NYE: “Black Tie Creative”

December 28th, 2012

In the spirit of ringing in the New Year in style, here’s my interpretation of the infamous “Black Tie Creative” dress code.

As always, keep in mind this is my personal point of view. Our posts are meant to be used as inspiration and interpretation, not direct replication.

When it comes to “black tie” formal dress, there are hundreds of traditional “rules”.  And of course, there are several long-form “rulebooks” on formal etiquette availbale online (for example, this one is pretty good).

After all, as the old adage goes, “you have to know the rules before you can effectively break them”. With that said, once you understand the foundations of formal dress, being creative while respecting its tradition can be a lot of fun.

The key to “black tie creative” is to show that you know the rules by subtly bending them, rather than boldly breaking them. Here are five examples.

1. Devil in the Details

The safest way to tackle “black tie creative” is to keep the foundations of formalwear in check, but tweak the details a little.

For example: the black velvet trim on the midnight blue tuxedo, the matching velvet tie, the subtle print on the white french cuff shirt, the doillie pocket square, etc.

At first glance it looks traditional, but when you look closer you see the subtle creativity behind the look.

Traditionalists would say a tuxedo should be worn with a clean shave, but I’m not losing the beard anytime soon.

That said, I probably should have cleaned up the lines for this shoot…

Midnight navy tux?

Why not some midnight navy loafers.

2. Winter Texture

A “black tie creative” winter party is probably the only time that a man can go full-velvet.

Lush winter fabrics like velvets and furs add an interesting dimension to an outfit. Not only are they soft and warm, but their depth tells a story of its own.

A three-piece tuxedo typically comes with a U-shaped waistcoat. The lower stance acts like a cummerbun covering the waist, and gives enough room to show off all four shirt studs.

I’m not a huge fan of patent leather shoes. A plain toe lace-up, with a fresh shine, works for the office and the gala.

3. Black Suit Jammin’

No tux? A black suit can work just fine.

If you’re going to invest a black suit, make it one with peak lapels so it can double as formalwear. You shouldn’t be wearing it to the office anyway.

This is one of my best kept secrets. Even as The Style Blogger, some things I like to keep for myself.

This “shirt” is a flannel pajama top that I had taken-in by my boys over at The Tailoring Room.

Blackwatch plaid is a formal-appropriate pattern, and with an ascot under it, nobody even notices that I’m jamming out in my jammies.

 4. Conversational Bowtie

The “creative” element can be as simple as a statement bowtie.

Just makes sure it’s regal enough to stand up to your tux, like these awesome handmade genuine feather joints by Brackish Bowties.

A contrasting cummerbund is a nice touch as well. It doesn’t have to be loud, just complement the neutral color palette of formal occasions.

I just realized we didn’t include any outerwear in this post. For any kind of formal occasion, a black chesterfield is your best bet, but any sharp dark topcoat (navy, charcoal or black) would work.

5. Wine & Tartan

You don’t need a tux, you just need to look sharp and have formal elements.

Take any dark solid jacket (black, charcoal, navy, budgundy, etc) and pair it with a white hidden-placket shirt, black bowtie and dark tartan pant.

Simple. Smart. Creative.

Take the formality (and creativity) up a notch with an unexpected cummerbund.

The traditional waist-cover creates a flattering shape by keeping the shirt (and gut) tucked in.

It’s one of the most underrated accessories in menswear.


Thanks, as always, for reading – and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford

  • Wes

    The midnight navy suit is FRESH. All the swag. Nice job.

  • Shawn

    Hey Dan; quick question. Does a cummerbund would be flattering for a midsection heavy guy, or would it draws too much attention to the hips and belly?

  • Derric

    Ascots need to make an immediate comeback.

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      They never left!

  • Jake

    Where can i find cool blazer replacement buttons online, if i’m not in cahoots with a cool custom clothier?

  • PG

    Great post! Thoughts on wearing a dark emerald green velvet jacket (with silk peak lapels, of course) for my wedding on Labour Day weekend? I’m keeping everything else classic – black pants, tuxedo shirt, black lace ups, silk bow tie…do share your thoughts!

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      That sounds awesome, provided the weather will be cool enough to warrant velvet. Hope you have a great wedding!

      • PG

        Thanks Dan, means a lot. Your humble attitude shines through the clothes. And as far as I know, that’s always in style.

        • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

          Thanks for the kind words my friend. Agreed. Humility is good karma.

  • Don Pierre

    Once again much respect to always Dapper Dan. Thank You for inspiring Gents worldwide and providing applicable fashion advise. Happy New Years!
    From Boston

  • Brian

    Love all the looks. But the last look is my FAV. WHAT!!!

  • Tanner

    Was the midnight blue tux the one from your personal collection on sale awhile back or a different MAB creation?

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      Yes. This was the original sample of the MAB x Dan Trepanier midnight blue tuxedo we did a while back.

      • Tanner

        Kicking myself for missing out, is there a chance of an encore performance?

  • chrisd

    you did the velvet so well. thanks!

  • TO

    Could be the best that came last. Definitely up there in the top posts of the year. Feather bowtie is a standout. I didn’t know blackwatch plaid is considered formal- association with kilts?

    Also, been waiting on a cumberbun sighting since wayyy back when it was mentioned/teased in the daily- remember that? You mentioned you wore it out, like downtown or something and said you’d touch on the matter further.

  • Emin

    You got to love ascots! I hope you bring them up as much as you can in your future posts. They’re really coming back.

    Peace and blessings in 2013

  • Mrjbeee

    Absolutely wonderful post. That midnight blue tux is killer. Totally in awe on how you made the pajama top into a dress shirt. Mind blown! Keep it up.

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      Hah. Been wearing it as a cardigan too. More on this soon.

      Thanks for your support brother.

  • Z

    An interesting post.

    Traditional black tie will always pip the modernists though!

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      Agreed. This is about dress codes that suggest black tie alternatives.

  • Alan

    I find the idea that you definitely shouldn’t wear a black suit to the office to be too hard a rule – I wouldn’t wear one to a job interview or a big meeting, but it’s going to pass muster day-to-day in plenty of offices just fine. Thrown on a pair of Grey POW Checktrousers or similar with the jacket, and you’re halfway to semi-formal daytime (the ‘stroller’) after all.

    As it goes, I have a single-breasted peak lapel suit (Jaeger) in very, very dark charcoal check which just about nails everything – the perfect 18 hour suit.

    I also own a midnight blue tux, but have little call for it (in the UK, 95% of people will rarely, if ever, receive black/white tie invitations) – to someone starting out in the style game, I’d probably recommend the peak lapel black suit over the full tux. Tux jackets are available in vintage/thrift stores all the time, and a million velvet jackets are being discounted as we speak.

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      I wouldn’t recommend wearing a black suit to the office, especially in a conservative environment, but it can be done.

      “Rules” are meant to be broken.

      Thx for reading Alan.

  • Misha

    When i looked at the picture with the pajama top i was like “Damn that is a nice shirt..” and then i read that it was a pajama top… Dear Dan,(If i may call you Dan) you are my hero!

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      Haha. You may call me Dan. Thanks Misha!

  • Lothar

    No offense, but the slipper thing really bugs me. The feet become too small for the legs, and I think they make a man’s foot look like a woman’s.

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      No offense taken. Simple solution: don’t wear slippers.


  • Tjay

    Golden, man. Just golden. Definitely gonna remember this for when
    I go to my first New Year’s party.

  • John

    pretty sweet. Not saying the last look was bad or anything (it’s creative), but I think the burgundy full suit with the bow tie would have looked really dope. I was half expecting the bottoms to be the suit pants as I was scrolling down kind of like menswear-blog-reading-intuition.

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      The full burgundy suit would definitely work. With the black cummerbund it would be a sharp look.

      Thx John.

  • Herbert Morrison

    Bravissimo! You’re too cold, and you topped yourself again. 1,2 & 3 are my favourite–I been stunting in crushed velvet since Prince was on Appolonia. In Look 1, your design is mohair and velvet which I find incredibly intriguing since mohair is a crispy, crunchy, breathable fabric for warmer weather; and velvet is thick/heavy winter appropriate. That’s high/low at its finest. Happy New Year my man all the way from Toronto, Ontario, Canada!!!

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      Well said Herb. Thanks for the love. Hope all is well in Canada.

    • Jules

      Mohair reflects light very nicely I believe which is why it has become a staple in black tie fabrics. I like the velvet look but personally wouldn’t go full velvet, just a smoking jacket.

      Interesting post though – thanks

  • J. Lamarr

    Look #3, bravo sir, bravo. Brings a tear to my eye how epic a black suit + tailored pajama top is.

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      Thanks player. High/low always makes for an interesting look.

  • Don Pierre

    Brilliant. Simply Brilliant. #Bestof2012

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier


  • cam

    this is what the ending of Scarface should feel like

    • http://tsbmen.com Dan Trepanier

      haha word!

  • Jerome

    This post is phenomenal!

  • Jack

    That tailored pijama top is brilliant

  • Felix

    One of the best ‘alternative’ Black-Tie posts I’ve seen. The wine and tartan is a great look – one I channeled at my end of year High School ball.

  • Ben

    Brilliant job, Dan.