Oscars Stage.

Also called or evening dress (full evening dress; slang top hat and tails or white tie and tails) is the most formal evening dress code in Western fashion. Worn to events such as balls, the opera, and banquets, the chief components for men are the dress coat/tailcoat, starched trousers, white bow tie and waistcoat, and white stiff-winged collar on a white starched shirt, black silk stockings (long socks) and black pumps.

Some say that white tie should only be worn after dark or after five pm, whichever occurs first. Before then, the daytime equivalent called morning dress is worn. The semi-formal counterparts of white tie are black tie in the evening and, rarely worn, semi-formal morning dress during the day, a code in between an informal lounge suit and full morning dress.

The dress coat worn with white tie is a descendant of the coat worn at all times of day in the Regency period, so is also part of other related codes, such as civilian day court dress in the Royal court (in the UK). However, these alternatives are now being replaced by standard white tie for formal state occasions, such as for ambassadors at the State Opening of Parliament.

Black Tie

Daniel Craig as James Bond – The Ultimate Man in a Tux.

Black tie dates from 1860, when Henry Poole & Co. of Savile Row created a short smoking jacket for the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII of the United Kingdom) to wear to informal dinner parties as an alternative to the standard white tie dress of the time.

Fast forward to 1886, when the Prince invited James Potter, a rich New Yorker, and his wife, Cora Potter, to Sandringham House, his Norfolk hunting estate. When Potter asked the Prince’s dinner dress recommendation, he sent Potter to Henry Poole & Co., in London. On returning to New York in 1886, Potter’s dinner suit proved popular at the Tuxedo Park Club; the club men copied him, soon making it their informal dining uniform.

Legend dictates that it became known as the tuxedo when a fellow asked another at the Autumn Ball, “Why does that man’s jacket not have coattails on it?” The other answered, “He’s from Tuxedo Park.” The first gentleman misinterpreted and told all of his friends that he saw a man wearing a jacket without coattails called a tuxedo, not from Tuxedo.

Elements of black tie ensemble include a jacket with ribbed silk facings, a low-cut waistcoat or cummerbund, a white dress shirt with a turn-down or detachable wing collar a black ribbed silk bow tie matching the lapel facings, shirt studs, cufflinks, black dress socks, usually silk or fine wool and black shoes, highly polished or patent leather Oxfords, or patent leather court shoes.

Get inspired to wear black or white tie by some wonderful and cool guys making their mark on and off the red carpet, decked out in formal finery, below:

Actor Simon Baker arrives at the Australia Week 2010 Black Tie Gala in Los Angeles, California.

Love and Other Drugs star Jake Gyllenhaal – both classic and modern in a two-button Burberry tuxedo (Golden Globes 2011).

At the Golden Globes 2011, James Franco, star of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours looked dapper in a peak-lapel Gucci tux.

Chris Rock and Steve Harvey at The 2010 BLUE Gala, a Spelman College Benefit hosted by Samuel L. Jackson.

Actor Jesse Eisenberg, star of best-drama winner The Social Network, offset his raffish hair with tailored Dolce & Gabbana (Golden Globes 2011).

Ben Affleck decked out in a tux for the 2010 black-tie premiere of The Town. Here he jokes around with costars Jeremy Renner and Jon Hamm – decked out in matching Dolce & Gabbana and the sexy Rebecca Hall – at the Palazzo del Cinema during the 67th Venice International Film Festival.

Al Pacino rocks a three piece suit and literal black tie at the 2010 Emmy Awards.

Johnny Depp feeling his white formal jacket on the set of The Tourist, now showing in cinemas (2011).

Kanye spotted  in white black tie out on the town in New York City late last year.

And finally, he’s given us couture elegance and he himself is rarely seen in anything but his formal black wardrobe. Here, in classic black tie, Karl Lagerfeld, the German couture genius fronts a recent Volkswagen ad advertising the ultimate in stylish hatchbacks you could ever think of owning.

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