Black Tie Beach 2011

Shot by: Keith Haskel, Kristopher Knight, Andrew Flynn Soltys, Charlie Todd
Photography: Brian Fountain, Ari Scott, Katie Sokoler (full flickr sets for each photographer at the bottom of this post.)

For the Second Annual Black Tie Beach, hundreds of participants spent a day at Rockaway Beach in black tie attire. We covered a half mile-long stretch with a diverse group of people of all ages laying out, playing games, and swimming in the ocean in formal wear. Agents were instructed to find cheap tuxedos and ball gowns at thrift stores for the occasion. The event also happened on the same day in five other cities around the world, including Sydney, Australia and Malmö, Sweden. Watch the video first, and then read the check out the photos and report below.

We usually do not repeat missions, but Black Tie Beach was one of my favorite days of last year. I figured an event that much fun deserved to happen annually. Last year we were at Coney Island, but I wanted to stage it in a new location this year to surprise an entirely different crowd of beach goers. Although Rockaway Beach is easily accessible by subway, scouting for this mission was the first time I had ever visited it in my ten years in New York. It’s a great beach!

Since the instructions were pretty clear from last year’s mission (spend a normal day at the beach in black tie attire as if there’s nothing unusual about doing so) we did not have a meeting point. Participants arrived on their own during a set window of time in the afternoon. It’s tough to count how many agents there were without having a meeting point, but the crowd seemed about like last year, a few hundred.

White tux!

A family of agents
It was fun to watch all the interactions between our participants and the other folks at the beach. When asked why they were dressed up, agents mostly responded that they were doing it “for fun” or that they “just like dressing up for the beach.” Of course, no one would admit to knowing the other dressed up folks. These responses frustrated some inquisitive locals, but most seemed to get the joke just fine.

We had a really great range of ages participate.

The woman on the right is 90!

Sometimes it was tough to figure if we were the unusual ones on the beach
Our agents came up with a wonderful variety of activities to do during their day at the beach.

The planking fad infiltrates Improv Everywhere!
Almost everyone decided to take a dip in the water. Swimming in a tuxedo is more fun than you would think it would be. I recommend it!

Since I didn’t plan on repeating the mission, I threw my cheap, sandy tuxedo away in a trash can at Coney Island last year. This year I found a complete tuxedo with tails at a thrift store for $40. I took it home in a plastic bag after the mission, and I got it dry cleaned for less than $20. It’s like new and hanging in my closet for next year!

Agent Lindquist rides a wave

I think this guy wins “best dressed.”
I brought a waterproof flip camera with me and got some action shots in the waves.

There were many chicken fights
Agent Jack Cheng drew lots of attention with his snorkeling accessories.

This year we invited other cities to participate as well, and five others joined the fun.

Malmö, Sweden

Newport, Rhode Island

Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California

Bloomington, Indiana (Black Tie Lake!)

Sydney, Australia (best photo I can find. Someone send me a better one!)
It was exciting to see it spread across the globe. Hopefully we can eventually have it spread to every beach in the world.

Mission Accomplished.


Agent Brian Fountain’s Set
Agent Ari Scott’s Set
Agent Katie Sokoler’s Set

Read the agent reports from hundreds of participants in the comments here.

Last year’s video: