White Tie or Black Tie (according to which Ball, White Tie is mandatory, whilst others accept the less formal Black Tie) is the formal dress code for men, but with all men wearing the same “uniform”, why is it so difficult to get it right?
One ball organizer says that “especially the many international guests have difficulties knowing and following the correct dress code for a night at a Viennese Ball.” By the way, in 2010 UNESCO named the Viennese balls an intangible cultural heritage and they are, as such, as elegant as it gets.
According to Michael Hainey, editor of CQ magazine, “looking great in evening clothes is a matter of getting the basics right.” We couldn’t agree more. That's why the Notorious little guide to the elegant men will help you choose the right outfit and transform you into Prince Charming for your next ball.
A truly elegant man would only wear White Tie -tailcoat- or a timeless and classic Black Tie (Americans call it Tuxedo or Tux) for a ball. Please do not try to innovate, you’re getting dressed for a Ball in Vienna, not some red carpet event in L.A., so please forget the black shirts or funny ties and the shiny fabrics (except for the Black Tie satin lapel, of course.).
1- The Black Tie is the one outfit you can’t mess around, it must be Black or Midnight Blue, which is blacker than black.
2- You should wear a black silk bow-tie. By the way, the Duke of Windsor made the grosgrain silk Bow Tie fashionable. So, choose the hand-tied option.
3- Wear a white smoking shirt with French cuffs, and if you wear studs, which we think you should, they must match your cufflinks.
4- DO wear cufflinks, classic gold with mother-of-pearl models are the most appropriate.
5- White handkerchief, in cotton, silk or linen, in the jacket’s pocket is a must.
6- Opera Pumps in patent leather with silk ribbon are the perfect shoes to wear on such occasions, but patent Oxford shoes in black leather - only if they are really shinning- are also acceptable. For the more daring, you can wear black velvet loafers with some fun embroidery for Black Tie.
7- Always wear knee-high black silk socks, unless you are a daring young man with black velvet loafers, in this case we suggest you dare a little bit more and wear colored socks. You should also match your colored socks with your handkerchief and we assure you your elegance won’t go unnoticed!
8- You should never-ever wear a watch with White Tie, choose a pocket watch instead or no watch at all since you don’t really need a watch when you are in a ball unless of course you’re Cinderella and must run away at midnight.
An elegant and discreet watch may be worn with a Black Tie though.
9- Belts are a no-go! You will need white braces to keep your tailcoat trousers up and they can be black when wearing Black Tie.
If you don’t own White Tie or Black Tie attire, you can rent one at a reputable store, but make sure to do it well in advance as the good ones are the first to go. The shop’s tailor will customize your outfit so that it fits you perfectly; not too long nor too short, not too big nor too small. Here are some addresses where you can rent your White a Black Tie attire in Vienna:
By the way, in the German-speaking area, as well as in northern Europe, White Tie is also referred to as “Frack” and Black Tie as “Smoking”.