From Cary Grant to James Bond, Tom Ford to Don Draper—one thread that links every dapper style icon, fictional or non, is the ability to look damned good in black tie. Lucky for us un-iconic regular guys, it’s not that difficult:

  • Black coat? Check.
  • Black striped trousers? Check.
  • Black laceups? Check.
  • Dark waistcoat? Check.
  • White turndown collar shirt? Check.
  • Black tie?

Of course, it’s not quite that simple. While the separate elements are straightforward enough, the sum of their parts is of the utmost importance. The right cut can make all the difference between looking like Don Draper and looking like you rented a tux for the junior prom. Nothing beats the personal help of a great tailor.

When all is said and done, however, the penguin suit leaves much to be desired in the way of expressing personality. Men’s evening attire has always leaned toward the understated, to showcase the often-extravagant gowns of the women they escort. In addition, there really isn’t much room for altering black tie’s basic elements without looking très gauche (we’re thinking baby blue jackets with extra long coattails, here). Your choices are basically: peak, notch or shawl lapel. Even the lapel’s width is generally determined by prevailing trends and simply what looks good on your body type.

But thank heavens, there is one place where you have the opportunity—if only in the tiniest way—to put a little gusto in your attire: the boutonnière.  As even the flashy pocket square has lost its appeal–most men these days opt for the simple kerchief peeking out ever-so-subtly–the boutonniere is really the last place where men have a chance to get creative with black tie.

Tips for rocking the boutonniere the right way:

  1. Your boutonniere should always be as slim as (or slimmer than) the lapel – this is not a man’s corsage, but a mere nod to the occasion.
  2. Consider unconventional boutonniere materials; this is where you can really show personality. A couple of (slim, appropriately sized) peacock feathers can look great.
  3. Keep it simple—though intricate always makes it interesting.
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