At a recent awards night, looking glamorous in a flowing green gown with diamonds glistening from her earlobes, actor Kareena Kapoor looked ready to set the red carpet on fire. On her arm was actor Saif Ali Khan, looking equally dapper and stylish in a tuxedo—the more traditional and ceremonial version of a business suit. While the awards season is a time for actresses to shine and sparkle in designer gowns and embellished saris, their male counterparts don’t really take full advantage when the invite says black tie. Yet the recently held GQ Awards night in Mumbai saw the men of Bollywood at their stylish best in tuxedos, something Indian men are rarely spotted in. “There aren’t enough occasions that require that kind of a formal dress code,” says designer Ashish Soni.
A tuxedo can be worn for any kind of award function, formal fine-dining events or a wedding reception. “For weddings, you can do away with the bow tie, leave the top button open and just wear a pocket square,” says Samrat Som, creative director, Louis Philippe. We asked our menswear experts to decode the look for us so that the next time an invitation says black tie, you’ll know what to do:
Black-tie boys: (from far left) Saif Ali Khan prefers his tuxedo with a waistcoat; Ranbir Kapoor has a modern take on his tux; Rahul Khanna goes for a short lapel style; and Aamir Khan keeps it basic. Photographs courtesy GQ Men of the Year Awards
According to Som, the notch lapel or the peak lapel are safe, but if you find classical boring then go for a slim lapel. This season, Soni has been getting orders for the shawl collar. A tuxedo jacket has a slight hint of contrast with the lapel in taffeta, silk or satin, which differentiates it from a business suit. “You cannot wear a business suit with a bow tie and pass it off as a tuxedo. I often get this query from men. You have to invest in a tuxedo. If you don’t want to do that then just wear a suit with a tie,” he says.
Waistcoat and cummerbund
A tuxedo jacket is enough to take you through the evening, but you can make the look more formal. Soni designed Khan’s tuxedo for the recent Hello! magazine awards—he wore it with a deep-cut waistcoat. Wear a cummerbund in cream, black or maroon. But stay away from it unless you have a well-toned abdomen. “That rules out about 90% of Indian men. A waistcoat is better because it will help hide the slight paunch,” he says.
Som says you should wear a cummerbund only if you can carry it off or you might end up looking dressed for a costume party. Instead wear a waistcoat in the same colour as the jacket or in jacquard.
Bow tie and pocket square
For the sake of tradition, Soni suggests wearing a bow tie. Most Indians avoid them because they associate them with waiters. But “Saif has grown up wearing tuxedos while studying in England. He likes to keep it very traditional,” says Soni.
You can, however, change it a bit. “I recently wore a chocolate brown bow tie with a black tuxedo,” Soni adds. You can add colour, texture or prints such as dots, checks or stripes. “It depends on the event you are attending. I would avoid bow ties for Indian weddings,” adds Som. If you are slim like Ranbir Kapoor, you can modernize your look with a skinny bow tie. But avoid the stubble and the messy hair. “A tuxedo calls for a perfectly groomed look. Get a manicure and pedicure,” says Soni.
Those not comfortable with a bow tie can opt for a slim black tie. Khan added some colour with a contrast red printed pocket square and you can do the same with coloured cufflinks and socks.
Shirt and trouser
A white dress shirt, which traditionally comes with contrast black buttons, is the norm. Shirts can come with pleats or pintucks. The trouser has to be black, with a contrast satin stripe going down the sides. Traditionally, the jacket is the same black colour as the trousers, but Soni has seen the sales of “James Bond-style tuxedos”, with white jackets and black trousers, go up recently.