Life Divided: Black tie

Jules Desai and Anoushka Kavanagh have a formal disagreement

For black tie

Jules Desai

Oxford, in some sense, is black tie – and black tie, in some sense, is Oxford.

If nothing else, both can be captured in three simple words: tradition, style, and timelessness. Ever since Edward VII took his tailcoat to Henry Poole on Savile Row and had his tails lopped off, black tie has rested at the forefront of elegant evening dress – although those who wear it now are often less than elegant by the end of the evening.

That being said, in some ways, black tie and Oxford exist for the same reason. Oxford is here to exercise the minds of intellectuals regardless of their background, and black tie – although less academically stimulating – allows everyone to enjoy great company on a level playing field.

They can eat the same food, drink from the same can of Dark Fruits, and even engage in the same banal Great British Bake Off related chat as their counterparts. Simply put, they can revel in each other’s company whilst all sporting the same penguin-like attire.

Think, in today’s era: when do we really set aside time for conversation, rapport, and that alone? In our constant efforts to drive on towards the future, we forget and we lose the things on which we look back with nostalgia. We can all too easily overlook those halycon days of getting drunk whilst feeling like cast members in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Just like Oxford, it is a great leveller of people.

Black tie should be cherished as one of the rare occasions in modern society when we can truly enjoy the uninterrupted company of our peers, our contemporaries and our friends.

Also, it makes drinking Strongbow outside the King’s Arms at 6pm feel just that little bit more classy.

Against black tie

It’s midnight. Your feet feel as though an elephant has trodden on them – or, if you are lucky, are now totally numb – from the heels your toes are sticking out at unnatural angles from. And you’re groggy and chilly as the effects of weak alcohol have worn off. The black tie ball that started out so beautifully is no longer so beautiful.

After a long cloakroom queue behind likeminded sufferers, you welcomingly snatch your sneakers like the lifeline they are and head back to the dance tent. Only your gown is now far too long for you minus the artificial six inches, and you accidentally step on the trail, snagging it. That perfect dress you spent *literally months* searching for on Asos, instead of writing the essays you should have been writing, is now ruined. As a saving grace, you remember you couldn’t possibly wear it again anyway, because, oh god, it would be social suicide to be seen in the same dress at a black tie event twice.

Not only are you drunkenly tearful about this minor wardrobe disaster, but you’re also now cold. Shame you didn’t think about how chilly British May nights are when admiring your own cleavage. You look enviously to the boys prancing around in their waiter-like uniforms, complete with warm jacket. Black tie’s probably not so bad if you only have to throw on a tux.

One of them takes pity on you standing shivering and staggers over inebriated to offer you some warmth. What a gentleman! Until… “You can have my coat if you sleep with me” he slurs. What a prick. You come to the conclusion that he must be a member of that stalwart of misogyny, the Bullingdon. Why else would he look so good in a tux – you’ve heard that’s an entry requirement. Besides, you remember reading it in Cherwell, so he must be, right?

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