Q & Answer: How Do You Pick the Right Shoe Size Online?

Zack writes to us to ask: I’m interested in buying a pair of shoes online, but am having trouble figuring out if they’d fit. I emailed the manufacturer and they gave me the length and width measurements in millimeters. The problem is, I don’t know whether the longest part of my foot aligns with the longest part of the shoe. Do you have any suggestions for what measurements I should ask for, so I can make an educated guess?

I’m not a big fan of measurements for shoes. Like you, I never know what I’m supposed to do with them. 

The length of a shoe can vary depending on a few factors.

  • Size, most obviously. But you’d be surprised how little changes from size to size. The difference can be as small as an eighth of an inch.
  • Welting technique. By welting technique, I mean how the sole was attached to the uppers. The length of your shoes — as measured from the bottom of your soles — can vary depending on the welting technique, as well as within the same kind of construction. Check out the two shoes above, for example. One is from Allen Edmonds, the other from Edward Green. Both are made with Goodyear welts, but the heel on the Allen Edmonds sticks out a bit more from the heel cup, while the heel of the Edward Greens hugs the shoe. 
  • Heel design. Although not as common, some shoes will have what’s known as a canted or Cuban heel, such as these from Saint Crispin’s. Again, compare them to the straight-down heel of the Allen Edmonds shoe above, and you can see how this would affect the measurement of the shoes at the bottom of the sole. 
  • Most importantly, the last. The last is the wooden form on which the leather is pulled over so that it can take a certain shape. You can have lasts in all sorts of shapes. Some shoes can be round and stubby (like Alden); some can be very long and pointy (like Gaziano & Girling). This will affect the length of a shoe more than anything else. You can have two perfectly fitting shoes, but one might be slightly longer simply because the toes were designed to look sleeker. 

In the end, it’s not even the length of your shoes that matter, but rather the heel-to-ball measurement. Critical to your fit is where the heel and ball of your feet sit in your shoes, not whether the ends of your shoe come within a certain distance to your toes.

There’s really only one way to figure out your size online, assuming you can’t try stuff on first.

  • Figure out your Brannock size. Go to a place like Nordstrom and ask someone to measure you. It’s sometimes good to get both feet measured, as few people have the same sized feet. 
  • Ask the store or manufacturer for advice. Not all salespeople will know what they’re talking about, so take their advice with a grain of salt. That said, there are few better places to get sizing advice than from the store or manufacturer you’re buying from. They’re the ones who are likely to be most knowledgeable. Tell them your Brannock size, and if you have other high-end shoes, your size in other brands and models. I don’t mean sneakers like Nike, but rather dress shoes from companies such as Allen Edmonds, Alden, Crockett & Jones, etc. 
  • Check this advice against the forum threads. Styleforum has the biggest archive of all clothing forums, but depending on what kind of shoes you’re buying, Superfuture and Ask Andy About Clothes can be useful as well. Iron Heart and Denimbro are also good for workwear type stuff. The key here is to search the archives before posting anything, as there’s usually a wealth of information you can mine. 

Finally, once you get your shoes, you can check to see if they fit according to this post.

Long story short: measurements are good for clothes, but bad for shoes. To find your size, you have to do some other stuff.

(Photos via Leffot, The Shoe Buff, and Bengal Stripe)

Q and Answer: How Do I Wear Brown Trousers?
Keys asks: Brown trousers seem a little tough to pull off. How would one go about wearing them?
No need to be intimidated! Brown trousers are actually surprisingly easy to wear.
Brown is a color traditionally associated with the country, and so you’re most likely to find it in more casual fabrics. That means corduroy, flannel, moleskin, cotton twill. The distinction between country and city clothes has largely broken down, though, and as long as you’re not headed to court, or a wedding or something, you can probably pull off some brown in town.
Brown is probably second only to grey in the variety of colors it matches with comfortably up top. It works great with blue, as you can see in the photo above, so it’s a nice way to make a blue blazer a little more relaxed. It also works great with earthier sportcoats - I use mine a lot with dark green coats, for example. Think of how well brown shoes sit with almost any trouser. And don’t forget about, well, contrasting shades of brown and tan.

Q and Answer: How Do I Wear Brown Trousers?

Keys asks: Brown trousers seem a little tough to pull off. How would one go about wearing them?

No need to be intimidated! Brown trousers are actually surprisingly easy to wear.

Brown is a color traditionally associated with the country, and so you’re most likely to find it in more casual fabrics. That means corduroy, flannel, moleskin, cotton twill. The distinction between country and city clothes has largely broken down, though, and as long as you’re not headed to court, or a wedding or something, you can probably pull off some brown in town.

Brown is probably second only to grey in the variety of colors it matches with comfortably up top. It works great with blue, as you can see in the photo above, so it’s a nice way to make a blue blazer a little more relaxed. It also works great with earthier sportcoats - I use mine a lot with dark green coats, for example. Think of how well brown shoes sit with almost any trouser. And don’t forget about, well, contrasting shades of brown and tan.

Q and Answer: Can Shoes Be Stretched?
Daniel writes us to ask: Can shoes be stretched? I recently acquired a really nice pair of penny loafers, but they’re a bit tight. Can these be fixed?
The short answer is: Yes, depending on the material, shoes can be stretched, but only widthwise, not lengthwise. Which means if they’re butting up against your toes, you’ll need to size up, but if they’re a little tight on the sides or top, a good cobbler can fix them for you. 
The long answer is: You can stretch shoes out in any direction, but it’s not advisable to do it lengthwise. That’s because you can’t lengthen the insole, so when you stretch the uppers, you risk damaging the heel and toe stiffeners. Plus, crucial to the fit of your shoes is where the heel and ball of your foot sit. It’s not possible to stretch shoes lengthwise without affecting these positions, and wearing shoes that don’t fit can cause health problems. We don’t recommend it. 
So then, why can you stretch shoes widthwise? Partly because of how shoes are built. The term width is a misnomer, as it doesn’t just measure the width of your shoes at the ball of your foot; it measures the overall circumference. In fact, many manufacturers use the same sole pattern for at least two widths, which means if you take a smaller width, your shoes get shallower, not narrower. Stretching them out widthwise, then, just gives you a bit more volume — allowing your feet to feel more comfortable without affecting the important aspects of fit.
You can have your shoes stretched by a cobbler, but before taking them there, wear your shoes for a week or two. Leather easily stretches anyway, and you may find that your shoes will naturally ease with time. If they don’t, a good cobbler will have more tools than what you can buy on Amazon (which is where you can get simple shoe stretchers). Just note that materials such as suede and calf will be easy to work with, while shell cordovan will not. 

Q and Answer: Can Shoes Be Stretched?

Daniel writes us to ask: Can shoes be stretched? I recently acquired a really nice pair of penny loafers, but they’re a bit tight. Can these be fixed?

The short answer is: Yes, depending on the material, shoes can be stretched, but only widthwise, not lengthwise. Which means if they’re butting up against your toes, you’ll need to size up, but if they’re a little tight on the sides or top, a good cobbler can fix them for you. 

The long answer is: You can stretch shoes out in any direction, but it’s not advisable to do it lengthwise. That’s because you can’t lengthen the insole, so when you stretch the uppers, you risk damaging the heel and toe stiffeners. Plus, crucial to the fit of your shoes is where the heel and ball of your foot sit. It’s not possible to stretch shoes lengthwise without affecting these positions, and wearing shoes that don’t fit can cause health problems. We don’t recommend it. 

So then, why can you stretch shoes widthwise? Partly because of how shoes are built. The term width is a misnomer, as it doesn’t just measure the width of your shoes at the ball of your foot; it measures the overall circumference. In fact, many manufacturers use the same sole pattern for at least two widths, which means if you take a smaller width, your shoes get shallower, not narrower. Stretching them out widthwise, then, just gives you a bit more volume — allowing your feet to feel more comfortable without affecting the important aspects of fit.

You can have your shoes stretched by a cobbler, but before taking them there, wear your shoes for a week or two. Leather easily stretches anyway, and you may find that your shoes will naturally ease with time. If they don’t, a good cobbler will have more tools than what you can buy on Amazon (which is where you can get simple shoe stretchers). Just note that materials such as suede and calf will be easy to work with, while shell cordovan will not. 

Q and Answer: Can I Wear Loafers With A Suit?
A loyal reader asks: Can I wear loafers with a suit? I rarely see it done on blogs.
Yes you can. But should you? That’s more complicated.
The loafer, especially the American penny loafer, was created to be a casual shoe. The simple fact that it slipped on and off made it the 1935 equivalent of those socks with treads printed onto them. Over the years, though, that’s softened, at least here in the States.
Today, there are a few kinds of men wearing loafers with suits.
Men in hip, casual suits. Search loafers and suit on the web and you’ll find plenty of young men in cotton suits, fashion-y suits and the like who look fine with loafers. Not necessarily great, there’s still something a bit dissonant about it, but fine. Going out at night in a dark suit, no tie and loafers is perfectly OK with me, if it’s your preference.
All-American Businessman types, who wear penny loafers with business suits because… well… they don’t want to lace up their shoes? Or something? This has become traditional for Americans, but it isn’t very good looking, is borderline shocking to some non-Americans, and just generally makes you look like a yokel. Don’t do this.
Wall Street types. Not just folks who work on Wall Street, but folks who aspire to be the star of the movie “Wall Street.” Or perhaps “The Wolf of Wall Street.” These people are awful. Don’t be one of them.
The upshot? Most of the time, you should avoid wearing loafers with suits. Your Weejuns are much more at home with flannel trousers or corduroys anyway. If you’re headed to a Suit Occasion, wear a pair of shoes you have to lace. It’s the least you can do.
(And that goes for you too, Dave.)

Q and Answer: Can I Wear Loafers With A Suit?

A loyal reader asks: Can I wear loafers with a suit? I rarely see it done on blogs.

Yes you can. But should you? That’s more complicated.

The loafer, especially the American penny loafer, was created to be a casual shoe. The simple fact that it slipped on and off made it the 1935 equivalent of those socks with treads printed onto them. Over the years, though, that’s softened, at least here in the States.

Today, there are a few kinds of men wearing loafers with suits.

  • Men in hip, casual suits. Search loafers and suit on the web and you’ll find plenty of young men in cotton suits, fashion-y suits and the like who look fine with loafers. Not necessarily great, there’s still something a bit dissonant about it, but fine. Going out at night in a dark suit, no tie and loafers is perfectly OK with me, if it’s your preference.
  • All-American Businessman types, who wear penny loafers with business suits because… well… they don’t want to lace up their shoes? Or something? This has become traditional for Americans, but it isn’t very good looking, is borderline shocking to some non-Americans, and just generally makes you look like a yokel. Don’t do this.
  • Wall Street types. Not just folks who work on Wall Street, but folks who aspire to be the star of the movie “Wall Street.” Or perhaps “The Wolf of Wall Street.” These people are awful. Don’t be one of them.

The upshot? Most of the time, you should avoid wearing loafers with suits. Your Weejuns are much more at home with flannel trousers or corduroys anyway. If you’re headed to a Suit Occasion, wear a pair of shoes you have to lace. It’s the least you can do.

(And that goes for you too, Dave.)

Q and Answer: Where Can I Find Odd-Sized Suits?
Mike asks: Where can I find odd/less common suit sizes (my natural fit is a 45r, which is quite difficult to find)?
Some companies size more specifically than others. Some use S-M-L-XL sizing (blech!), some just go with even number chest sizing (36-38-40), some add short and long sizes and some go whole hog with odd numbers in the mix as well. The very best even offer semi-tall sizing off the rack.
Your best bet for odd sizes are traditional American retailers like Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart. They consistently carry these sizes up to 46 or so.
After that, consider European-sized coats. You’ll find that the sizing translations are rough, since “subtract ten” rule of thumb is inexact. A size 52 Euro, for example, is actually a size 41, though it’s likely to be labeled a 42. A 54 Euro is about a 42 1/2. You can learn more about how the conversions work here.
And of course there’s always the classic backup option: alterations. Buy something very slightly too large, and have it altered. Remember that the portion of a jacket that’s above the armholes is really tough to alter, but the waist is pretty manageable.
One good bit of news: when you have an unusual size, eBay can really be your friend. Strange sizes mean less inventory, but also much less competition. The odds that someone else is searching for a 45R coat and likes the one you like are relatively slim, so you have a shot at some great bargains in an auction context.

Q and Answer: Where Can I Find Odd-Sized Suits?

Mike asks: Where can I find odd/less common suit sizes (my natural fit is a 45r, which is quite difficult to find)?

Some companies size more specifically than others. Some use S-M-L-XL sizing (blech!), some just go with even number chest sizing (36-38-40), some add short and long sizes and some go whole hog with odd numbers in the mix as well. The very best even offer semi-tall sizing off the rack.

Your best bet for odd sizes are traditional American retailers like Brooks Brothers and Paul Stuart. They consistently carry these sizes up to 46 or so.

After that, consider European-sized coats. You’ll find that the sizing translations are rough, since “subtract ten” rule of thumb is inexact. A size 52 Euro, for example, is actually a size 41, though it’s likely to be labeled a 42. A 54 Euro is about a 42 1/2. You can learn more about how the conversions work here.

And of course there’s always the classic backup option: alterations. Buy something very slightly too large, and have it altered. Remember that the portion of a jacket that’s above the armholes is really tough to alter, but the waist is pretty manageable.

One good bit of news: when you have an unusual size, eBay can really be your friend. Strange sizes mean less inventory, but also much less competition. The odds that someone else is searching for a 45R coat and likes the one you like are relatively slim, so you have a shot at some great bargains in an auction context.

Q and Answer: Where’s My Waist? Where Should My Jacket Button?
Wyatt asks: I’ve heard said both on your blog and elsewhere that a jacket should button at one’s natural waist (about at the belly button) but I’ve had a devil of a time finding jackets that fit me this way. Is a higher buttoning point a current trend? 
And, while we’re discussing the waist, since it also seems that one’s trousers should sit at or close to one’s natural waist, does that mean that the platonic ideal of a suit would have the jacket buttoning at the belt-line?
That’s quite a question, Wyatt. But we can answer it.
Let’s start by getting one thing straight: your waist is not at your navel. Your waist is at the top of your hips.

Finding Your Waist
Make your hand flat, and karate chop your hip with the edge. Then drag that edge of your hand up your side. When the bone ends and your body goes inward, that’s your waist. You may carry some weight on your love handles that makes this a little harder to feel, but you’ll find it. For most people, the waist is a couple inches above the navel.
Take a look at Luciano Barbera above: he’s wearing a very classically-proportioned coat and pants. I’ve used my spectacular art skills to point to his waist, and to draw the side of his body with perfect realism. His tie obscures it slightly, but you can see that even with his coat splayed by his hands, his beltline and buttoning point converge at his waist, and you can’t see his shirt below that point.

Things Change
Fashion has not followed these rules, of course. In the past ten or fifteen years, the rise of trousers (the distance between waistline and crotch) has gotten much smaller. Your pants waist has moved down several inches from your natural waist. Many pants these days barely cover your pubes.
Meanwhile, the buttoning point of jackets has been moving the opposite direction: up towards the sternum. It’s not uncommon to find the functional button on a coat two or three inches above the waist. Press the button on one of these coats, elevator-style, and you’ll feel it in your solar plexus.
Fashion is fashion, and in fashion things change because things change. That’s fine. But there are some practical aesthetic issues with these changes.
Depending on your shape, you can get away with all this stuff. Currently fashion favors a slim, youthful silhouette over a more athletic or portly one. No matter what your silhouette, though, you can end up with a weird triangle of fabric under your coat button and above your belt, which is just plain goofy-looking.

The Upshot
The shape of a coat is meant to flatter and emphasize a man’s natural shape, so the further that button gets from the place an ideal man’s body is naturally narrowest, the more difficult it is to do that.
The lower the trouser waist gets, the more difficult the pants are to wear, and the more difficult it is to hang them flatteringly - soon all that’s holding them up is some friction and your butt.
So: make your choices advisedly. Rules are made to be broken, but they were put in place for a reason.

Q and Answer: Where’s My Waist? Where Should My Jacket Button?

Wyatt asks: I’ve heard said both on your blog and elsewhere that a jacket should button at one’s natural waist (about at the belly button) but I’ve had a devil of a time finding jackets that fit me this way. Is a higher buttoning point a current trend?

And, while we’re discussing the waist, since it also seems that one’s trousers should sit at or close to one’s natural waist, does that mean that the platonic ideal of a suit would have the jacket buttoning at the belt-line?

That’s quite a question, Wyatt. But we can answer it.

Let’s start by getting one thing straight: your waist is not at your navel. Your waist is at the top of your hips.

Finding Your Waist

Make your hand flat, and karate chop your hip with the edge. Then drag that edge of your hand up your side. When the bone ends and your body goes inward, that’s your waist. You may carry some weight on your love handles that makes this a little harder to feel, but you’ll find it. For most people, the waist is a couple inches above the navel.

Take a look at Luciano Barbera above: he’s wearing a very classically-proportioned coat and pants. I’ve used my spectacular art skills to point to his waist, and to draw the side of his body with perfect realism. His tie obscures it slightly, but you can see that even with his coat splayed by his hands, his beltline and buttoning point converge at his waist, and you can’t see his shirt below that point.

Things Change

Fashion has not followed these rules, of course. In the past ten or fifteen years, the rise of trousers (the distance between waistline and crotch) has gotten much smaller. Your pants waist has moved down several inches from your natural waist. Many pants these days barely cover your pubes.

Meanwhile, the buttoning point of jackets has been moving the opposite direction: up towards the sternum. It’s not uncommon to find the functional button on a coat two or three inches above the waist. Press the button on one of these coats, elevator-style, and you’ll feel it in your solar plexus.

Fashion is fashion, and in fashion things change because things change. That’s fine. But there are some practical aesthetic issues with these changes.

Depending on your shape, you can get away with all this stuff. Currently fashion favors a slim, youthful silhouette over a more athletic or portly one. No matter what your silhouette, though, you can end up with a weird triangle of fabric under your coat button and above your belt, which is just plain goofy-looking.

The Upshot

The shape of a coat is meant to flatter and emphasize a man’s natural shape, so the further that button gets from the place an ideal man’s body is naturally narrowest, the more difficult it is to do that.

The lower the trouser waist gets, the more difficult the pants are to wear, and the more difficult it is to hang them flatteringly - soon all that’s holding them up is some friction and your butt.

So: make your choices advisedly. Rules are made to be broken, but they were put in place for a reason.

Q and Answer: How Slim Should Pants Be?

John writes us to ask: Where do you land on the tapering and fullness of trousers? Just yesterday, I came across a really nice flannel suit at a thrift shop. The jacket fits like a glove, and the trousers just need a tiny bit of hemming … but I feel like the legs are practically stovepipes. Maybe I’m too used to wearing skinny trousers, but those big suit legs make me feel like I’m in a 1930s costume. How much can one take out of the legs, and when should you leave well enough alone for fear of ruining the balance of a suit?

There’s not an easy answer to this, as a lot depends on your body type, sense of style, and whatever is in fashion at the moment. Men wore trousers that were quite full in the ’30s and ‘40s, and then slimmed them down in the ‘50s and ‘60s, only to have them full again in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Throughout these times, however, good tailoring stood as good tailoring – and unless you’re going for much more avant garde looks – that typically means having clean lines all around, with no puckering or pulling on the front or back of your trousers.

How pants should fit, however, is very different from their silhouette, which means as long as you follow those basic principles, how you want your trousers to look is largely about taste. My personal rules of thumb are:

  • Beware of going overly slim: Very slim trousers are in fashion at the moment, but they’re harder to pull off than most people think (perhaps figuratively and literally). I find they look best on men with very skinny frames or middle-of-the-road athletic builds, but not so great on everyone else. When wearing slim trousers, be honest about whether they look flattering on you.
  • Add a little tapering: It’s nice to have a little tapering below the knee, just to add some shape to the legs. If you have pleats, however, be careful about narrowing them too much, lest you want to exaggerate the silhouette. Similarly, pay attention to how your feet look in proportion. Large leg openings can make your feet look unusually small, while narrow ones can make them look unusually big.
  • Keep things proportional to the jacket: Perhaps most obvious, keep things in proportion to your sport coats or suit jackets. I do find, however, that unless you’re at the extremes of silhouettes, there’s a lot of wiggle room to be had here. Slim trousers can really sharpen up a traditionally cut sport coat, so don’t be afraid to slim things down if you think it might make the overall silhouette look better.

In his book Eminently Suitable, one of my favorite menswear writers, Bruce Boyer, wrote: “wearing clothes well is still something of an art – it has not descended to one of the sciences.”  Other than fitting well, there’s no hard rule for how trousers should look, so it’s largely dependent on your body type and sense of style. That doesn’t make things easy, but it does make things more exciting and interesting.

Above: some photos from The Sartorialist that, I think, illustrate how men can look good with slim, full, or middle-of-the-road cuts.    

Q & Answer: Should My Double-Breasted Jacket Be Buttoned When I Sit?
Charles asks: I was curious about the etiquette of sitting down in a double-breasted suit jacket or sport coat.  Is one permitted to unbutton it, or is it customary to leave it buttoned?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule on this matter, but I can give you some guidelines.
Generally speaking, double-breasted coats look much better when closed. You just have to watch a couple of David Letterman monologues to confirm that. So while it’s not required that you stay buttoned, it probably looks best.
I wear a lot of double-breasted suits on stage, where I typically have to sit, and I find that mine settle best with the lower button open but the top and inside buttons buttoned. That’s what it looks like Cary Grant is doing above. Your mileage may vary of course - I know some folks who prefer to leave only their inside button closed, and some who leave them all done up.
When it comes down to brass tacks, balance a clean look with your own comfort, and make the call yourself.

Q & Answer: Should My Double-Breasted Jacket Be Buttoned When I Sit?

Charles asks: I was curious about the etiquette of sitting down in a double-breasted suit jacket or sport coat.  Is one permitted to unbutton it, or is it customary to leave it buttoned?

There’s no hard-and-fast rule on this matter, but I can give you some guidelines.

Generally speaking, double-breasted coats look much better when closed. You just have to watch a couple of David Letterman monologues to confirm that. So while it’s not required that you stay buttoned, it probably looks best.

I wear a lot of double-breasted suits on stage, where I typically have to sit, and I find that mine settle best with the lower button open but the top and inside buttons buttoned. That’s what it looks like Cary Grant is doing above. Your mileage may vary of course - I know some folks who prefer to leave only their inside button closed, and some who leave them all done up.

When it comes down to brass tacks, balance a clean look with your own comfort, and make the call yourself.

Q & Answer: Where Should I Buy A Tuxedo?

Jason asks: I wanted to ask your opinion on J. Crew Ludlow tuxedos.  I live in Tribeca and often walk by the Ludlow shop on Hudson and like the look of their tuxedos displayed in the store front window.  I was also considering going to Brooks Brothers for a tux. Can you help?

Here’s the thing about tuxedos: they’re expensive, and unless you go to a lot of charity galas, you won’t end up wearing them a lot. Heck - I’m going to a film premiere tonight, and I’m told I should show up in a suit. So if you want the expenditure to be a reasonable one, you’ll need to buy something that you’ll feel as happy wearing ten years from now as today.

One of the J. Crew Ludlow tuxedos is the lower picture above. It’s fun. If I were a young guy from a CW show going to the Emmys, it might be the perfect thing. But in five years, the stuff that seemed fun (like the low-waisted pants, double vents and super-narrow lapels) will seem dated. The six or eight hundred bucks it’ll cost is a lot for one or two wearings.

So I’d recommend going one of two ways. The first is to go classic. Here in the States, if you’re talking about going to a store and buying off the rack, that really means Polo or Brooks Brothers. Both have great options like the one on the mannequin above that will look as classic in 2035 as they do now - if there’s still black tie at all then. Both will also be a bit more expensive than J. Crew, though I think they’re also a little better in terms of quality-to-price ratio.

The budget option is to go vintage. This takes shopping time and patience, but you can save a lot of money. As long as you’re comfortable looking distinctive, an older tux can look just as great as a new one. We’re talking pre-70s here, mostly. Show up in slim late-50s lapels and you won’t look dated, you’ll look retro, and that makes all the difference. Almost all black tie events are at least in part about enjoying yourself, so there’s no need to worry about not looking uber-conservative - there are no black-tie funerals. My own tuxedo was purchased at a Goodwill for $40, and it dates to the mid-30s. Looks as sharp now as it ever did.

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Suit Without A Tie?
John asks: I work for a large multinational company. I see a lot of management, including C-level execs, wearing jackets without ties. I know how PTO feels about ties without jackets, and I agree, but what about the opposite?  When is it OK to wear a jacket but not a tie with your shirt unbuttoned? What’s the point?
You’re right: we generally think the tie-without-coat look is goofy. Makes you look, at best, like a bank teller. But the reverse? A-OK.
Here are some ways to make it work and some things to remember:
A suit is the ultimate flattering garment for a man; subtracting the tie doesn’t change that (much).  As you can see on Tom Ford, above, it can be a clean look, especially for evening.
A button-down collar shirt goes great with a soft, American-style casual sportcoat or blazer. With or without tie. It’s a classic casual look. Throw a sweater underneath and you’ve gone Full Granduncle.
Is a suit with no tie appropriate for business? Well, that depends on the business. It’s certainly a better look than the aforementioned tie-no-coat thing. If the executives are wearing it, it’ll probably fly.
It’s easier for this look to become sloppy, so make sure you’re sharp, like Ford, and not a hot mess.
Not all shirts are created equal here. As we mentioned: with more casual coats, like tweed, hopsack and flannel, a button-down collar is great. With sharper, more formal clothes, like Ford’s solid navy suit, you want a shirt collar that’s on the stiffer and taller side, with longer points. You don’t want it slipping under your jacket.
Remember, as Ford did above, that no tie doesn’t have to mean no pocket square. In fact, a tie-less look benefits immensely from that extra bit of “I care.”

Q & Answer: Can I Wear A Suit Without A Tie?

John asks: I work for a large multinational company. I see a lot of management, including C-level execs, wearing jackets without ties. I know how PTO feels about ties without jackets, and I agree, but what about the opposite?  When is it OK to wear a jacket but not a tie with your shirt unbuttoned? What’s the point?

You’re right: we generally think the tie-without-coat look is goofy. Makes you look, at best, like a bank teller. But the reverse? A-OK.

Here are some ways to make it work and some things to remember:

  • A suit is the ultimate flattering garment for a man; subtracting the tie doesn’t change that (much).  As you can see on Tom Ford, above, it can be a clean look, especially for evening.
  • A button-down collar shirt goes great with a soft, American-style casual sportcoat or blazer. With or without tie. It’s a classic casual look. Throw a sweater underneath and you’ve gone Full Granduncle.
  • Is a suit with no tie appropriate for business? Well, that depends on the business. It’s certainly a better look than the aforementioned tie-no-coat thing. If the executives are wearing it, it’ll probably fly.
  • It’s easier for this look to become sloppy, so make sure you’re sharp, like Ford, and not a hot mess.
  • Not all shirts are created equal here. As we mentioned: with more casual coats, like tweed, hopsack and flannel, a button-down collar is great. With sharper, more formal clothes, like Ford’s solid navy suit, you want a shirt collar that’s on the stiffer and taller side, with longer points. You don’t want it slipping under your jacket.
  • Remember, as Ford did above, that no tie doesn’t have to mean no pocket square. In fact, a tie-less look benefits immensely from that extra bit of “I care.”