Get this Party Started: What to Wear for Black Tie Optional and Creative Black Tie

Men's Style: Black TieThere are few things more devastatingly dashing than a man in a beautifully-fitted tuxedo. If you’ve received an invitation for an event calling for “Black Tie Optional” attire, your best option is – you guessed it – Black Tie. Why not take the opportunity to bring out the big guns? I promise, womens' heads will turn, and the other guys not in tuxes will wish they had opted otherwise. Check out this shot above from a recent photo shoot for my new website (coming soon!). Pretty good, right?Relatedly, designers have been showing formalwear looks deconstructed with individual items worn as separates (as seen in my Fall style report). This gives you even more reason to invest in a tux as well as some fun and interesting formalwear elements, which will come in handy when you’re faced with a Creative or Festive Black Tie dress code. Below are my top 5 picks for pieces that will help you mix up your evening gear.Men's Style: Acne Double-Breasted Tuxedo Jacket1) Acne Velvet Double-Breasted Tuxedo Jacket -- Acne made a splash with their fall lineup of swanky eveningwear separates. This jacket speaks for itself, so keep the rest of the look simple and classic. Men's Style: Acne Jacquard Print Pants2) Acne Jacquard Print Pants - These print pants are next-level style at its best. The trim cut calls for a similarly tailored jacket. Men's Style: Michael Bastian Shawl Collar Dinner Jacket3) Michael Bastian Dinner Jacket - For evening wear with a festive twist, I am very much into this tartan shawl collar dinner jacket. The beauty of this piece is that you can wear it formally as shown above with ivory dress pants, but you can also dress it down with a bowtie, denim dress shirt, boots and cords, as seen in this excellent WSJ article on the topic.Alexander McQueen Black and Gold Stripe-Skull Bowtie4) Alexander McQueen Black and Gold Stripe-Skull Bowtie - Bring out your inner rebel with this McQueen bowtie. Let it pop against a crisp white shirt, or give it a moodier edge by pairing it with a black or dark grey shirt. Boss Black Mini Houndstooth Contrast-Collar Shirt5) Boss Black Contrast-Collar Shirt - Sport this mini-houndstooth shirt with a straight black tie and a shawl collar dinner jacket (bonus points for a lapel with contrasting color).Even if you don’t have a formal event on the horizon, consider planning ahead with some swanky evening style that will make things easy when that time comes, which it inevitably will. For my full discussion on how to choose a tuxedo, click here.How do you like to amp up your evening wear? 

What to Wear This Fall

I know what you may be thinking:Fashion trends...whaa? Those don't apply to me. They're for hipsters and models and the guys who stand outside the Abercrombie store. Right?Wrong! Just because your comfort zone is more mainstream than what you see in the runway images below, that doesn't mean you have to completely ignore the trends. That kind of thinking keeps you from stepping outside the box and trying new looks that can work for you. The key is to remember that you don't have to dress head-to-toe in these trends; you can instead pull bits and pieces from those that appeal to you and make them your own.With that in mind, read on for my top 5 Fall trends and corresponding shopping suggestions.Trend #1 American GigoloFall 2012 Menswear TrendsInspired by the cult-classic movie, American Gigolo style is all about looking good while enjoying the finer things in life. Think 70's-inspired details like double-breasted jackets, geometric patterns, double-flap shirt pockets and shearling trims.  One great way to inject some jiggy Gigolo-style into your wardrobe would be with this Michael Kors suede utility jacket, (below, $695).Mens utility jacket Trend #2 Black TieFall 2012 Menswear TrendsDesigners like Dolce & Gabbana, Canali and Givenchy featured a number of sleek looks geared for black tie affairs. While it's always a good idea to have a well-fitting tux in your closet for formal events, this trend can also inform your more casual looks. Think creatively by pairing Dolce & Gabbana's midnight blue Martini Tuxedo jacket (£1345) with a pair of jeans as shown below.Men's tuxedo jacket Trend #3 Horse and HoundFall 2012 Menswear TrendsWith classic materials like tweed, wool flannel, corduroy, cavalry twill and leather, this equestrian style is perfect for brisk Fall weather. Look for items with quilting, toggles, knee or elbow patches and patch pockets on blazers or sweaters. I am very much into this glen plaid shawl collar sweater ($265) from Polo Ralph Lauren, which captures several of these elements in one look.Fall 2012 Menswear Trends Trend #4 Old WorldFall 2012 Menswear TrendsThe feel is reminiscent of last Fall's industrial revolution trend but less "dirty" and much more buttoned up. Adding details to your look like gangster stripes, vests, contrast piping, and suspenders are great ways to implement this trend. If the look vibes with you, try Rag & Bone's light grey vest (below, $325).Fall 2012 Menswear Trends Trend #5 Tyrolean FolkFall 2012 Menswear TrendsYes, the name of this trend is a little out there, but designers really were inspired by the Tyrolean mountain men of West Austria. Check out the ethnic embroidery, diamond quilting and foulard and paisley patterns in the runway images. As I said above, I wouldn't suggest the everyday guy dressing head to toe in this look, but it might be fun to try a piece here and there that makes subtle reference to it. I love this non-traditional take on a quilted jacket from Etro ($2065).Fall 2012 Menswear Trends With Fall around the corner, now's the perfect time to start thinking about how to adjust your wardrobe for the new season. I hope the trends above inspire you to create looks for yourself that are relevant to your personality, lifestyle and taste.How are you planning to update your wardrobe for Fall?

(Runway images courtesy of Fashion Snoops.)

Pushing the Envelope the Wrong Way: George Clooney Tux Analysis

Peak vs Notch Lapel TuxI hate to say it because I always think George Clooney looks like a million bucks (and my image and style consulting clients often request looks reminiscent of his signature nonchalance), but I was struck watching last night's Oscars by how much less sharp than usual he looked. Time and time again, we've seen him bang-on in peak and shawl lapel tuxes (which btw are the only "correct" types of lapels for a tux, according to tradition). But last night's rule-breaking notch lapel was, I think, a mistake. Take a look at the images above where the peak lapel is on the left, and the notch is on the right. It's a subtle difference, and of course that's why I love menswear, but he looks sharper, taller (he needs all the help he can get next to Stacey Keibler!), and more built through his chest with the peak lapel. Not to mention, the peak draws the viewer's eye up toward his face, highlighting his eyes, strong features and great haircut. Usually it's the younger guys who are still figuring out their personal style that experiment with tux details (think long ties instead of bowties, etc.), but once you've reached a certain age/sense of style and are known for always nailing classics, there's no reason to push the envelope. At a certain point, you're just pushing it the wrong way.What do you think? Do you prefer the peak to the notch on Clooney too?

How to Choose a Tuxedo: Expanded Discussion for Weddings

An abbreviated version of this article appeared on the Brilliant Event Planning blog..Dressing for a formal event is like ice climbing: one misstep, and it's all downhill. The reason there are so many rules to follow is that the point of formal dressing originally was that at formal engagements, men could blend into the crowd while their female companions could stand out in their finery. For this reason, if you're having a formal wedding, it's particularly important that you nail the details. With so many options out there, here’s your cheat sheet:Renting vs Buying: Buy if at all possible. When you have a chance to dress formally -- particularly on your wedding day -- you should look your absolute best, and renting won't achieve that. I've seen more ill-fitting rented tuxes than I care to recall. Yes, buying a good-quality, well-tailored tux is an investment, but it's a very good one that will pay dividends in photos. Not to mention you'll save in the long run not having to rent each time you need one. Renting will cost you anywhere from 25-50% of the average purchase price of a tux, so if you do it a few times, and it adds up. You'll be happy next time you get a formal invite if you're armed with a tux in your closet that fits you impeccably........Black Tie vs. White Tie vs. Morning Attire: The wording of your invitation dictates the color of your neckwear. "Black tie" (also referred to as "evening dress") means a black bowtie, which is traditionally worn with a tuxedo. "White tie" (also referred to as " full evening dress;" see above left) means a white bowtie, which is worn with tails. This is a very dressy look. Both black and white tie are generally worn after 6PM. A morning suit is your most formal daytime look (see above right). This is typically reserved for weddings taking place before 6PM. The morning coat (essentially a frock coat with the corners cut away -- hence the term "cutaway coat") is black or gray with a single button at the waist. Wear it with gray striped trousers, a gray or white vest, a wing collar shirt, and a tie or an ascot. Leave the top hat and walking stick at home.The information below pertains to tuxedos.Color and Fabric: Black is the standard, but midnight blue is also acceptable. White is typically worn in warmer climates for open-air events.  Choose something in a wool that isn’t too heavy. Chances are you’re only going to have one tux in your closet, so it should be as versatile as possible.Jacket: The most common and versatile jacket type is a one-button, but you can also go with double-breasted (see above), which looks best on guys with broader physiques. If you wear a double-breasted jacket, a cummerbund is unnecessary. The traditional dinner jacket (a fancy name for your tux jacket) is ventless, but a you can also go for a more modern -- and generally more flattering -- look with double vents.Collar: This should be either peaked or shawl. A peaked lapel (where the points of the lapel point upward; see above and below left) reads as more powerful, whereas shawl collar (which has a continuous curve; see above and below right) sends off a softer message. Unless you’re a waiter, your wedding tux shouldn't have a notched lapel....Cummerbund/Vest/Going Without: Formal dressing dictates that the waistband of your trousers should never show, hence the traditional need for either a vest or cummerbund. In general, the cummerbund is a more stylish option. If you wear a vest, your guests might ask where your organ and monkey are, and hopefully you won't be bringing either to your wedding, so why confuse people? Either way, the cummerbund or vest should be subtle and keep its mouth shut. Now is not the time to channel your inner Elton John. If you opt for the classic cummerbund, make sure you wear it with the pleats facing upward (fun fact: this hails from British colonial days where gentlemen used to tuck their theater tickets into the pleats). Formal dressing aside, if you want to stray from tradition, this is one place where that’s ok. These days, it’s become acceptable for guys to skip the vest or cummerbund altogether. Just make sure the shirt you buy has actual buttons or a covered placket, and this will eliminate the need for studs.Pants: Your pants never have cuffs, as that would spoil the sleek lines of your look. They should have satin banding on the sides. No belts please — your tux pants should come with side adjusters to ensure proper fit. If you still feel you need something to hold them up, you can wear suspenders in simple black or white.Shirt: Your shirt should be perfectly pressed and have French cuffs. It can have either a plain, bib or narrowly-pleated front. It’s made of marcella cotton, which is noticeably thicker than regular cotton and has a honeycomb-like appearance. The shirt is either turndown or wing collar. A turndown collar is always sharp, modern and elegant, while a wing collar is a bit of a throwback to the 19th century and works best with white tie.Bowtie: Always tie it yourself. If you’ve never tied one before, now is the time to learn. This guide will walk you through it. The bowtie should be black and made of silk satin or silk grosgain. If you’re more comfortable in a straight tie, it’s acceptable to wear a black one that’s relatively slim, as a more modern fashion statement (see above).Socks and Shoes: The former should be black silk hose, and the latter either black patent leather or polished black calf skin. Shoes should be lightweight and unadorned.Accessories: As mentioned above, when dressing formally, blending in is a good thing, and standing out only leads to embarrassment as it means you broke the rules somehow. If this feels overly rigid, and you’re itching to show some personal style, you can do so via your accessories. Just make sure you keep the look subtle and nuanced. Your pocket square, cuff links, studs, watch (which matches your cuff links) and charming personality are excellent ways to do so.Fit: As with suiting, fit is your everything when it comes to formal attire. It should fit close to your frame with the jacket hitting exactly on your shoulders. The break on your pants can be slightly shorter than what you normally get on regular trousers.While there is quite a bit to keep in mind with black-tie dressing, don’t let it intimidate you. After all, wearing a tux is about confidence and panache. Once you figure it out, you’ll find that a tux can be completely transformative for any man. It’s absolutely worth the work.

2010 Academy Awards: The Stars’ Clothing Personalities

It was clever TV programming last night to pit the guy-magnet movies “Old School” and “Saving Private Ryan” against the 82nd Annual Academy Awards. Although a lot of men are averse to watching awards shows, much can be learned from how the stars present themselves. Here are some interesting picks and the serious and not-so-serious messages they tell me as an Image Consultant.Wow, just wow. Ryan Reynolds looks relaxed and at ease in his monkey suit, something that’s not exactly easy to accomplish. His confidence absolutely shines through. Takeaway: own your look and people will notice...James Cameron shows his playful side with a haphazardly stuffed blue silk pocket square. The color and execution of this detail reflect his creativity and unpredictability. The matching of pocket square to wife #5’s dress is also unpredictable…er, unpredictably bad that is. Maybe it was meant as a gesture of solidarity with his incumbent spouse, especially with his stunning and stylish ex Kathryn Bigelow also up for numerous awards. Regardless, someone please tell him that the Oscars and prom are two very different scenes...In contrast to James Cameron’s fluffy pocket square look is Jake Gyllenhaal’s meticulously folded white one. From his neatly trimmed hair, eyebrows, and beard to his perfectly fastened bowtie, we see his understated sophistication and attention to detail. This is a guy who makes his bed every morning -- or at least tells his butler to...Style icon George Clooney is always dressed and coiffed impeccably, especially for awards shows. That’s why his hair cut fail is particularly surprising. The man actually has duck fuzz bordering on a mullet. The only rational explanation for this deviation from his usual elegance must be that he’s got an upcoming part in “Wayne’s World 3”. If that's not the case, I’m sure there are boatloads of ladies who would be more than happy to trim the back of his neck for him...While it’s old news that Robert Downey Jr. is an aggressive dresser, we really see how playful he is via this look. Of note: despite his apparent sneaker-wearing nonchalance, he does match his sunglass lenses to his bow-tie. Evidently there is method to the madness...Robin Thicke thinks outside the box with his velvet tux and calfskin loafers. It’s hard to do this with formal wear, which has so many hard and fast rules, but the talented Robin Thicke displays his imaginative but still refined clothing personality...Woody Harrelson…is down with world peace. ‘Nuff said.

2010 Grammy Fashion Takeaways

The Grammy Awards are endlessly entertaining, of course for the performances, but also for the quirky statement-making ensembles the attendees wear. There was plenty of eccentricity this year, but here I'll be addressing the more conventional looks and what can be taken away from them for the purposes of everyday dressing..The Now That's a Classy Situation Award: Ryan SeacrestRyan Seacrest is understated elegance at its best. Black and white is a failsafe combo, and I love the straight edge pocket square.  He looks amazing without appearing to have tried at all..The Not So Classy a Situation Award: Mike "The Situation" SorrentinoI'm a little disappointed with The Situation. Don't get me wrong, this outfit is a trainwreck in every sense of the word -- from shiny sleazesuit to chia pet 'do -- but it's really not as bad as I expected. I had my heart set on something along the lines of, oh say, an Ed Hardy tattoo print onesie. With tearaways. He still gets "Unclassiest" though because even on the red carpet, he's gotta flash the flesh. Gymtanlaundry, Gymtanlaundry!.The Best Mixing of Patterns Award: UsherUsher gets pattern-mixing just right with his dotted tie and checked shirt: he employed two different patterns in varying scales but maintained the same color scheme. However, he's got enough going on with the shirt and tie, that he'd have been better off keeping the suit a simple black, which also would have given his combo extra pop. He's bringing Bobby Ewing back with that khaki three-piece with white piping. Polka dots and Dallas menswear don't mix..The Squarest Dude in Crazytown Award: Stephen ColbertIn a sea of clashing prints,

and spooky preacher ties,this year's Grammy host keeps it business as usual with his sharp dark tux and grey tie. It's hard to think of Stephen Colbert as mainstream, but he's downright bland in tonight's company!.The My Razor Was Confiscated by Airline Security Award: Ringo StarrI'm all for scruff, especially in wintertime, but I wish Ringo had tapered the neckline of his beard before heading out tonight. Rather than shaving a straight line along the jawline, which feels self-conscious and faux thespian to me, he would have done better to have found a middle ground and tapered it down his neck using a beard trimmer. That way it would look groomed but still natural.

Men’s Formalwear Decoded Courtesy of the 2010 Golden Globes

The Golden Globes are a great excuse for learning a bit about men’s formalwear while picking apart our favorite celebrities.Jon Hamm always looks dapper both on and off Mad Men. Here he’s rocking a double-breasted peak lapel tux with a bowtie (a peak lapel is a broad V-shaped lapel that points up and out just below the collar). The double-breasted look broadens him; it’s a beefy, old-school masculine look that’s very much in line with his hairy face! While the beard is a little much for my taste, he looks fantastic nonetheless..Chace Crawford has on a shawl collar tux (a shawl collar has a smooth, rounded edge lapel). This look harkens back to the 1950’s and was made famous by James Dean. It’s a gorgeous, classic look that can be worn with either a bowtie or a long tie. The shawl collar is best kept on the slim side. The subtly-patterned pocket square is a nice touch..Eli Roth is sporting a notch collar 2-button tux with a long tie (a notch collar has a triangular-shaped indentation where the lapel and collar meet). The two buttons – as opposed to one button on traditional tuxes – keep it modern and understated. If you’re going to wear a long tie with a tux, make sure the width and material of the tie match the width and material of the lapel. Satin lapel equals satin tie; grosgrain lapel equals grosgrain tie. You just can’t beat the fit of this Basterd’s tux. Check out additional images here..Mickey Rourke – Mickey Rourke is a hot mess minus the hot. Although I'd expect nothing less from this gator-lovin’ rule-breaker, and in fact that’s kinda why I love him. One thing that there’s really no excuse for though in this ensemble is the watch chain. It draws your eye right to his belly…in a bad way. Final verdict: the best part about this look is his date. Girlfriend got it going on!.David Arquette presents a perfect example of very bad tailoring. A tux should fit you like a chainmail glove (see Eli Roth above). Mr. Cougartown’s pants are too baggy and long. Also, tux shoes should be sleek and streamlined – those big old oxfords belong home in his closet..While the all black look feels a little dated and a lot trying too hard, Jeff Bridges pulls it off decently well – with the exception of what appear to be rubber-soled suede shoes. Tux shoes should always be leather-soled, sleek and simple in patent leather or nicely polished calf. The rubber sole is much too casual for this look.

Mickey Rourke – Mickey Rourke is a hot mess minus the hot. Although I expect nothing less from this gator-lovin’ rule-breaker, and that’s kinda why I love him. One thing that there’s really no excuse for though in this ensemble is the watch chain. It draws your eye right to his belly…in a very bad way. Final verdict: the best part about this look is his date. Girlfriend got it going on!

Men's Winter Weather Footwear

Many of my recent conversations with guys about menswear have turned to what to wear on your feet in sloppy winter weather. If you have nice shoes but are worried the slush/salt/rogue gifts from the neighborhood dogs lurking in the snow are going to ruin your gear, consider a pair of overshoes. Companies like Sierra Trading Post and Neos make boots that go over any kind of footwear you're wearing without having to pull and stretch on rubber like those creepy galoshes from back in the day. They're waterproof, warm and have high traction on the soles so you stay upright at all times. My favorites are the Explorersand Uptownersfrom Neos and the New England All-Season Overboots from Sierra Trading Post.If you're looking for something a little more streamlined, check out the Men's Executive Overshoe from Tingley.They aren't insulated, but they'll keep you dry and standing on your feet instead of your bottom. You gotta love the names companies give for men's shoes..."Uptowner" and "Executive" -- how subtle!And if you're just looking for rainwear that's not obnoxiously ugly, I am very into Tretorn's rain boots. I like both the green for a downtown look and the charcoal for something more conservative, or "uptown," if you will.So there you have it, my first post. Welcome, and please come back soon for more musings on men's styling!