Dressing up and getting ready for that special night isn’t just for girls. Are you ready boys?

I would say it’s come round to that season again when balls dominate the social calendar – but in St Andrews balls permanently dominate the social calendar. So, I was shocked to discover, whilst gathering costumes for a production, that many of the male members of the cast lacked a white shirt, black trousers or black leather shoes. How do they cope when it comes to balls?

Before attending the DRA ball last week, I asked a couple of my male friends what they were wearing, because I feel you can always judge which dress to wear by seeing what the male population shall be donning that night. One friend debated with whether it would be a black bow-tie worthy event, and another just looked at me as if I was mad, said ‘It’s black tie,’ then sauntered off. Which did not help. As one can imagine.

And so in a town where chinos are the norm, how does one define black tie?

It could be interpreted in a variety of ways. How ‘black tie’ is the event itself? How formal does the man usually dress on a day to day basis?

I’m just going to focus on the more informal black tie of the hall balls at this very moment in time. Being more informal there’s more space for variation…

To the man who daily models this season’s Gant or Ralph Lauren, black tie could be interpreted in any manner of ways. He may choose to simply wear a suit with dress shirt and black bow-tie, or he may don the casual but still smart combination of red trousers and blazer. It is a tough shout. The black bow-tie debater went for a striped bow-tie in the end, together with long coat and silk scarf. Dapper.

For the quirky art child or flamboyant vintage connoisseur, there can be a twist on the traditional black and white theme. Instead of the classic black dinner jacket he may choose a tailored light tweed, or a velvet smoking jacket à la The Hoff. The choice to wear a cravat instead of a bow tie or the addition of a cummerbund adds a personal and individual stamp to standard attire.

For the dedicated Scot, or he of Scottish heritage, the kilt reigns. One must not say it gives them a chance to wear a skirt. I made this mistake the other week – it did not go down well. It gives the wearer a chance to get his swish on whilst showing off perfectly toned calves, and for an alternative to the traditional look, a black shirt can be worn instead.

In all, when it comes to a slightly less formal event there is as much scope for the men as there is for the women. But surely that just makes it harder to decide…


Millicent Wilkinson

Image – Millicent Wilkinson