This is a new installment in the series ‘The rules and how to break them’, which has been a little neglected in recent years.
It’s a great little guide, exposing myths of menswear and calmly explaining the rationale behind advice that is normally just shouted (with a surprising amount of consternation and no nuance).
The guide – which you can see here – explains conventions such as ‘no brown in town’, ‘no white after Labor Day’, and others. As I write this I can think of several more we should add.
Today, we’re going to talk about wearing suits without ties. Why some say you should never do it, the reasons behind the opinion, and as a result the ways it can be done intelligently.
Three years ago, when I still worked at a financial magazine in the City, the tieless look was in full swing. On a Friday night after work, bankers and lawyers would be standing outside the pubs, pints in hand, wearing dark suits, white shirts and no tie.
It was a terrible look. They were all the same and they were all boring. Without a tie, they had lost the one thing that forced them to make a choice in the morning, and express some personality.
Suits and shirts had to be conservative, but the tie was a shiny, patterned and even brightly coloured decoration. And now it was gone.
This is one good reason people dislike suits without ties: the tie is a beautiful thing, and its demise is a loss to culture. When will so many men wear such delicate, decorative pieces of clothing again?
The bigger argument, however, is that a suit is simply incomplete without a tie.
This is also part of the reason those office workers looked so dismal: they gave the impression of having just left off one piece of clothing out of laziness.
The suit is a big dark block of colour, tailored to lead the eye pleasingly towards the face. As we go up there is a pale shirt, and then usually a necktie as the triumphant end of the journey.
Without a tie, it can genuinely feel like something’s missing from the top of the outfit.
I don’t think this is just a question of convention – of what we’re used to. There is something about the architecture of a suit that looks best with a neat tie at the collar. Separate jackets and trousers don’t have that problem, as the outfit is broken up.
For that reason, they’re often a better choice if you’re not going to wear a tie.
A suit is also, usually, a sharp and finely made garment, kept pressed and buttoned. An open-necked shirt can seem out of place with that aesthetic, in the same way as a suit that is misshapen, badly fitted, or never done up.
These are all good and valid reasons for wearing a tie with a suit. I think they should make any well-dressed man think twice about not doing so, and take every opportunity to add one.
But, as with all these rules, that’s all there is to it: there are no absolutes. A suit can happily be worn without a tie, and the key to doing so is to consider these same reasons of why a tie looks good.
First, a tie accentuates and finishes off the sharp, smart look of a suit. So if the suit in question is more casual, the reasoning loses power.
A cotton, linen or woollen suit looks much more comfortable without a tie than a worsted one. The same goes for a suit in a more casual colour – basically, not navy or grey.
With my linen from The Armoury above, for instance, the suit looks great with a tie, but also very natural without one, given its material and colour.
The suit below from Kenjiro Suzuki in Paris is more borderline: it’s cotton, a casual material, but dark navy in colour. I was fine wearing it here without a tie, but I was conscious that it would have been very plain without a pocket square or some other decoration.
These two examples also point to another good reason for wearing suits without ties, which is temperature.
Exposing your throat to the air is very cooling, given the veins that pass close to the surface, and a bigger factor in the Summer than an unlined jacket. So it looks and feels far more natural to be tieless in the heat.
The same goes for your ankles, actually, which is why being sockless is so practical as well. And in fact a suit and tie with bare ankles is often an odd look (a mistake I’ve personally made in the past).
Good reasons for going tieless with a suit, therefore, include trying to being casual and trying to keep cool. I do so much more in the Summer, as demonstrated by the fact that most of these PS images are of Summer suits.
I do wear Winter suits without ties as well, however, as with the example below – my brown donegal-tweed suit from Dalcuore.
This outfit illustrates a last aspect of suits without ties, which is that it helps to replace the tie with something else.
Those City men looked drab without their ties, but they could have compensated by wearing more interesting shirts, a piece of knitwear, or another accessory like a scarf or handkerchief.
This might have been tricky given their dress code, of course, but where permitted an alternative accessory can make a big difference. That Suzuki suit of mine might have suited a more colourful pocket square, and it helped that the shirt was indigo linen.
The donegal Dalcuore suit is much improved by the navy spotted scarf (modal/cashmere from Drake’s).
The particular advantage of a scarf, of course, is that is not as flamboyant as a pocket square, nor as smart. The suit can remain much more casual and everyday.
Indeed, the scarf can look purely practical, though I’d encourage men to explore scarves that aren’t only required to keep their necks warm.
Other accessories that can help include pins, sunglasses in the breast pocket, and a sleeveless cardigan.
Casual shirts help too, like the black Friday Polo worn below with my Vestrucci flannel suit below, or a denim Western shirt.
Patterned shirts can also be good, though personally I find they work best with Summer suits. Somehow with a Winter or smarter suit they don’t quite dispel the impression that something’s missing.
I’ll close with the mantra that began this series of articles, back in 2008: “Rules are there for a reason, but there is nothing wrong with breaking them. It’s often only when you understand the rules that you can break them effectively.”
I’ve paraphrased slightly (I think my grammar might be improving), but still it’s nice to know that 13 years later, the mantra still holds.
“[T]he tie is a beautiful thing, and its demise is a loss to culture. When will so many men wear such delicate, decorative pieces of clothing again?”
Beautifully put Simon.
Not hard to rhapsodise about such things of beauty. Just hard to wear them.
We need more formal events where people can wear things like this, if not black tie.
While I’m wholeheartedly in agreement (and have found myself wistfully perusing my tie collection in lockdown) it’s amazing sometimes to see the vehement dislike ties provoke amongst non-menswear enthusiasts on social media. Martin Lewis has been trending on Twitter this week for his stint on GMB and there’s been much discussion of his lack of a tie, which may provide indication of what the tie is up against culturally.
The saddest thing is though (for those of us who don’t just take pleasure in dressing well but like seeing others well attired too) is that for the masses without the considerations such as in your article today, the ‘city worker in the pub after work’ look will become the overwhelming standard.
Perfectly stated. Totally agree. Despite owning a good hundred ties collected in the yers from the best tiemaker in tehe world, sometimes even to myself they started seeming to me not anymore a mandatory pece o wear but a sort of diguise. Names like Sulka, Finollo, Truzzi, Hilditch & Key, Marinella, Cilento, Finollo and others either closed or ceased to produce proper fine ties. It’ s sad. But in history, every century and half there are always been drastic changements in the way of dressing
I couldn’t agree more. I work in one of the few fields that, before COVID, still required formal dress. Yet, even my firm has stated that the dress code will now be “business casual” when we return to the office. I fear that the pandemic has not just accelerated the demise of the tie (and the suit, for that matter), but might have finished the job.
I will NEVER surrender the glamour of a tie. I wesr one everyday. Even for grocery shopping!
I would add that suits/jackets without ties look better with a button-down shirt (or a polo shirt with a supportive collar stand). Otherwise there is a danger of the shirt collar collapsing.
Good point, W. Non-BD collars can stand up well too I find. It just depends on the cut and construction.
Or did you mean more from a style point of view – ie button downs being more casual?
I just meant the shirt construction and how the jacket collar interacts with the shirt collar.
A formal spread collar works well with a jacket when the shirt is buttoned because it sits flat on the collar bones and the jacket collar/lapels lie over the top. When the shirt is worn unbuttoned the shirt collar opens and can collapse under the jacket collar.
I have switched to BD (bespoke from Luca) for most of my casual shirts in recent years and his BDs sit quite high and close to the neck which leaves room for the jacket collar and shirt collar without the latter collapsing.
Yes some non-BD collars work too (particularly when fused or with collar bones inserted) but ime BD work more consistently.
Of course one option would be the Mod look of buttoning the shirt to the top even without a tie, but I’m guessing most of your readers would shy away from that.
I see, thanks.
Yes I find BDs are more consistent there, but a spread collar which is a little higher, and with a light fused lining that can shape around the jacket lapels, works really nicely too. And you don’t lose that style option.
Maybe worth trying one from Luca sometime
I think there is a need for UK shirt makers to think how collars(designed for ties) look when worn open. Conversely, you don’t want to look like a courtier in Regency Britain.
Thanks Simon, great article as always – I think you’re bang on with the rationale and methods of ignoring this rule. (It’s semantics, I know, but I prefer to think I’m ‘ignoring’ rather than ‘breaking’ The Rules; don’t ask me why!)
One of my favourite evening looks in the warmer months is a navy worsted suit, cream linen shirt with no tie, and black penny loafers sans socks. It goes against the guidelines of not wearing a dark, ‘businessy’ suit without the tie – but I find really works when a tie would be too much, but I still want to look somewhat smart on a night out. The linen shirt (with an extra button unfastened), no socks, and loafers are key to avoid looking looking like one of your City boys in the pub.
Sounds good Nick. Would a white handkerchief be too much? Sounds like it would create some nice contrast with the cream shirt
Yes, definitely a handkerchief; plain white linen, or something silk & colourful with a white or cream base, like Rubinacci do so well.
Good points — about breaking rules, and also about suits sans ties.
I was also reminded of the fact that there are suits like the Indian closed-collar suit that are simply never worn with ties — very much like a military tunic. With such suits, I think adding a bit of colour and pattern would make for a more interesting look. I have a couple of Indian suits, and I usually wear a bright coloured pocket square with them, sometimes with a paisley pattern to contrast with the dark wool and add interest.
The gentleman in the final photograph in this article has an interesting ensemble — a tad unusual but quite well put together: What looks like an astrakhan collar, and similar cap as well, along with a paisley scarf and spectator shoes! Now there is a man who has confidence — and a splendid, old-fashioned, handlebar mustache as well. May I ask who he is, and where the photograph was taken?
I’m not sure what the building is actually. It’s just behind Green Park, opposite Novikov. I think it’s an office building but the concierge outside has that great uniform. He asked to take a picture.with us
Thank you for this nice and interesting article Simon.
The fact is also that nowadays, many people working in an office do not keep their suit jacket on, even during meetings (I am talking pre-Covid 19 times). And, personally, I am not a fan either of the suit trousers + shirt + tie combination without the suit jacket on. With braces, it looks ok to me (it is my personal taste of course), but then you incur the risk of being called Gordon Gecko by your colleagues :o)
True, good point.
If people are dressing like that, I always felt that a sports jacket and trousers was a good option, as you can have about 5 pairs of trousers for just 1 jacket. Also looks better without a tie
Any more photos of Donegal suit? Haven’t seen that before.
I would put suits without ties into separate category – the “knockabout suit”.
Yes, it was covered here:
Hi, lovely donegal suit. The link however, shows another brown dalcuore suit, did you cover the donegal separately? Would you recommend it as a casual piece?
Sorry. Yes the brown donegal is covered here:
I certainly recommend the jacket – that make, that colour, that pattern.
But the trousers are tricky. They keep their shape better than most tweeds, but still they don’t hold a great line. Just about OK as a suit, but I wouldn’t wear the trousers on their own
Simon do your thoughts relate equally to single breasted and DB jackets?
No, I think DBs are harder to do like this. Still possible, but I would much more happily do it in an SB
That’s interesting – I personally find the no tie look can be easier with a DB as there’s less ’empty’ shirt on display. (The same logic you explored in the ‘t shirts with tailoring’ piece). Also the fact of a DB itself being gently unusual maybe makes the choice to go tie-less feel more considered, as opposed to that autopilot City look.
True. I guess a DB just always looks a bit more formal as well
I have the opposite view – I feel like the reduced amount of shirt showing makes the lack of anything around the neck even more pronounced! One of the reasons I always try to wear a scarf with my peacoat.
It seems to work with your Sexton DB in linen. Not sure it would work with a winter alternative.
That last outfit is killer man.
As with all the articles in the series I feel the emphasis on the deliberateness of these decisions. There’s a big difference between casual/summer suits paired with an interesting shirt or dashed with a scarf and the ubiquitous (even joyless) navy business suit sans tie. I wondered why you wrote this article now? – fairly low down the list of ‘rules’, despite being one of the most commonly broken. Is it rule you would have broken/considered writing about when the series began, if not, what’s changed?
Yes, I think for a lot of guys, you need to start off being quite deliberate and thoughtful with this. Then you learn that’s its basically about being more casual and having something more interesting going on elsewhere too.
I wrote the article now just because it’s so timely, with summer tailoring and with more dressing down.
But its certainly something I’ve always done
This has basically been my look for the past one and a half years, as I find it absolutely impossible to wear a tie and a face mask at the same time.
Nice article. I work in banking and the prevalence of that navy suit and open necked white shirt look has me in despair.
I’m a fan of the more relaxed suit and an interesting shirt combo – especially these days. Whilst I think one should avoid overthinking this, colour and texture are so important to pull it off; which is why I just love the look in the final image.
Oddly enough I was listening to Aleks Cvetkovic’s latest Handcut Radio podcast with Charlie Casely-Hayford on the drive in this morning. Aleks quoted Mark Cho on suits ” The thing about a suit is that the jacket and trousers match, That’s all there is to it”. That’s as good a start point as any for this!
Best wishes N
Nicely put Nigel. Perhaps that will help people in banking understand how good a separate jacket and trousers can be too
Hi, who made the tassel loafers in the second picture? They look more delicate than Belgravias? Also re. that picture, as you suggest yourself I find the no tie look can work with more casual suits (and requires very nice collars), and for me that means it always looks odd with a DB suit. Of the outfits above, I find only the first picture convincing (but then this one is a really good look).
I hate the sockless look with suits though, always looks affected to me. Also, I strongly recommend that no young man in the city show up with a nice silk scarf to make up for the lack of tie after hours, unless you want to be absolutely ridiculed by your colleagues.
They’re still Belgravias actually
I know what you mean about a DB, it definitely makes things harder.
As to scarves, if you want to dress differently to everyone else you’ll need to put up with a little ribbing… But maybe a silk scarf is a bit much to start with. Perhaps it starts with wearing a good cashmere scarf whenever the weather even vaguely justifies it
Ah. Is it a different last than the usual 184? Looks a little more chiseled, but might just be the lighting.
It’s just the lighting I think
Thanks for the information! I will, however, disagree with one part, that the suit and tie looks silly without socks. I personally think, if done correctly, it can be a playful mix between smart and casual. One more way to make a suit more approachable. I know the guys at Mashburn (and Sid himself) often strut this look, and I thought it looked well on you also! As always, I enjoy your articles.
I think a lot of that is about the associations you have, for good or bad
It’s an interesting one. Personally, I like the no tie look, but there’s always a risk you look like you’ve forgotten something. If in doubt, as others have said, a button down shirt makes the point to be that it’s not “missing”.
Great article, but (for me) a misstep (sorry for the pun) on the black loafers and sheer socks. They are looking a touch too dainty in that pic. A little Louis XIV!
Ha! Never had that one before, thank you.
They’re not sheer but I guess just a fine cotton
For those of you experiencing this for the first time, the death of the tie may seem like a phenomena. The more mature sartoralists amongst us know that it occurs punctually every decade or so and is not a cause for great concern. People have a habit of coming to their senses.
That said, the key issue is what to do before its inevitable renaissance and Simon answers that question quite well. Albeit, he surprises me by not including the neck square amongst his proposals and I would ask if he has experimented with this or has a view on that option ?
It is an advanced art – one doesn’t want to finish up looking like Hercule Poirot but done well, it’s a killer. That late, great sartoralist and journalist AA Gill used to sport it with a casual suit with considerable aplomb.
Ps. I’ve just taken delivery of my PS overskirt in navy and am delighted. A fine piece indeed !
Thanks David. Here’s hoping ‘overskirt’ was a typo!
A neckerchief at the neck would be a nice touch, and solve the problem, but I find it a bit too old-fashioned personally. I like a little scarf or bandana, but with a T-shirt or crewneck, and not really a suit.
I wish I could be as optimistic as you on the tie, but while I’m sure there will be a bit of a resurgence at some point, it will never get to the same level again. The pattern in formality is a wavy line trending inexorably downwards
Apologies, I’ve re-read the article a couple of times and cannot find the suit you have paired the polka dot scarf with.
No worries Karl – see comment above on that.
I included a link in the article, but the wrong one. I’ll change it when I’m back at a computer
This no tie idea can look nice under limited situations as this article points out nicely. However, it’s very easy, maybe highly likely, that the man who ventures down this road will look like the city boys at the pub. This look is often just an excuse for men not to wear a tie which, as Simon says, is a thing of beauty.
May I ask how you have tied the navy spotted scarf in the seventh photo? It looks as if originates from the jacket pocket. Living in a city with abundant micro-climates, I generally wear a scarf at the neck (French loop I believe is the name of method) with a sports jacket (no tie), polo shirt, and light-weight merino cardigan (Uniqlo cardigans, while not the best make fit the bill well because they are very light and there also is or was a cotton/linen blend that was great for warmer days. I shove the end of the scarf under the cardigan to clean up the look a bit.
Sometimes it can get too warm at some point in the day, and I am often at a loss as to where to move the scarf. Or where to put it in a restaurant. I’ve tied it around my waist and tucked the edges in so depending upon the color it can appropriately almost disappear, but there’s always the risk that it will end up on the pavement. Thanks in advance.
P.S. Although I’ve never tried it, I’ve often thought that an long-sleeve merino or cashmere-silk blend polo might work under a suit.
It’s just stuffed into the hip pocket – nothing more fancy than that I’m afraid!
It can be quite artful though. It looks offhand but of course isn’t. And the scarf colour is still on display.
I wouldn’t recommend it with all suits, but any fairly robust material will deal with a shove like that OK.
Thx very much, Simon. Artful to say the least, and I suppose firmly in the sprezzatura tradition. Potentially very practical, so will give it a try as it may also work with a relatively light-weight fall/winter cashmere scarf in a tweed sports jacket’s pocket.
Oh good. And thanks for using sprezzatura correctly!
Interesting to hear your thoughts on the bare ankles with a tie as I thought the picture you linked to looked fine, do you have any other guidelines of when it can work and when it can’t?
I’m not sure I’d ever wear it to be honest, as now it just feels like too much of a mismatch of casual and smart.
Incidentally, for those gents missing the opportunity to wear a tie, I recommend joining a traditional London club (such as the Travellers, Reform, Athenaeum, etc.). Many still have a formal dress code (jacket and tie) and – in normal times – offer the opportunity to wear black tie.
I’m not entirely certain joining a London club Is something the average reader of this blog can decide to do on a whim.
Any gentleman’s club worth it’s salt is per recommendation only.
I’m not sure that’s the case with quite a few clubs these days Henry, particularly those struggling for membership.
I still remember the East India coming around Oxford colleges, trying to offer deals like travelling salesmen to get new members in.
Brownish tan suit with polka dot scarf is nice.
Not a fan of collared shirts unbuttoned three buttons down; looks unkempt in suit or blazer. The picture of you walking with the bag looks like you just got out of the gym hence no tie or socks on and are heading home.
China virus or not, I am a fan of ties and socks.
Nice use of casual racism you got going there…
With the ongoing sinophobia in the UK which has impacted both Southeast and East Asians you really going to let this one slide Simon?
It’s a good point, and good to raise it. But let’s leave it there – it’s unlikely to produce anything productive.
Simon, it’s disappointing you’d leave a comment like that up.
I’m sorry it’s disappointing. My view was that, while the reference was clearly offensive to people, it was not directly abusive to someone else in the thread, which is normally the only time I censor comments.
Personally I think it’s worth not censoring whenever possible, and just letting people hang themselves.
(The other exception is that I try to prevent things descending into arguments back and forth, because they never result in anything good. So I try to allow one person to put the alternate point, or argue back, and leave it at that.)
You can have your opinions on fashion, but such casual racism is not appreciated on this site. Or anywhere for that matter.
Thank you for this useful article.
Do you think a DB flannel suit in light/medium grey can work without a tie? Some options might be a denim shirt, a roll neck (maybe a different topic), a knitted polo. Wearing the jacket unbuttoned might make it easier.
Well, I wait for your suggestions. I like to know how to make a DB suit in flannel more versatile (apart than wearing it from a tie).
I think that would be tricky, for most of the reasons above. A DB is smarter, flannel is smarter etc.
A roll neck would certainly work – that’s different and not what we’re discussing here really. The neck is still covered in that respect.
And a denim shirt would definitely be better than a regular shirt. But still, I think it would probably look like something was missing without a tie. Sorry
Thank you for the interesting article. I always learn something from them.
Might you have any suggestions on how you came to choose your pocket squares? The yellow one and the white/cream one (dark suit) are perfect and yet, unexpected.
The white linen is always my default, and the yellow was just a complimentary colour for the brown suit. Lots of colours look good with brown like that, including pink, pale blue and lime green.
There’s some good information on handkerchief choices on this article too.
Beginning to feel like the death knell for the tie … though can’t fault the beauty and effortless elegance of a tieless Simon. Has the tie literally become a pain in the neck for the post-pandemic wardrobe? Perhaps there can be a compromise … a tie can still be the head-turner even in a smart casual ensemble. Failing that, a PS readers’ campaign to save the endangered tie!
Simon, you forgot one more reason to wear a tie: after a certain age, a man’s neck is one of his most unattractive features.
As far as I’m concerned, a suit without a tie will always look either unfinished or affected (or both). And few things are less elegant than a gentleman crossing his legs and showing several inches of pasty, hairy calf.
Some of the rules of dressing are arbitrary (no brown shoes after six?), but others exist for a reason and we break them at our own peril.
Paradoxically, this moment is hog-heaven for tie aficionados – we can pick up high end ties for pennies on the dollar in most thrift shops. Then all it takes is not caring that we might be the only person in a room wearing a tie.
Nice point Dan. I can see that would certainly be a reason. I guess it’s just a question of how far away from the norm you want to stray. Which is largely personal.
I think all these rules exist for a reason – it’s just a question of understanding the reason and then deciding whether you care or not. That’s the point of the series.
Deciding whether you care about exposed ankle or brown shoes in the evening is just as personal and deciding on wearing a tie.
As I thought some more about this thread, it occurred to me that one situation in which a suit without a tie might be aesthetically pleasing might be if one is wearing a cream or tan linen suit with a blue shirt in a tropical setting.
As for every decision (whether of a sartorial nature or not) being purely a matter of personal choice, I respectfully disagree. Brown shoes after six are a personal choice – on the other hand, hairy bare ankles peeking out from under suit trousers or needlessly exposed turkey necks are unaesthetic in any known universe.
Thanks Dan. Nice suggestion on the tropical suit.
Surely the ankles is just a more extreme version of the shoes – further along the same scale. The rule on shoes is just about what suits the time of day more, the environment and perhaps the social occasion. The ankles are no different, they’re just a little more extreme in that they’re more likely to be noticed by or disliked by more people.
But bare ankles are happily worn in universes quite close to our own, in parts of Italy for instance, without causing any offence or dislike. As with many things, I think you just mean that you dislike them more?
I’d just like to add a couple of things.
Obviously a little bit of thought into a tieless outfit does wonders. One of the reasons why so many of your looks work is that the little detail of the pocket square contrasting against the suit and the shirt adding the final touch. If you a have a dark blue suit and light blue shirt then a white pocket square works so well. Similarly, grey suit, dark blue shirt and white square again. Something with a little difference in texture, like a different weight of linen will just add that ‘je ne sais quoi’
Just to add the discussion about collars brought up by others above. So many people just take a tie off and think it is a done deal. Collars designed for a tie can look awful without one especially if they fit badly and are floppy with no shape. A shirt with a collar designed to go without a tie (and if necessary with one) look so much better. Just bought a one piece collar shirt for this reason and look very much to wearing it.
One last thing, I’d go for no-look or invisible socks rather than no socks at all but that’s just me.
Cheers Dan. Good points all, and completely agree on the invisible socks.
Simon, you mention that a scarf is less flamboyant than a pocket square; I’m not exactly sure what you mean. I would think that the most obvious and easiest way to make a suit less boring would be to add a subtle square. It can be done in a discreet fold that could add interest in a similar way as a tie.
Yes you’re right that a pocket square is smaller, and subtler in that way. But it’s also more unusual – everyone wears scarfs, almost no one wears pocket handkerchiefs.
A great well thought out article. I love ties but go tieless frequently depending on the suit, the situation and the weather. Enironment can play a big factor on whether no tie (and no socks for that matter) looks good. If you live in a hot and humid climate like Shanghai it looks and feels quite natural – of course you’re probably also wearing hot weather fabrics too. Those who think it’s never forgivable probably don’t have exposure to an environment (weather and otherwise) where it works well.
This is one of the rules that I never break, and can never see myself breaking. IMHO every suit in your photos would look better if matched with a tie. A casual suit just calls for a casual tie. For me, a suit without a tie says “I’m not a conformist hence I’ll forgo the tie (but as I actually am a conformist I’m not game to wear a sports coat and odd trousers)”.
I’m inclined to agree.
I think people hate wearing a tie because it’s always too tight in the neck as the collar size is too tight. Once i have my shirt tailored, I love wearing a tie, all button up and tight. It’s sad to see workplace going more casual (especially in Asia, even in HK), and I don’t understand what it is with the pandemic.
I suspect you are right – I used to see a lot of men whose necks looked like toothpaste being squeezed out of a tube. No wonder they hated “dressing up”!
Hello Simon, it is interesting your take on wearing suits with no ties, now I have seen wearers of suits with ties but no socks, even grooms at weddings. What’s your say?
It’s something I mention in the article actually – about halfway down.
A suit without a tie? “The horror! The horror!”
It would seem that the dilemma of men’s neck wear has been with us for centuries: Roman soldiers sculpted on Trajan’s column wear kerchiefs; the terracotta warriors in Qin Shihuang tomb have thick scarves above their armor; several gentlemen in portraits by Rembrandt, Frans Hals or van Dyke wear elaborate ruffs. Whether to frame the face or disguise the vulnerable throat, some type of cloth covers the connection between head and shoulders. Typically this cloth modulates the difficult to drape intersection of collar, shirt and jacket. The suit, dress shirt and tie evolved into a successful solution to this problem and to discard one element without rethinking the whole ensemble risks a lot. Why an unbuttoned shirt? Does the exposed neck/chest add anything aesthetically? And as has been noted in an earlier comment, certainly not as one ages. I suggest we reconsider the tie-less unbuttoned shirt with a suit. If one wants to be less formal accomplish it with an elegant ensemble that works as a whole, rather than with fragments whose original, obvious intent was formality.
In a like manner, rather than sockless shoes, better to wear open, elegant leather sandals whose intent was bare feet and coolness.
I’m not sure the fact neckwear has been used so consistently through history places much of a claim on wearing it today. Those examples were often practical, which is not necessarily required today, and others come from societies obsessed with formality and propriety, which I doubt we’d really like to live in and be bound by.
These examples do present good arguments for how neckwear can be both practical and elegant, and we should always bear them in mind. But the thing I find strange is when people leap straight from that to ‘should’ wear them today. They’re not arguing for a doublet or buckle slippers. It’s just because they like ties.
At this time of year, I find myself wearing a kerchief or bandana to protect the skin of my neck from the summer sun. And they can also be worn as face masks when needed. So there are still practical uses for neckwear, if not neckties.
Just a comment from the American side. The official portrait of President Barrack Obama is a suit, white shirt, and no tie.
I wore a tie to Ascot a couple of weeks ago – my first tie-wearing since Lockdown. Oh the dilemna, and the joy, of which tie to choose….
Would seem to me part of the solution is to wear more patterned shirts. In the U.S., a big gingham design looks smart.
Good point David, yes. I prefer larger stripes myself, but either can help a lot.
Perhaps it is my imagination, but having put on some weight over the years, I find a tieless look to be somewhat slimming. I wonder if anyone else has had that experience.
Interesting. A tie should be quite slimming as it’s such a strong vertical line. But that does depend on things like the jacket being on or buttoned most of the time. And on the person’s exact proportions.
Tom Ford modelling Tom Ford. Black suit, white shirt, no tie.
I recall the tieless suit started its current stint around the 2000’s as some sort of Russian kingpin look. Never thought western civilization would fall for it, but here we are. My late father, drawing from earlier associations, used to say that tieless worsted suit + plain shirt made you look like a bus driver. That defines more or less the bandwidth for me, and I find nothing attractive within.
In my case, I revel in sharpness, and peer pressure is not enough to give up ties. If anything, to turn more to plains and textures from crests and smooth silks. I have little doubt that I am more relaxed underneath than 90% of those who seek to look like it by shunning the tie or (worse) placing it in a pocket as they step outside the office.
Sic transit gloria mundi
There are 1,001 opportunities to look elegant, smart, preppy, fashionable, stylish, but not by wearing a suit with invisible socks or without a tie. Your blog gives countless great examples.
A suit is designed in conjunction with a tie, a formal shirt (with double cuffs and cufflinks), pochet square and (visible) socks. Look at images of the Duke of Windsor or Gary Grant.
That’s what we call: Permanent Style!
Hi Simon. Sorry, I’m very late to this discussion but I have a question about the merits of converting navy suit jackets (I have a few) into blazers by replacing the original buttons with contrasting ones. This recycling angle would facilitate a no tie look but what are the pitfalls?
To be honest VT, I’ve never really seen this done well. Suits are usually just made from too fine a material to look good as a separate sports jacket. Those smooth worsteds always look like they’re part of a suit.
I have done this successfully once with a very very dark blue (I think they call it Frencn navy) jacket which is fairly smooth but also a bit stiff and totally matte fabric, so it has worked really well. I would however recommend it only with suitings that have some texture, like a high-twist (mine) or a twill ane not too shiny. It’s difficult and Simon rightly advises against, but it is not impossible.
Agree on all points. I think for white shirts and navy suits, there should always be a tie involved, given my own experiments. Both are too formal to go tieless. I also find I enjoy the tonal stylings of Saman Amel in this regard, so whenever I feel like going tieless, I go for that now. Am buying a pair of their new cash/silk shirts which I think will be a new staple in this regard, to go even with navy suits 🙂
On the thought of “separates are better with no tie”, even though I do the separates from time to time, I really prefer the continuous line of colour from top to bottom. And sometimes a tie is too much (in my case, that happens in the office and I tend to use more the ties on the weekends than during the week).
The sockless look, I only do it with loafers, really wouldn’t do it with oxfords, but even living in Northern Europe (Copenhagen) it is necessary during the spring/summer.
And you still look more sober than most of the people, as here it seems to be super popular to use the pants 10 cm shorter than your regular no-break trouser would be.
When young entrepreneurs announce their mega hundred million dollar projects in sneakers and tshirts worn with a suit or sportjacket, the tie is simply imo only alive in professionals who are forced to wear it. Wearing a tie is totally unsprezz and isn’t sprezz a cool thing?
In the first photo above, black shoes are worn with a brown suit!!!
Brown shoes are worn with brown, beige, green clothing..
As a guide Brown shoes worn with clothing range Brown to Cream (and country colours – greens).
Black shoes are worn with black, charcoal, grey, and navy blue clothing.
As a guide Black shoes worn with clothing range black to white. (and blues).
I’m afraid you’re a little narrow in your thinking Eamonn, and perhaps tied to rules and conventions from quite a long time ago. Nothing wrong with black shoes with a brown suit, certainly outside a more conventional or business setting.
Lovely revisiting this article, Simon. This whole guide is excellent and a great ‘next step’ for anyone who’s taken an effort to learn about how to improve their style, but also a good anchor for afficionados.
I would add from my experience two successful and well advised tie-less suit looks, that have worked even with worsteds: tonal looks and boldly patterned suits.
The former can be a sharp style, particularly when dark suits and shirts are worn in the evening. Ties are also less needed with such a tonal look, which is striking yet subtle as is. The same may go for daytime summer suits, I’m thinking e.g. a pale cream suit and white tie, although I’ve never been as bold to try thay myself. The best example of this style is Jean Manuel Moreau.
The latter I have seen with my two boldest suits: a dark blue matte and slightly woolen suit with an off-white windowpane, which usually works much better and more effortless with just a white shirt than any combo of that suit with a tie. My go-tos with a tie are navy grenadines, but usually the suit looks better tie-less. The other suit is a worsted light grey with somewhat thick lighter-grey stripes. It is a bold suit, on closer inspection with a herringbone stripe and some more colour in the mix. Again, when worn with a tie it is usually a navy grenadine or a neat Macclesfield, but it is a killer with different shades of light blue shirt sans tie, or even a white shirt. I think with bold suits you let them tell the story, and with more conservative ones you let the tie and the cut tell the story.
Also, in all these combos I described two buttons must be left undone on a shirt and the jacket should be unbuttoned, so the tie-less look is clearly deliberate, a conscious style choice. Undoing just one button is a bad look that gives out an impression you took your tie off reluctantly and is often sloppy, and ditto if the jacket is buttoned
that stuffed scarf in the pocket… Would you ever think of doing it intentionally, to add an interest to otherwise simple outfit? I mean, taking small scarf, such as navy dotted Wispy, and tucking it into the odd jacket’s hip pocket (no tie) OR trousers’ back pocket (when wearing tailored trousers and no jacket, just a shirt), even if it might not be used that day?
And I’d like to ask you for an advice: cream bespoke trousers with black suede shoes combination, would that be acceptable to wear with charcoal-coloured socks or would you consider it too much contrast to trousers (even when one would wear charcoal casual shirt or odd jacket on the top)?
Thank you very much!
I would John, myself, though I can see how others could think it was a bit fake. Not in a trouser pocket though, only in the jacket.
The socks would be perfectly acceptable. You lose the benefit of lengthening the leg with a sock closer to the trouser, but you might not care about that.
Hi Simon, I know … dropping a comment a year after you penned this feature on breaking the rules. Anyway I feel slightly naughty as I am about to infringe a dress code that has stipulated a ‘lounge suit’ be worn to a friend’s memorial/remembrance. I have looked everywhere for a definitive description of what a lounge suit is, but there are so many variations and I am still none the wiser.
If you can’t define it, then I will have to give up. If it is one that says: the suit fabric/colour for jacket and trousers must be a match then I’m going to have to buy a RTW pronto or make do with the separates I have and closely match the colours and fabric. And shoes? Please advise on best way to proceed. Thanks
A lounge suit is just a suit. It’s an old-fashioned term for it. I guess you probably need to consider how much separates will stick out, or ask someone in the family whether that would be appropriate
Thanks Simon, much appreciated.
Hi Simon, with regard to your mantra about rules… not bad, but I think I can supply you with a slightly different (if not more astute) version: Rules are meant for the guidance of wise men, and the blind obedience of fools.
I’ve always found it very helpful in many situations.
Nice, I hadn’t heard that. Thanks Daniel