There’s no fashion accessory more ridiculous than a tie. As men, we walk around all day with an arrow that points directly to our crotch. Or, if we go with a bow tie, it points at our ears and nipples. On top of that, should we get into one of those manful brawls where we have to tune up some sucker for eyeballin’ us, or deal with an aggressive boss, we’ve just put a garrotte around our necks. That’s no way to live a life. We should be free to dump the tie and still wear our nattiest pinstripe without fear of looking a fool.
When you’re done wearing the collar of fashionable servitude, we’ve got 15 tips for wearing a suit without a tie and still looking damn dapper in the process.
A Note On Collars
When you decide to drop the tie, your collar becomes far more important, since people are now going to be looking at it. You’re generally going to want to avoid collars that go best with a tie, namely medium to large ones. You can either go with a huge, floppy collar that clearly stands on its own, or get a tight, narrow, vertical one that frames your face. A stiff collar that stands up is extremely helpful as it gives the sense of rigid professionalism without needing a tie to adorn it. Starch is your friend here.
Pick Your Battles
Even if you’re not, as they say, “a tie guy,” you still need to know when wearing a tie is a necessity and when you can escape from the ligature marks. The first major rule of not wearing a tie is knowing when you can do it. Dinner with clients? No tie is acceptable. Giving a presentation to the board asking them to greenlight your multi-million-dollar project? You’d better be knotted to the gills.
Make It Fit
If you’re putting on a suit, a sport coat, or really just clothes, they’d better fit if you want them to look nice. A sloppy suit looks like you just crawled out of an open grave even with a designer tie. Without it, you look like you stole the clothes or have given up on life.
You had damn sure better have your colors on point if you’re going to try to wear a suit without a tie. If you slide into the meeting with clashing patterns or a red/green shirt/jacket combo, you’re dead in the shark-infested waters. Any necktie, however gauche, is better than none if you can’t work a color wheel.
Your favorite shirt/suit combination might not be the best choice if you’re dumping out the tie. The more professional your shirt looks, and the more professional the suit looks, the more a missing tie looks malapropos. On the flip side, if you find a chambray or denim shirt, perhaps a twill with a pattern, suddenly it would look strange to be put beneath a power necktie.
Showing panache and a sense of style isn’t about simply slapping on a tie. Shined shoes, striking cufflinks, matching rings, a wristwatch, a lapel pin and even a set of bright socks – color coordinated, of course – can show you know how to dress, you just opt to avoid the neckwear.
Taking off a tie changes the movement of a person’s gaze as they look at you, so you need to give them something to look at. Your accessories help, but a pocket square, particularly a striking one with an eye-catching look can turn the tide in your favor. It begs to be admired and can keep prying eyes away from your naked neck.
Contrast the Contrast
Normal fashion rules say that your jacket should be darker than your shirt. That applies when you have a bolo to tie the whole thing together. Going with a plain black shirt under a lighter suit just looks natural. Black beneath gray or gray beneath blue both tend to look completely smooth without a tie.
Pattern is Full
Without a tie to muck up the works, you’re free to get brash with your suit patterns. Big pinstripes, windowpanes, and sharp solids all add a seamless stylishness to a shirt sans tie. Don’t go too big with checkerboards or polka dots and you’ll be fine.
The easiest way to wear your suit collar-free is to get a Mandarin collar. These don’t have the flaps and are fully upright, meaning even if you wanted to wear a tie, it would look terrible. Generally speaking, Mandarin collars are meant to be worn buttoned to the throat, which can make them uncomfortable, but they also give a buttoned-up appearance without necessitating the inclusion of a tie.
Double Your Breasts
You have to be a cocky man or a wise guy to go for the double-breasted suit, but they tend to look incredible without a tie. There’s something almost threateningly masculine about the broad look, so if you have the shoulders and frame to pull it off, go and be worshipped.
Get a Sleeved T-Shirt
You have to be extremely careful here, as a T-shirt with a suit can be a deadly fashion faux pas from which you will never recover. If you find a classy, long-sleeved tee that is coordinated with your color palette, and you have the body to pull it off (figuratively and literally) then do it. Recognize it’s a gamble that will either win you acclaim or lose you respect.
A suit with a tie says professionalism is the order of the day, but since Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg proved that business savvy doesn’t always come in a totally professional package, you can now flex a little. The key is to make sure when you’re dropping the tie that it looks intentional. Go down an extra button so that the top two are undone. Put on an undershirt with a splash of color to give the illusion of a tie or bare chest it and you’ll be able to find a relaxed look that’s playful to put your clients at ease.
The sleeker and slicker you look, the more it becomes noticeable when you aren’t wearing a tie. Professionally disheveled is what you want to go for here. Make sure your hair is styled, but not bulletproof like you’re going before a judge. Let your whiskers grow a bit to give you a scruffy, but not dirty appearance. Think “businessman in the trenches,” not “homeless man who found a suit.”
Be Hair Aware
Since a tie partially frames your face, a similar effect can be achieved by wearing the proper beard. If you’re a fuzzy-faced chap, now’s the time to really step into a beard that works. Do a little experimentation before you jump into the deep end of the pool, but the right chin thatch can make a tie superfluous.