Thursday, 19 March 2009

Tied in knots

A while ago I had an invitation to a dinner for former IT managers at British Airways. It would have been a lovely opportunity to meet up with former colleagues and find out what has happened to them in the years since I left the airline. But I didn't go. Why? Because they decided it would be 'fun' for the event to be black tie. Dinner jackets (tuxedos) and bow ties for the men, flash frocks for the women.

When I was a student (and for a number of years after), I wore black tie at the drop of a hat, but these days, the concept repels me. I'd rather eat dog food. It's partly because I've abandoned that sign of corporate bondage, the tie altogether. When I started consulting for large companies I always wore a tie, because I thought it was expected. These days, it's almost the norm for consultants to turn up with no tie (quite possibly a suit, but no tie). I really can't see any reason for wearing those silly strips of cloth - doubly so for the ones tied in a ludicrous bow, something I'm pathologically incapable of doing, so I have to resort to getting someone else to tie it, or using the nasty pre-tied ones.

The other reason I don't like black tie specifically is that it has no function but to be elitist. To say 'Look at me, I'm special.' (Or possibly a waiter.) Just how much a source of embarrassment it is becomes clear if you try going for a drink in a pub before/after an event while dressed in black tie. You feel conspicuous and stupid.

I've nothing against dressing smartly on occasions. I'm happy to turn up with a good jacket and trousers. I don't try to make a point by arriving at events in jeans and trainers. But the concept of having a special kind of jacket and tie just for 'dressing for dinner' is at best Edwardian. This is the twenty-first century. Please get over this silly concept (take note, cruise companies), and consign it to the dustbin of history where it belongs.


  1. But Brian you are missing the point, it isn't to look elitist - black tie is to make guys look sexy.
    Little raises a guy's attractiveness as much as a well cut tux. I really miss all those black tie dinners that were so commonplace when we were (Posh! Tory!) Oxford students. And I always get a little frisson when I see 'black tie' on an invite.

  2. I have a tux largely for fancy-dress and Jewish weddings (where black tie is virtually obligatory). My wife would agree with MG, though, that women find tuxes a turn-on. But then women like it when men present them with offerings of the severed sexual organs of plants. Strange creatures, women. As Dorothy Parker (who I believe was a woman) once said, One Perfect Rose - why couldn't she have had One Perfect Limousine?

    I admit to having a large collection of ties. I went through a phase a few years back of going to work in suit and tie, and Minor and Minima enjoyed selecting my day's tie. However, my suits have long since been recycled and I have not bought another.

    An old college friend sometimes takes me out to lunch. Being as he is an investment banker, he is always dressed in suit and tie, and takes me to the kinds of places that have a dress code. These days I tell him that I have no suit, and sometimes, even, no socks - so we meet in the boho surroundings of the British Library Cafe. And I'm buying.

  3. BTW, I'm amused by the fact that adsense has filled your sidebar with ads for tuxes and bow ties... :)

  4. Henry, are you buying now because, as an investment banker, he can't afford to buy lunch anymore, because the poor dear hasn't got a bonus?

    MG - the missus assures me I scrub up well in my best smart casual. Even my daughters have been known to give positive comments, where they think a tux looks very silly.

    Is this objectification of men? Should we wear something to become a sex object? I think I'll stick to avoiding black tie!

  5. "these days, the concept repels me. I'd rather eat dog food. "

    Not mutually incompatible. The food at many b/tie events is often canine.

    I went to some publishing do a couple of years ago, only two men there without dicky-bows – me and Earl Spencer. We had a good natter about how pretentious everyone else was...

  6. I was having similar thoughts Brian. I just accepted an invitation to the BioMedCentral awards dinner - I thought it might be an interesting occasion - but was surprised when the actual invitation arrived and stipulated black tie.

    I do possess the required attire, but it usually only comes out when I'm singing with my choir, and even there we seem more often these days to opt for something less formal. I did once sing a posh concert (with a rather pretentious small choir) for which we were required to wear tails. That really did make me feel like a prat.

  7. Many years ago I played keyboards in a blues/soul band with an absolutely smokin' brass section. We all decided we needed uniforms, and so naturally we wore black tie. I have to say we looked amazing. If only we sounded as well as we looked.

  8. No no no no no, the sexiest look for a man is the kilt.

    See my wedding photo for proof (and again, couldn't decide between the two)