There seems to be a recurring question for cruises: Can I wear X for formal night. I think it might be helpful, for those who might not know, to explain what “formal” means for men in regards to attire.
“Formal” (also called black tie) means a tuxedo (usually called a dinner jacket outside of America – though the term also includes the trousers). Preferably, it means a black tuxedo with a white shirt and a black tie. In summer months for outside parties or in warm weather (like on a tropical cruise) you can substitute a white dinner jacket for the regular black one.
“Formal” does not mean a dark business suit UNLESS the host (in this case, a cruise ship) invites you to make the substitution if you prefer. Most, if not all, cruise ships allow this less formal option if you prefer.
“Formal” NEVER means: A sport coat or blazer, dockers, jeans, polo shirts, t-shirts, tennis shoes, “dress” shorts (like there IS such a thing), any sort of tie-less dressing, or your favorite parrot shirt. These items are never formal and are not valid options for a formal event. That’s just a fact.
“Informal” means a business suit and also includes none of the above in a technical sense, though you might reasonably get away with a sport coat, provided you are also wearing a tie and are suitably dressed otherwise (like no jeans, tennis shoes, etc.).
“Casual” means you can break out the blazers, the dockers, the polo shirts, etc. Depending on the host, jeans might be appropriate (at least nice ones). It does NOT mean washing-your-car or cleaning-the-garage casual.
Unfortunately, many men avoid dressing up for any occasion beyond their own wedding and are blissfully unaware of the above guidelines, as evidenced by some of the questions asked here regarding formal nights on cruises. This is too bad because there is very little that is cooler than a man in a well-fitting tuxedo. It is not really any more difficult than wearing any suit (it’s really just an evening suit) and worn properly, nearly any man looks good in one. But nothing can put a damper on your fun like sitting in your tuxedo at a table of people in polo shirts. It is childish and rude to dress inappropriately to a formal occasion. You can couch it in sayings (“to each his own”), but it is simply inappropriate.
If you refuse to wear a suit, or simply don’t have one, for whatever reason, then choose formal nights for dinning in the ship’s casual option. There is nothing wrong with that and that is the choice you make by not having a suit. Trying to “get by” in the formal dining room by dressing casually, even if the staff lets you in is inappropriate, even if many won’t mind.
If you do wear suits and don’t mind dressing up, consider buying a tuxedo. They are not necessarily expensive and if you wear it a few times, it will pay for itself (as compared to renting), and most importantly, it will fit you properly. A nice tuxedo outfit will run you about $400-500 for everything, which includes the black jacket and trousers, a white shirt, a black tie, suspenders and cummerbund (or vest if you are going that route), cufflinks and studs, and formal shoes. Do some research on the web first and understand the different options that you might consider for your look (i.e. wing collar vs. laydown collar) so that you can make the decision under pressure in the store. If you look around, and settle a little lower in quality, you can probably shave off another $100. Buy a classic style and it will serve you for as long as it fits you. You will look damn good and know it.
There will be some who will argue with the above, but it doesn’t matter. Formal means what it does and it isn’t worth arguing about it with anyone who would insist on wearing a polo shirt and dockers to a formal event. Hopefully this will be of some use to the reast of you.
I just read the article, found on this site, called "Facing the Tuxedo Decision" by Pamda Kane, and I think it deserves some clarification. (With due respect to Ms. Kane, I’m not sure she understands men’s formalwear any more than most people, and she surely gets a few things wrong.)
1). You can certainly wear a black suit on formal nights if you wish, but understand something: You are wearing it as an alternative to a tuxedo, just like anyone else who wears a dark suit instead of a tux. As such, you should NOT try to imitate a tux with it by wearing a tuxedo shirt and a black bow tie. You will only look like you are pretending to wear a tux. Wear a nice (regular) tie with your dark suit, and a normal (white if you wish) suit-appropriate shirt. The only exception being that if you NORMALLY wear a bow tie, go ahead, but wear something that makes it obvious that you are not trying to make a black suit pass as a tux.
A better bet is a conservative dark gray suit with a nice tie. Let the tuxes be tuxes, you’re better off leaving the black suit at home.
2). The cummerbund is worn pleats-up because they used to have a concealed pocket sewn in that would hold your opera tickets, or whatever. While I’m sure they caught the occasional wayward crumb, it was not the intent. Remember: Unlike a suit, a dinner jacket is meant to be worn unbuttoned at all times (even while standing), making the cummerbund a necessary item if you don’t wear a vest. The only exception, of course is if you have a double-breasted dinner jacket, in which case you wear it like a suit (but don’t bother with these, unless you look particularly good in a double-breasted style – they are a hassle in general with all of the buttoning and unbuttoning)
3). True, there are no “tuxedo fashion police” on cruise ships, but that doesn’t mean that anything goes when wearing a tuxedo. (think about some of the bathing suits cruisers wear that they think look perfectly O.K. on them!) The ties and cummerbunds in wild colors and prints (or matching your date’s dress) are best left to your senior prom or the demands of being part of a particular wedding party. It is NOT simply a matter of self-expression, nor is it correct just because some celebrity does it at the Golden Globes (i.e. bolo ties). Black tie is the second most formal attire for a gentleman (white tie is the first) and as such, it has strict rules and conventions. Wear the peach tie and cummerbund if you insist, but understand that you do not look like you are wearing formal black tie – you look like you escaped from a prom to hunt up some more liquor for your punch-spiking flask! A black bow tie and cummerbund is appropriate, classy, readily available for cheap, and is the only real answer.
4). Shirt studs. “Those awful black plastic "onyx" studs and links are just that - awful - and scream "rental."” No, Ms. Kane, they scream correct. They’re cheap maybe, but correct. A black tux should be worn with shirt studs that are traditionally black onyx. Whether you want to invest in a set that is genuine onyx or not is your business, but black onyx (faux or otherwise) is perfectly appropriate (I wear cheapies, myself). Believe me, there are plenty of other things that scream rental, if that’s all you are worried about! Worry about the peach colored cummerbund first! But if you do find a nice set of studs and links that look good with your black tux (maybe in gold or hematite), give it a shot. Just realize that proper is conservative, so try to restrain yourself from wearing studs with the head of your favorite Dilbert character on them, or the always-tasteless $. But remember, all of your jewelry, which will include your watch, your shirt studs, your cufflinks, your suspender hardware, should have the same metal tone (gold or silver), and will preferably match your dates jewelry in color. Typical is gold for a black dinner jacket and silver for a white dinner jacket, but don’t feel too constrained to that.
5). A white dinner jacket (a nice variation that looks great on most men) is appropriate for summer months, outdoor parties, or tropical cruises. Just like the black dinner jacket, it is worn with a black bow tie and a black cummerbund (avoid the vests here, since it’s a warm weather look). The only difference is that you normally wear white suspenders instead of black ones. (more on suspenders in a second.) Personally, I think a white dinner jacket is the best place to experiment with different studs and links. Don’t forget that it is considered to be just as formal as a black dinner jacket, but if you find some nice blue lapis lazuli studs that will look good with it – go for it.
6). Adjustable trousers are a reasonable, but unnecessary option. Proper tuxedo trousers are tailored to fit you loosely at the waist. Then you wear suspenders (braces) to hold the trousers up. Sure, you can wear cheaper, untailored, trousers that have to be cinched-in to fit, but why? Have your trousers tailored to fit properly, then use the suspenders to keep them up. It’s simpler and more comfortable. (And remember that the purpose of the cummerbund is to cover the waist of whatever type of trouser you choose to wear.)
Ms. Kane is doing a disservice to men who do and know how to dress formally when she implies that only really old people hold the line on what’s proper with a tux and that the unconventional is better. With a tuxedo, correct is ALWAYS appropriate, and you are surer to step into dangerous territory by experimenting. You want to look classy, not like you escaped from a wedding, and I ASSURE you, you will stand out as surely as a guy in shorts if you try to “personalize” your look too much.
One final thought: Wear the proper shoes. Do NOT wear your black leather oxfords that you wear to work every day. Even if you shine them up bright, they are still just work shoes. The most proper is actually patent leather slippers with a satin bow on top. Yes, you read that right (trust me, it’s not as bad as it sounds!). But you are perfectly O.K. wearing any black patent leather lace-ups. Personally, I wear black patent lace ups with a satin topping (a nice look). Just avoid the work shoes.
Black tie is the best that most men will ever dress. It is easy to do it correctly, and in this case, correct is better. Help your date shine by being seen as her man, who knows how to properly wear a tux. If she’s like my wife, she will appreciate it and it will encourage her to try to top you ! (Just make sure you always tell her that she has.)
As you have said, I am giving the technical deffinition of formal. My intent is to explain what formal is, for those who are interested is dressing correctly, and to belie the idea, so often put forth, that "formal" is whatever the individual feels is formal for him.
Formal has a clear and concise deffinition that is perhaps not to everyone's liking, but it can not be redefined, only ignored .
I hope this is useful to someone who wants the information.
That was very informative !! Thanks Andre.
No offense, but I feel like I just finished butler school and will be seeking work as a "gentleman's gentleman" ! The whole time I was reading I was hearing a british accent.......hmmm
MS Noordam HAL 1987
Elation CCL 1998
Norwegian Star NCL 2003
Conquest very soon CCL
My main purpose is to break through all of the misinformation out there and give a real explanation of what Black Tie really is. I don't think most men really have any idea - they just wear whatever the place that rented them their wedding tux came up with - which is very often just plain wrong for real fomal. I think most men would love to wear a tux, but are intimidated by their seeming specialness. But the rules are simple and it's no more difficult than wearing a suit. It simply requires a certain level of tradition to do it properly.
Plus, I think there is just too much: "Go ahead and wear your favorite parrot shirt to the main dining room on formal night. It's your vacation, you should be able to do whatever YOU want." Unfortunately, it's not JUST your vacation and other people ARE affected by what you wear. I'm willing to concede the point that many men will wear a suit rather than a tux (though the reasoning excapes me - why would any man not want to wear a tux given the chance?), but I simply am not willing to let polo shirts and dockers take over the deffinition of "formal." It is not OK now, nor will it ever be anything less than rude to wear casual clothing to a formal event.
Individual choice is great for the casual nights, leave the formal nights to those of us who love them and understand what they mean.
Andre i again could not agree with you more. But unfortunatley until the cruise lines give the Maitre D the power to enforce the dress code - like they do in most better to upscale restaurants, then we will see those parrot shirts and polos in the main dining room on formal nights, eventhough the ship offers casual options. <SIGH>
Most men seem to be "afraid" of a tux, don't know why this is, when a tux on a well-groomed man is exquisite, think JAMES BOND.
Did they have the formal jackets with the kilts. I was in the US Navy stationed in Scotland and got my hubby to wear a kilt to the Navy Birthday ball. Talk about sexy. He's a runner and has great legs.
I don't claim to be any expert at all on kilts or British traditional clothing (club & school ties, etc.), so take this for what it's worth:
Personally, I would seriously consider against the idea of donning dress for which you are not normally entitled to wear. By this I mean wearing ties that have the same pattern as British school ties, or tartans that do not actually reflect your family name/heritage. This can be lots of fun, but the reason not to do this is the off chance you will run into someone wearing the same thing that IS entitled to it and offending them. From what I do know, this is taken a LITTLE more seriously in some parts of the world than a highschool kid wearing a Harvard sweatshirt.
If you ARE a MacCloud, or went to Cambridge, do what you think is best, but if you did not, consider whom you might offend in your fun.
My 2 cents.
Mattp: Expensive has nothing to do with it. "Formal" does not mean, or require, expense. If it were me, I would avoid the black suit and go with dark gray or something. Not because your black suit isn't nice, but even more so because it is. Intentions aside, you WILL look like you are wearing a black suit to PASS for a dinner jacket. Especially (and I don't know if you plan this), if you wear it with french cuffs and a bow tie. It's entirely your choice - and you won't be alone in your black suit - but think about the whole effect it creates. You are not trying to show off an expensive suit, you are trying to dress properly.
This is a question that has no real correct answer. Kind of like when my wife asks me if a skirt makes her butt look big...
We've sailed on 6 ships in the past few years and have three more booked for 2004. Here's my opinion. Wear what you want. Period. You are on vacation, and most will dress nice for formal evenings. I wear a dark suit, tie and hard soled dress shoes. I just do, it makes my wife happy, and that is good enough for me.
The added values are great family photos, it feels nice to dress up for something besides the people in my office and more.
On warmer weather cruises I have changed to other clothes for the evening events. We usually go to the theater show in our nice attire and then change to nice shorts and collared shirts for the late evening. The casinos are smoke filled and I don't want a to smell that on one of my suits.
I've worn khakis to dinner on formal nights on the Majesty of the Seas and many did as well. We had just sailed from CoCo Cay and it was hot. Few were dressed up.
Carnival has a more relaxed dress pattern, and on the Celebration, Ecstasy and Elation I wore starched khaki shorts to dinner on the nights we were in port. You do the math, a full day of snorkeling, sun and beach and we wanted to shower, dress in resort casual. After dinner we walked off the ship for a some last minute shopping and a frozen drink (or two?) at Fat Tuesdays.
Confused? I hope not. You are on vacation, it's your money and if someone is offended that a 46 year old man wears nice golf style shorts to dinner then close your eyes while I walk to the table and invoice me for the financial damages you've endured.
Finally, we have sailed on two consecutive Thanksgving cruises and most all dressed nice for dinner on formal nights. In about three weeks I will give you an update on what I saw on the Rhapsody from Galveston.
Of COURSE there is a correct answer! Formal dress for men has a specific deffinition. Beyond the deffinition is a tradition of what is more correct within that deffinition. This posting is about laying out what formal means in this context.
It also, I think, makes very clear that those who wear whatever they want to the formal dining room on formal nights, are not dressed appropriately NO MATTER WHAT THEY MAY THINK ABOUT IT PERSONALLY. And you are not alone on the ship, nor are you the only one who spent your own money on the cruise. Dressing properly on social occasions is part of the price of attending them.
You can pretend that shorts are EVER OK in a formal dining room (note: I am not saying on formal nights - I am saying ever), but you are deluding yourself. No matter what you do, you will always find plenty of yahoos that will join you. That's not how to decide if it's correct or not. Go ahead, be a fool if you like, but rest assured you only wind up looking stupid - not like a trendsetter, rebel, or enviously comfortable like you think.
Now, with that said, I've not been out of fashion or dress on any cruise we've sailed on, and that dates back to the Carnival Mardi Gras in 1976.
The dress in port, and I speak of Cozumel on both the Celebration and the Ecstasy was clearly defined as shorts acceptable. Now, if you were there and saw what people selected from their wardrobes as nice casual you'd be on their ass as well.
I firmly believe that a lack of enforcement in other areas of cruising has brought on the dress variance. Hot tubs that are full of kids, adult pools with kids, smokers puffing their way to a early grave at the tables clearly marked for non smoking and more.
When the cruise lines enforce the rules then I'll abide by them. As long as they do not, then what do you expect?
Also, did you read what I said? I dress in a dark and conservative suit for all formal evenings. Always have, always will.
I will continue to wear shorts all day while we are in port. You want to share something with me relating to your opinion, then step right up and let us share...
Try a trip to Disney resorts fine dining. All but one site in Disney allows shorts. Take trip to some of the finest golf resorts in the country, and you will see nice shorts as standard fare.
If I sailed on the lines from other ports than Galveston then I'd most do something different. But the prices are great, and those reasons I take our family on a relaxing, yet casual vacation.
Send me the invoice, take the Prozac and brag about your tux...
Oh get over yourself already BLUsry. YOU'RE the one who hijacked this topic. It had nothing to do with shorts until you decided that what you had to say under another topic had some importance to this one and did a cut and paste.
This topic is: What is the deffinition of formal for men.
This is a very specific topic that does have a correct answer. People can argue about it all they want, but formal does mean something and just because someone chooses to ignore that deffinition, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
I agree that cruise ships don't enforce their own policies. They are basically caught between providing (speaking of dining) an elegant environment for some, while not pissing off the vast majority who believe that chinos are formal. But they are not helped by people who know what is appropriate, but are perfectly willing to selfishly wear a parrot shirt and "nice pants" to a formal event. Not sure why they don't (generally) enforce their dining dress code, since an alternative is readily available for the refusniks?
We weren't talking about Disney. Disney is not a formal place with a formal dining code, so of course you are allowed to dress casually (or even less that casual: i.e. shorts) in their dining rooms. It's not on point, which is what a FORMAL dining room on FORMAL nights is idealy looking for.
I don't CARE what ship X said was OK on some particular occassion. That is not the topic for this chain. Again, it is an explanaition of what is formal for men. Now whether shorts are sometimes allowed by the host (the ship) when in certain situations (maybe they do) again has NOTHING to do with what "fomal" means. Formal is not decided by the host, fomal is decided by traditions that have nothing to do with them. All a host can do is allow a certain leeway in what they will allow - which is what you see.
People on ships, under a dress code in the formal dining room, whether casual, informal, or formal, can choose to either conform to that dress code, or ignore it. But they can not redefine the terms, nor can the cruise line. They are simply conforming or not to what tradition has long ago defined as casual, informal or formal.
If you'd like more clarification on the difference between formal and casual, ask a specific question, otherwise I'll assume you're just spouting off again.
whoa, things are getting a bit heated around here. First off - inflammatory or derogortary remarks are not tolerated on this or any of the message boards, managers will intervene and your posts will be deleted and if it is persistant you will be banned from this site. That being said, the original post was titled "Explanation: What is "formal" for men. It was posted to inform, nothing more, nothing less.
I was afraid that something like this was going to happen and that is why i posted my reply that Andre was offering a technical definition, again nothing more, nothing less.
I agree with Andre's definition of formal. Each person can decide if they want to dress the textbook "formal" or their own (or the cruise line's) modified definition of formal. I don't think anyone would be offended if a person wore a nice looking, well tailored suit as most men do not own a tux.
Also I would like to point out that if you think about what people on cruise ships used to wear you (anybody) should be very relieved that they are not expected or required to wear the same. Not that I am saying that the movie titanic is 100% historically accurate, but look at what those people were wearing. i do realize that the people who dressed "formal" were the top of society and not those who were in the bottom of the ship and could barely afford the tickets. Top hats and tails were the popular choice for tuxes, and (a little off topic) ballgowns for women.
just my opinion haley
my pug Mei Mei
With this definition of formal in mind, would a dark blue suite with suspenders, white shirt and conservative tie be ok for formal night for husband?? Or should we rent a tux for the week--obviously most are going to say get the tux but i think hubby would be more comfy in his suite and less expensive for us--as it would be aprx $125-$150 for a tux rental for the week. He has a pair of hard soled wing tip lace-ups that we plan on bringing. (He usually keeps the suit jacket unbuttoned as it seems to look better
That sounds fine for formal night on a cruise. Note that in the deffinition of proper dress for "formal," one can make substitutions if invited to do so by the host (in this case, a cruise ship). If this were a case of being black tie REQUIRED, then you would need the tux, but a cruise formal night is really just black tie optional or preferred. A nice suit is 100% fine.
100 years ago, gentlemen dressed for dinner and evening. At the time, this meant what we know call "white tie" which is basically a black tailed coat, white vest, white tie, white shirt (like Fred Estair in Swing Time) The tuxedo actually started as a somewhat casual version of what was considered proper wear for a gentleman after 6pm. The Prince of Wales started wearing a casual version of the coat (only at his country house) that eliminated the tails for his own comfort when away from the city society. This was later adopted by similarly inclined gentlemen in Tuxedo Park NY and became the tux. This is why a tux is sometimes called an evening suit, and is known as a dinner jacket outside of the U.S.
It really wasn't until the post WW II years that casual dressing in the evening came about for non working-class men. (generally speaking)
I don't really remember Titanic (hated it), but if you are referring to seeing all the men in tails every night - that would be historically correct for their class of people. Similar to what you see in The Aviator (if you've seen that), or maybe The Awful Truth (if you like Cary Grant). This was just how things were done if you weren't near the bottom rung of the ladder in those days. If you were to wear even a nice suit to a dinner on the Titanic in one of the formal dining rooms, you would have committed a blunder akin (in their eyes) to showing up in a thong. The general casualness we see now is a recent development (even the many of the poor were dressed up, compared to what many people wear today - maybe it was cheap, dirty, torn and patched, etc. but it was still long pants and frock coat - more than most people will wear today on "casual Fridays.")
thank you--i thought it would be alright but after reading your post i wasn't sure anymoe.
If my dad ends up coming, we'll probably opt for the tux because my dad will be wearing one also but if not then we'll stick to the suit.
karessamom, the suit sound just fine. FYI tux rentals for cruises are not that expensive at all. I think that they start at around $90.00 for a basic black tux, 2 white dress shirts & a bow tie,( go to www.cruiseshipformals.com for info)
Andre, I agree with your definition of formal, and I would wear a tux on my cruises if it were required. I do wear a dark suit on formal nights, since it is accepted. However, I have never been nor ever will be comfortable and at ease in a coat and tie. Hence, I remove my suit after dinner on formal nights and wear a polo shirt and dress slacks to the show and casino. This may not seem proper to you, but I would be to hot in a coat in a crowded theatre.
On the so called "smart casual " nights, I wear a polo shirt and dress slacks, Even though some cruise lines indicate a sports coat and tie, I find that an increasingly larger proportion of men are doing the same thing. I don't really agree with the "it's my cruise, I will do whatever I want" attitude, but I feel that if I wear something nice on such nights, I am not really spoiling anyone's cruise. I cetrtainly would not be bothered if someone wore jeans or shorts at my table on formal nights.
I mostly agree with you and I see nothing wrong with changing out of your suit after dinner if you are uncomfortable in one (I am not and assuming it's not 95 degrees, I leave the tux on since I like the look.) I've got no problem with it either way UNLESS you and I are spending the evening together and head to the sky bar after the formal dinner. Then it would be more appropriate, for simple politeness, to come to some sort of agreement, rather than me being in a tux, and you in shorts. I think that's fair and I imagine you'd mostly agree with compromising.
However, I would NEVER think it's appropriate to wear shorts to the formal dining room on formal nights. That just goes too far and is unnecessary. Shorts on a casual night is inappropriate, but it's not as drastic a miscue and therefore I really don't mind as much (retaining the right to recognize it as wrong, personally).
I think we basically agree.
We're drifting a bit, since the topic at hand is what "formal" means, but thanks for your comments.
Just a brief (or is it boxers...) update on this topic:
JC Penny now sells a cheap complete tuxedo set. It comes in three parts: Trousers, Jacket, and shirt set (which includes the tie, cummerbund, links, and maybe shirt studs [didn't notice anything about suspenders, but these are likely left out in this case]). All of this sells for about $130. All you will need to add is your underwear, socks, and a proper pair of shoes. I'm betting you can be completely black tie ready for $175 if you find a cheap source for patent shoes! Can't beat that!
I can't remember off hand if JC Penny charges for alterations on your purchase. It's likely that they do the basic ones for free or cheap and only start charging you if you need major changes. But it'll still be cheap.
But is this a quality tux, or just a step up from a K Mart blue light special? I had the opportunity to briefly examine the jacket of this ensemble the other day. It's made by Stafford (the JC Penny house line). The material is decent low-end suit quality. It is nice and smooth like higher quality wools (it's not that really rough wool you see in some cheap tuxes). It's a standard peaked lapel style with satin (or something like it) on the lower parts as expected. Buttons are covered as they should be. NO alarm bells went off on seeing this.
I did not see the trousers, but I was just passing through (I'm sure they were hanging nearby and are of matching quality). The shirt sets were boxed up on the next display. It's a standard wingtip collar and looked typical from what I could see.
Your total price will mostly depend on the shoes. Decent shoes really start at about $100. You will likely find $40 versions that will suit you fine and keep your total price down, and if they are comfortable - fine. But remember: Bad shoes can ruin your night. There is NOTHING worse that shoes that are uncomfortable in a situation where you are on them constantly (i.e. dancing at a wedding). Plus, cheap shoes just won't last. If you buy quality shoes, they will pay for themselves in most cases. Check out the cheap ones, but be very aware of how they fit you. Get the cheapest pair that also fits you properly and won't become a distraction for your feet. Try to avoid wearing regular black oxfords (your business shoes). At least if you MUST, wear the plainest pair possible and shine them up as bright as possible.
I didn't see any reason why someone wearing this outfit couldn't be happy with it. No, it won't be the quality, or have the longevity, of a $500 tux, but unless you wear one numerous times a year, or want to spend the money, the Stafford will suit you (no pun intended). Certainly if you cruise once or twice a year and either rent a tux, or really want to - this outfit is screaming your name from a rack at your local JCP.
Every man needs a dark suit, but now every man can also have a tux. How great is THAT!