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The Difference Between Formal vs Black Tie

Decoding Dress Codes: Formal Vs. Black Tie

Understanding dress codes can be a complex task, especially when it comes to deciphering the difference between 'Formal' and 'Black Tie' for men. Both require a degree of sophistication and class, but each has its unique rules and traditions. Here at OTAA we're committed to making these sartorial codes less daunting and more accessible. A quick summary for anyone wanting to know right away is:


1. Formal Dress Code: The main component of a formal dress code is a dark suit, preferably in black, navy, or charcoal, a white shirt, bow tie or necktie, cufflinks and polished shoes. The colours you can use are more variable and you can be flexible with infusing your own patterns and colours.

2. Black Tie Dress Code:  The central piece in a black tie ensemble is a black dinner jacket or tuxedo with matching trousers, traditionally accompanied by a white dress shirt and a black bow tie. Traditionally, you stick to the black and white colour palette only.

The difference between formal vs black tie

Formal Dress Code: A Touch of Class

A formal dress code, also known as 'black tie optional', allows for a little more flexibility compared to the strict rules of purely black tie. It's about looking elegant and dressed up for the wedding or event but you definitely have some room to inject your personal style into your outfit. This could include infusing your favourite accessories, colours and patterns with your ties and bow ties.

The main component of a formal dress code is a dark suit, preferably in black, navy, or charcoal. This isn't always the case however, especially if the event location, season of the year of specific requests of the hosts request lighter colours. In general, the darker colours are a good rule to follow. Pair your stylish suit with a crisp white shirt from our shirt collection and a tie that is either conservative or appropriate for the occasion, such as those found in our necktie range. If you wish to accessorise, consider adding a sophisticated pocket square and an interesting pocket square fold or a classic tie clip for a really polished look.


Your shoes should be black or brown leather, polished to perfection every time. Ensure your socks match or complement your suit and the colour and pattern is spot on for the occasion and the other accessories you are wearing, and remember to try and create focus points of your outfit. This could mean the necktie, tie clip and shirt stand out the most in the overall look, or if you'd prefer the pocket square to be the feature instead go for a more complex pocket square fold to really make that area stand out.

The difference between formal vs black tie

Black Tie: The Epitome of Elegance

The black tie dress code is synonymous with evening events and high levels of formality. It's all about sticking to the classics and preserving the elegance of traditional menswear with sleek suits, conservative colours and polished shoes.

The central piece in a black tie ensemble is a black dinner jacket or tuxedo with matching trousers, traditionally accompanied by a white dress shirt and a black bow tie. At OTAA, we offer a selection of bow ties that are perfect for these occasions. You can also consider a black cummerbund or a low-cut waistcoat to really complete that black tie look. Your footwear should be black patent leather shoes, and black dress socks are a must in these situations to keep the look consistent.


 Accessories play a vital role in black tie attire. Cufflinks and a shirt-stud set are typically used to complete the outfit. Remember, black tie events call for a level of refinement that other dress codes do not demand, so attention to detail is key here.

The difference between formal vs black tie

The perfect bow tie for a black tie event: OTAAs Black Bow Tie

Deciphering the Codes

Ultimately, the difference between formal and black tie comes down to the level of formality and the specific rules that each dress code entails. When in doubt it could be good to clarify with the host of the event first. Both require you to present yourself in a sophisticated and classy manner, but black tie is more specific and traditional much more traditional in its requirements. When in doubt, always err on the side of being overdressed than underdressed.

At OTAA, we curate a collection of men's accessories that redefine style with every detail. Our neckties are meticulously crafted, blending quality fabrics and exquisite patterns to add a touch of sophistication to any ensemble. Elevate your attire with our pocket squares, meticulously folded to perfection, bringing a pop of colour and personality to your suit. Our bow ties combine classic elegance with contemporary patterns and colours, allowing you to make a statement at any occasion. Discover our range of luxurious cufflinks, meticulously designed to accentuate your style and add a refined touch to your shirt cuffs. From tie bars to lapel pins, our men's accessories collection embodies the perfect fusion of craftsmanship and sartorial expression. Explore OTAA and unlock a world of nautical style and legendary taste.




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