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Black or White Tie: What’s the Big Difference?

Sure, black tie and white tie attire both look pretty fancy, but you better believe there’s a huge difference between the two. Even if you don’t go to many swanky events, it’s always good to know the difference between black and white tie attire, unless you’re cool with being the laughing stock of the rest of the guests. Because after all, who wouldn’t want to make a great impression at these high-brow shindigs?
It’s all about formality
We can all agree that certain events call for different wear, right? But back in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was only one uber-formal way to dress for special events: white tie. Otherwise known as full dress, white tie attire was, and still is, the royal flush of formal attire. White tie attire is best for the fanciest events, and invitation info will always specify that it’s white tie. White tie attire features:

  • Plain white dress shirt

  • White bowtie

  • White vest (a.k.a. waistcoat)

  • Black oxfords

  • Black tuxedo jacket with matching trousers

On the other hand, black tie attire was brought on in the early 20th century for less formal dinner or cocktail parties so that guys didn’t have to break out their white tie attire for less formal events. Black tie is just a tad less formal than white tie, but is still way more sophisticated than even the most expensive three-piece suits or formal business wear. The invitation will say whether or not the event calls for black tie, but in general, black tie is the standard for most formal events like weddings, charity dinners, or award ceremonies. Black tie attire includes:

  • Plain white dress shirt

  • Black bowtie

  • Vest or cummerbund (color varies)

  • Black tuxedo jacket and matching black trousers

And that’s all there is to it. 

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