Silk Scarf With A Tuxedo?
Today I am going to talk about something that probably only applies to a small subset of readers. Generally, I like to discuss topics that, I feel, have broad, universal appeal. Today is different. But sometimes it’s fun to get into the weeds and talk about something obscure.
“Black Tie”, aka the wearing of a tuxedo or “dinner jacket”, is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Before I got married I had only a passing knowledge of black tie and proper menswear in general. But I wanted to wear a tux at my wedding and look timeless doing so.
Enter Peter Marshall’s incomparable online Black Tie Guide (now owned by Gentlemen’s Gazette). I’ve read that thing many times over. It not only gave me clear direction for my own semi-formal rig for my wedding, but it provided the scaffolding for my understanding and enjoyment of conservative menswear on the whole. To put a finer point on it: There are rules to which one is obliged to adhere, but don’t let dogmatic adherence to rules blind you to what you’re trying to accomplish. When dressing in proper Black Tie, you are showing maturity. Unselfishness. Confidence in blending in. This isn’t about you. It’s about the occasion. It’s about your date. Sometimes the “rules” get in the way of that.
Now, as the Black Tie Guide instructs, wearing a white silk scarf with Black Tie is technically correct. And to clarify, wearing it with JUST your tuxedo (and not an accompanying overcoat, hat, etc) is considered acceptable. However, I argue that it’s best left in the coat check closet.
My issues with wearing a silk scarf over your tuxedo is that it goes against the whole point of Black Tie. Not only does it announce itself and immediately single you out amongst your otherwise similarly-attired brethren, but it criminally covers the vast majority of the upper body, which includes the most beautiful and unique aspects of a dinner jacket, namely the lapels and the bow tie. These are the features which create the strikingly masculine effect and distinguish it from a plain ol’ business suit.
Wearing a silk scarf, unless it is conjunction with the rest of your outerwear, is an affectation, as the Black Tie Guide admits. As such, I will add, it will convey that you are trying to stand out, which is antithetical to Black Tie. Practically, it is inconvenient to wear a scarf if it’s not secured in place by an overcoat. Are you dancing with your scarf on? That’s weird. Is it draping all over the bar when you go to get a top-off? Does it dip into the mensroom sink when you’re washing your hands? Much the same can be said about a regular necktie, but in this case you should be wearing a bow tie. Wearing a scarf indoors is an inconvenience and you’ll be known the whole night as the “scarf guy”.
Additionally, why on Earth would you want to cover up your gorgeous dinner jacket? How often do you get to rock silk peak lapels or a shawl collar? With a scarf over the top it could be any old dark suit. The combination of the lapels of the jacket and the lateral bow tie creates wide shoulders and strikes a muscular, virile impression. Do you really want to throw that all away? Remember when we were kids and our parents made us put a coat on over our Halloween costumes and how much of a bummer that was? Same thing.
A silk scarf won’t make you look cultured and sophisticated. It will make you look effeminate. You’ll look less like James Bond and more like Louis XVI. Your wife loves seeing you in a tuxedo. Trust me, she does NOT fantasize about you wearing a silk scarf.
So unless you’re planning on shooting down the Red Baron between cocktail hour and dinner, your silk scarf is better left with the rest of your outerwear for the evening.