The formal tieless jacket – with Steven Hitchcock blazer

Monday, September 28th 2020
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How smart can you be without a suit or tie? 

Formality in tailoring is often discussed in terms of these two things. And it is true that wearing a suit rather than a jacket, and a tie rather than an open-necked shirt, will usually be smarter. 

But it is also possible to be formal and elegant without them. 

Morning dress doesn’t always have matching trousers, after all, and neither do all dinner jackets. There is a long tradition there. 

And while a tie does ‘finish’ the neck in a way that feels formal, alternatives like a roll neck can look just as put-together. 

Today’s outfit - making use of a superb cashmere blazer Steven Hitchcock made for me recently - is intended to illustrate one variation of this. I wore it recently and it felt exceptionally formal. This article is a working-through in my mind, of exactly why. 

Overall the materials are luxurious, while the colours are stark.

Cashmere has a slight natural shine, but one that comes across particularly as the material folds and rolls. The pile makes it shine on its edges and its ridges.

Shine isn’t always formal (think of a cheap shiny suit) but a subtle shine that works with contrast usually is. Hence grosgrain against barathea in black tie, or a worsted suit with woven silk tie. 

Here, the cashmere contrasts nicely with the flatness of the linen shirt. 

The trousers are made of a material rarely seen on PS: wool gabardine. 

I rarely wear wool gabardine because it’s so smooth and silky: these trousers were made for me back in 2011 and they’re the only pair I’ve ever had. 

But when it’s the look you want, gabardine can be beautiful. It’s a dense weave, so it drapes fantastically, and it has a distinctive, subtle shimmer. 

In Alan Flusser’s words it is "still regarded as one of the most luxurious lengths of worsted ever to grace a male thigh". I see Bryceland’s are offering their Winston trousers in wool gabardine at the moment too. So perhaps it’s making a comeback. 

Linen might not be the first material you’d think of for a formal shirt - that would probably a superfine cotton.

But when worn under a jacket, as here, linen’s wrinkling is hidden and the collars and cuffs are pleasingly crisp. In fact, in some ways it performs better than most superfines, which also quickly wrinkle.

A one-piece collar is also generally thought of as casual, which makes sense, given its openness and easy roll. But there is something formal about the lack of seams in that roll towards the neck - there is a nice cleanness to it. And in linen it looks sharper than cotton. 

On this particular day this particular shirt is misbehaving a little, rolling out of the jacket and showing its points. But the appeal of the simplicity is evident.

The colour palette, as mentioned, is stark. 

The jacket is not just navy, but dark navy. It’s the navy that should be used in most menswear really, including crewnecks and pea coats. But it is specifically needed for this outfit to be formal. 

The shirt is white, the trousers are cream. Both create contrast with the jacket. 

They would look odd, perhaps, if the jacket were removed. But on a formal occasion that is less likely. 

The shoes could be black. They’re not, they’re a very dark brown, with even darker polish on the toes. But they don’t feel much more informal than black would have been. (A bigger difference would have come from not having cuffs on the trousers.)

Their bespoke make - with the pitched heel and slim waist, which makes them appear thin and delicate - is certainly formal. And perhaps dark brown adds a little more interest to an otherwise stripped-back look. 

The handkerchief is white linen. Again, high contrast, in both colour and texture. 

A dark, finely patterned silk would have added more interest still. But there is a point to the starkness: it is deliberately, demonstratively formal. A little jewellery in the buttonhole might be a better way to achieve that interest. 

The jacket is the fourth I have from Steven Hitchcock, and given how great the last one was - in charcoal tweed - he was the first person I wanted to make this one. 

I wear more casual tailoring these days, more Neapolitan cuts and more casual materials. But there will always be a place in the wardrobe for an English jacket, and I love the way Steven builds in so much subtle drape into his tailoring. 

This jacket is very comfortable, with space in the chest and an easy waist. Yet it looks very shaped, and flattering. 

We only made small changes during the fitting process, but both illustrate the style I increasingly prefer. 

The shoulders were widened a touch and the waist button lowered a touch. The shoulders by less than half an inch, the waist button by no more than that.

Small changes, but together they noticeably enlarge the triangle created by those three points, and so the overall size of the upper body.

Interestingly, Steven commented that a corresponding but inverse triangle controls how he fits the jacket. Its vertices are the back of the neck and the bottom point of each armhole. 

The jacket is something that I hope will become a foundational piece in my wardrobe. My previous navy cashmere, in a lighter weight Zegna cloth made by Solito, didn’t wear that well and I’m not sure the cloth suited the cut. 

This one already feels better, and has been worn with green flannel and green covert twill, as well as this gabardine. 

The outfit overall perhaps shows that, in an age when ties are ever rarer, it’s still possible to be extremely elegant.  

In fact, given a tie today might seem more corporate day in the office than dressy evening in town, this open-necked luxury might be the best of both worlds. 

Cashmere from W Bill - 21700, 13oz. Actually in their overcoatings bunch.

One-piece shirt from Marol, also shown and discussed here

Shoes from Yohei Fukuda here.

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man

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Anonymous

Given your shape, Steve has done a good job with this coat. He’s managed to compensate for your shoulders, and prominent seat whilst maintaining a little snap. What was the price please?

White linen was the original shirting used in white tie, so formality not really an issue there, but I would never advocate black shoes with this outfit.

Thanks

Tamaki

Hi Simon, thanks again for the articles.
On the cloth for this lore formal jackets, what is your take on the shiny versus opaque cashmere?
Piacenza and Johnstons of Elgin have both variants and I wondered which one would be a more appropriate for a formal but not to “peacock” jacket.
Thanks in advance and wish you a nice week!

Tamaki

Anonymous

Interesting. I was not aware that Johnstons made jacketing.

Anonymous

I think the shirt collar plays a large roll in achieving this look. Possibly more than any other element. Providing some interest at the neck in place of a tie obviously being important. It is a shame however that the points are showing and it perhaps shows that there is room for improvement in this outfit. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite come off with the collar as it is.

Kev F

I much prefer this form of review where the jacket is described in its context ie worn with and what occasions as opposed to the precise detail of measurements etc. It gives a more realistic view of how you see it adding to your wardrobe – I would most of us buy clothing for a purpose rather than whittle about details. As a more formal jacket this looks superb to me and stands very nicely with the trousers and shirt choice. (Just as an aside one of the photos is reversed; as a portrait it’s beautifully lit but the realisation the breast pocket is on the wrong side is a bit jarring at first.)

Carl

Interesting. My lack of sufficient wardrobe space (or owning to much clothes) makes this combination hard for me. My linen shirts are in my spring/summer wardrobe and stored during fall/winter when cashmere jackets come out.

Robert

Interesting outfit Simon. Certainly didn’t expect the one-piece collar to work well in a formal outfit. But if one really has to do without the tie in a formal setting I wonder if something more conventional should be used instead. A hidden button-down, although gimmicky, would provide a similar roll to the collar without standing out as much.

Perhaps also swap the bottom half for worsted grey trousers with black shoes? But that could just be the conservative in me.

Cheers,

Lewis

Simon,

You’re giving me a complex when you talk about cream pants and a white shirt potentially looking odd, as I wear them a lot and thought it looked rather good 🙁

Please briefly expand, starting to trigger my many neuroses here ..

Jason

I agree that the outfit looks elegant; I don’t believe, however, that the addition of a tie would make the look more “corporate”. On the contrary, the quintessential corporate look is the suit without a tie – some banks have even banned ties! You could argue that wearing a tie might be more old-fashioned, but not more “corporate”. Ironically, the tie might be on a journey from being a symbol of conformity to becoming a symbol of individuality.

JDK

Lovely balance in the jacket; are we allowed to ask how much it cost..?

Richard

Is that including VAT?

Anonymous

Very nice outfit.In summer I wear something very similar but usually with very light grey trousers and the PSBD or something from T&A.A cream jacket can also of course look pretty chic with the same trousers and shirts.

Winot

Very elegant Simon.

Could you comment on how you feel about wearing this cut of jacket compared to a Neopolitan cut (say by Elia Caliendo)?

Secondly, would you wear pale trousers such as these to an event after dark?

Thank you

Winot

Sorry not being clear – I mean what factors would cause you to wear this cut rather than an Italian cut? Would you consider it generally more formal for example? Are there events where you would prefer one over another?

Noel

And in terms of comfort? Would you say they’re comparable even if it’s due to different reasons (more drape here, less structure on a neapolitan jacket)?

tm

Since you have had both, do you think navy cashmere is more useful in a this more formal cut or would you still consider a Neapolitan cut in heavier navy cashmere something you would want to wear? I’ve been considering navy baby camel as an option and have been flip flopping on the style to have it made up in.

Burt

Lovely piece. Are there other than formal day/evening occasions where you would wear this jacket?
Just trying to figure out a cashmere jacket’s place in a wardrobe as I guess it’s not a hard wearing cloth for everyday use, but then for formal wear a dinner jacket may be more useful?
Also how does a cashmere jacket compare to say a similar jacket in those other luxury fabrics like Lumbs Golden Bale and/or Escorial wool?
A lot of questions 🙂

Daniel Ippolito

I agree with Jason 100% re: neckties.

Ryan

Looks nice. But not £5000 worth of nice. Crazy money for what is essentially a navy jacket.

Ryan

Well, it’s 5-8 times the price of a regular jacket, but you will never look 5-8 times better.

Anonymous

Is it possible to be casually formal? If so you’ve nailed. Beautifully done Simon.

John

Hi Simon,
This a sharp outfit indeed! For ” formal events” like the one you seem to have in mind, which suitable alternatives and roughly at the same level of formality to this one could you envision?
Let’s consider the jacket as the center piece and then focus on the following items: shirt, trousers and shoes.
Thanks in advance for your reply.
John

Noel

Great review Simon. I appreciate the description of how it’s used as it gives context. It complements the style breakdown.

This sort of jacket and outfit can serve as an inspiration when using more casual fabrics for those of us that have fewer jackets (and therefore want more versatility) or are unable or unwilling to pay for the higher cost of cashmere.

For example, I have a similar jacket (English style, navy) in the (not very tweedy) sherry tweed from H&S (incidentally I wore it to the first PS pop up shop opening event). Of course the fabric is rather less formal than cashmere but it can still be dressed up in a similar way without ever having the appearance of a suit jacket. Being a less formal fabric it’s also possible to dress it down a bit (albeit not all the way down to jeans).

Ben

This is a great outfit, but is it a formal one? I guess it depends on what you mean by formal. It’s certainly not black tie. Wouldn’t really work in a corporate office setting. Perhaps a day wedding or a matinee. So wouldn’t a dark gray or navy suit worn tieless actually be more formal?

And “grace a male thigh” is the most cringey writing I’ve read today.

Peter O

Dear Simon,
Please tell me the brand and model of the socks shown in the top two photograph you are wearing and what is the English name for their length/height on your leg? Have you trouble with holes at the rear of the socks caused by abrasion from your shoes?

Thank you.

Anonymous

I’m a reader of your writing and a frequent customer of yours, and as usual, great article!

This isn’t relevant to the post, but I’m looking for a good quality navy club blazer with brass buttons in a versatile and resilient fabric. Living in Houston, Texas, my only real experience in the sartorial world is Ready-to-Wear Suitsupply. I am often able to shop online because I fit into a 40R suit reasonably well with few alterations needed, but I wonder if it’s worth it to venture onto the level of made-to-measure.

Could you provide me some guidance? Any brand recommendations would be much appreciated.

(It may not be too helpful since they are 3 completely different styles, but I like the look of the navy blazer options offered by RL Purple Label, Husbands, and The Rake)

Rogey

I also liked and agreed with Jason’s comment. Wearing a tie is a chance to rock your style a bit. Going without a tie might look fine on a younger man, but when a man reaches a certain age he just looks better if his neck is mostly covered. I like to wear a solid wool knit tie, or a wool tartan tie, or an old striped repp, and not cinch them all the way up.

Dan

Could you explain the pairing of a linen shirt with a thicker cashmere jacket ? I have both in my closet but would have thought the texture and pairing would clash, a summer fabric with more of a fall jacket.

Tony

I was wondering this myself – I assume the shirt is a sturdier Irish linen, rather than a wispy Italian one?

Brett

Simon, did you ever consider this jacket in a double breasted cut? Do you think that would increase the formality or simply offer a different stylistic choice?
I think the color combinations, combined with the fabrics, make a beautiful ensemble, BTW. Lastly, I think it would be interesting if you would “show” the different potential versions you mentioned (roll-neck, cutaway collar) as alternatives to the original look.
Great article!

Anon

A wonderful jacket.

I am looking to get something similar (English style, navy), but a little more versatile – thinking along the same lines as Noel (above). One thing that concerns me, though, is how to prevent it looking like an orphaned half of a suit. I suppose one solution is to go less formal than a typical business suit, e.g. in cloth (such as a tweed, Noel’s approach) or perhaps using a subtle pattern, or perhaps in styling details such as patch pockets or swollen edges. Or staying more formal than a typical worsted suit – e.g. using a wool/cashmere mix?

I would have very interested in your thoughts.

Noel

Hi,

This was indeed a concern of mine. I have a summer navy blazer in an open weave (with some pattern) with patch pockets and contrasting ginger horn buttons, yet to me from the distance it can still look like the top half of a suit.

Holland & Sherry’s sherry tweed is not very coarse, the colour is more uniform than a ‘normal’ tweed and it comes in different weaves (mine seems to be a twill) so it might be worth checking it out. It’s also lighter, 11oz (340g) than your average tweed, so you don’t get too warm inside. You can see Simon’s anthology suit made with this cloth for reference: https://www.permanentstyle.com/2019/11/the-anthology-bespoke-tailoring-review.html

Anon

Thank you Simon. That’s very helpful. I hadn’t noticed the jacketing cloths guide.

Peter K

Lovely outfit Simon.

I’ve tried a tie-less formal look using my midnight blue blazer, a dark grey roll neck and charcoal trousers. It doesn’t have the high contrast of your outfit but is elegant. Suitable for a night at the Symphony or Opera.

Peter K

Thanks. It was inspired by your article on wearing black.

Richard

This is particularly timely as I am just about to commission a bespoke navy jacket. Ideally, it would be an option on Spring, Autumn and some relatively cooler Summer days. I visualise wearing it with smart bespoke made cream, grey or olive coloured trousers.

Am I correct that cashmere is warm on cooler days yet cooling on the warmer days even at 13oz weight?

I assume you required around 2.5-3 metres of cloth. May I ask the cost of the material itself? I have been in touch with Harrisons previously and received various swatches, but not this particular cloth.

Thank you for your article.

Josh

This is a miss for me, sadly, and actually serves to underline the point you more regularly make about formal shirts looking incomplete without a tie. In this case, it’s something about the way the first button clings wilfully to the other side of the shirt despite being undone, and the erupting white of the one-piece collar – it just looks unfinished, like you’ve just taken your tie off at the end of the day. Maybe this will spark a tienaissance. But seriously, I am, nevertheless, grateful to see such experimentation, if only to test the more unusual possibilities without having to try it first myself

Shoddy

Thanks Simon
This is an interesting and elegant outfit and I like the general theme of modern eveningwear. It’s remarkable too how wide a range of effect you can get from single-breasted navy jackets.
I’m not sure about the cream trousers though. I have a feeling that in 10 years time, when looking back at this era, the reader will be struck by the suprising frequency with which they crop up (not just on PS either). I’m not convinced they will catch on for evening wear. I’m getting summer, I’m getting sunshine, I’m getting tennis or cricket.

That said you have pointed out, very sensibly that associations may vary between peope of different ages, and from different countries. It may strike other very differently. Perhaps I’m also being unfairly influenced by the miserable rainy view out of my window as I type, wondering how I am going to get from work to Art Gallery to restaurant even in working suiting, let alone cream gabardine.

anonymous

I echo the last comment in noting that the straighter line down the back, notable in the side view, suits you better than the more concave back in a number of your other commissions pictured on the site. It is more flattering to your posture. You seem to curve your lower spine which pushes your seat back. This is common even among fit people and comes from sitting so much.

Peter

This cloth, WBill 21700, is interesting because one side is smooth whereas the other is a light twill. Does it matter which side is made up?

Giovan Battista

Very interesting and inspiring combination. Would you swap this jacket with your Cifonelli DB velvet one, without changing any other element?

Now the serious question about the jacket: what are the buttons’ color and material?
I guess they are horn buttons, a sort of dark grey/brown ones?

Thank you

Nico

I guess the short answer to your opening question is: well, less.
Bruce Boyer states, correctly in my opinion, that people have been losing all sense of occasion. Here you seem poised for a formal occasion but miss to look your best by foregoing the tie (and particularly because you are the kind that would make a great tie choice).
I understand you are somewhat compelled to keep the blog contemporary, experiment and all that, but if you are going to spare the tie in that background you may as well ditch them all for good.
Sorry if I sound as a tie diehard, but if seasoned menswear aficionados do not stand that ground and advocate for it, the tie will soon be gone and that will be a sad loss.
The tieless tailored look may legitimately be a youthful fashion / new money look thing, but I blame seniors for yielding massively to it, very often making asses of themselves in the way.

Lucas Nicholson

Thanks Nico, and no worries, I can certainly see that point.

As with most things I write, it’s not about keeping the blog contemporary, but wanting to remain relevant myself, in how I dress. And I think inevitably you are affected by the way others dress around you – you have to be, otherwise you get less and less connected, and end up in costume.

However, I still think ties are great, they’re just more of an exception now rather than what is expected with any outfit. And I’ll continue to push for and demonstrate how good that exception can look.

Nico

Thanks for the reply, Simon. I have found your reflections on relevancy and costume – not exclusively in this case but throughout several posts- intellectually enlightening, and acknowledge their validity. I just do not find it in me to go along with trends I dislike, especially considering the dire depths where “the way others dress around us” seem likely to be taking us sooner than later.

Maybe we should consider the possibility that sticking to classic menswear will turn us into a new urban tribe, and embrace it proudly as urban tribes do.

What is nobler in the mind?

Ollie

hey Simon,

Such a wonderful jacket & so well put together!

Would you say there’s benefit/difference, apart from the ‘more restrained proportions’ you mentioned, to going with Steven over A&S?

Emily

Hi Simon,
You look gorgeous in this outfit. Not being from your set, I am really curious to know specifically what kind of event you would wear this to. I would guess a concert, restaurant dinner, or party at someone’s home (?). (At these types of events, the people I know and see around are likely to wear jeans or polyester. In case of a wedding we/they may wear a sundress or anything with lapels. ) What do you classify as a formal-ish event? Would you be willing to tell us about the event you wore this to? Thanks.

Richard

I note this is 100% cashmere. As a material what are there any pros and cons of this over say a cashmere blend when it comes to jacketing?

Alejandro

I was thinking exactly about this.

I love suits and jackets. Sadly for me, I not only do not require them on as daily outfits, but there is kind of a rejection to them back at “the office”. I end up wearing jackets only during my free time, mostly on special ocassions. For me it is perfect if my few jackets reflect the dressiness that you mention.

Anyway, I comissioned a midnight blue 100% cashmere loro piana jacket and, while waiting for the result, I found this post. Now I am even more excited about the jacket.

Peter

I don’t think that the outfit would look out of place other than at the most formal venues – my personal preference would have been a shirt with a touch of yellow in the dye lot but matching colour in two different materials especially cotton with something as temperamental as gaberdine is always going to be hit and miss