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.”
“It’s now cool to dress up, and to know about the minutiae of roped shoulders and Windsor knots. Type the words “menswear blog” into Google and marvel at the trove of pages that comes up.”

The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on the death of the necktie in corporate environments and its resurgence in non-dress-code-enforced situations, especially among younger men. They also use their Google machine to find some so-called “blogs.”

-Pete

Being slightly less boring with Ed Morel and Panta

Ed Morel, proprietor of Panta, poses the central question of classic mens clothing in terms of high school: “I went to prep school and I had to wear a tie every day. I could wear a navy or burgundy blazer, but everyone wore the navy. After school we’d go out, try to talk to girls. How do you stand out a little bit within that realm?”

It’s that quality of standing out in a quiet way that many of us are looking for when choosing what we wear. “It’s classic menswear. You’re not reinventing the wheel. You’re wearing a shirt, you’re wearing a tie, you’re wearing a jacket and pants. Ties are within certain widths. Lapels, too. Maybe I’ll wear an eff-you sportcoat and plain pants, or eff-you pants and a solid jacket, and that’s very boring”— he laughs—”It’s incredibly boring.” (Eff-you, in this case, means louder, plaid-er fabric. Ed is pictured above with Bruce Boyer at Carl Goldberg’s Madison Avenue workroom, wearing a shirt and pants.)

The start of Panta

As we step from booth to booth at MRKet, a men’s clothing tradeshow in New York, Morel shops for clothing and shoes to carry at Panta, and with characteristic rapid-fire cadence and self-deprecation, tells me about founding the company. “It would be great if I could tell you a nice romantic story, like my parents came from some country, but… I always did like clothing. Living in New York, having access to the clothes and deals here, it led me to realize I could buy more, sell it, and pay for more clothes for myself.” Ed would buy low on high-end clothes, notably pants, at closeout sales and discounters, then sell high online. “But that inventory is limited, and I thought, ‘What if I had access to great pants all the time?’”

Ed set out to have pants made to his specs—fabrics from sources like Loro Piana and Dormeiul, in sometimes exotic blends and textures, finished by hand, in a signature cut with only one rear pocket—in New York. “Most makers don’t want to deal with the small guys. When I started, it was during the financial crisis,” and a lot of bigger customers were scaling back orders, leaving room for Panta’s business. The good reviews rolled in. Now Ed has developed relationships that allow him to regularly make trousers, ties, and shirts under his own ready-to-wear label, as well as custom tailoring, shoes from Heinrich Dinkelacker, and more to come. Made in small runs with refined cloth, the trousers have cost over $300, but Ed’s adding less expensive options, with some customization available even on the least dear (about $200—less expensive is relative). Fabrics come from top-end Italian and English mills, rare to see off-the-rack, and the make varies according to price point, with truly custom options made in New York by Rocco Ciccarelli.

Ed’s store, Ed’s taste

We stop while Ed places an order with Ron Rider for a Cortina-made split toe derby and a chukka boot, both in shell cordovan. He asks my opinion, and I admit that I don’t generally like split toe shoes. Ed’s OK with that. Panta’s stock is small and focused on what he likes to wear himself. “I’m not going to sell double monks because I don’t wear double monks. I’m not ordering 40 different ties, 40 different pants. I carry four or six styles. The shoes go great with the types of pants that I sell, that go great with the shirts.” With his custom pant program, “We can do pretty much whatever you want, except anything that I find in bad taste.” E.g., no camo.

Ed’s not the only guy to turn personal taste into a small business, but he’s got his eye on bigger things. “It started off as a hobby, but now I’m looking to build something that’ll be around long after I’m gone. I’m working on building something that, if you see a shirt or a tie, you know it’s one of my things.”

Pictured are some of Panta’s fall 2013 silk ties (the silk has a very “dry” feel), as well as new scarves, and a pair of downright beefy Heinrich Dinkelacker brogues.


—Pete

A Course in Advanced Tie Knots
Here is all you need to know about “advanced” tie knots: they are useless and you shouldn’t wear them.
Above is the absurdly dumb “Eldredge Knot,” but it’s far from the only offender. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t end up with an email about Pratt knots or Winchester knots or Dubble Bubble knots or some other goofy stuff.
Here’s a summary of useful tie knots:
The Four in Hand
The old around-around-behind-over-through. The classic four in hand knot is simple, easy to tie, holds a dimple well, and is appropriate for any situation. It is slightly asymmetrical, which is desirable. It is more flattering to most men, more relaxed and more distinctive. Really the only time this knot isn’t suitable is with a very skinny, insubstantial tie.
The Double Four in Hand
This is the four in hand knot with an added wrap-around, as seen in this video by our friend GW. Useful if you are shorter and need to use up some extra length from an off-the-rack tie, or if you prefer a slightly fuller knot. I use it once in a while to give more structure to the knot of a knit tie.
The Half Windsor
If you’re one of those people who insists on symmetry, go ahead and use the half Windsor (or the Pratt, I guess). Just know that none of the Windsors ever wore the Windsor, half or otherwise. They wear the four in hand for the reasons outlined above. And look better because of it. (The full Windsor should be the exclusive province of Donald Trump and former NFL stars and other people whose goal is to look like a jerk.)
Everything Else
Is silly bullshit.

A Course in Advanced Tie Knots

Here is all you need to know about “advanced” tie knots: they are useless and you shouldn’t wear them.

Above is the absurdly dumb “Eldredge Knot,” but it’s far from the only offender. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t end up with an email about Pratt knots or Winchester knots or Dubble Bubble knots or some other goofy stuff.

Here’s a summary of useful tie knots:

The Four in Hand

The old around-around-behind-over-through. The classic four in hand knot is simple, easy to tie, holds a dimple well, and is appropriate for any situation. It is slightly asymmetrical, which is desirable. It is more flattering to most men, more relaxed and more distinctive. Really the only time this knot isn’t suitable is with a very skinny, insubstantial tie.

The Double Four in Hand

This is the four in hand knot with an added wrap-around, as seen in this video by our friend GW. Useful if you are shorter and need to use up some extra length from an off-the-rack tie, or if you prefer a slightly fuller knot. I use it once in a while to give more structure to the knot of a knit tie.

The Half Windsor

If you’re one of those people who insists on symmetry, go ahead and use the half Windsor (or the Pratt, I guess). Just know that none of the Windsors ever wore the Windsor, half or otherwise. They wear the four in hand for the reasons outlined above. And look better because of it. (The full Windsor should be the exclusive province of Donald Trump and former NFL stars and other people whose goal is to look like a jerk.)

Everything Else

Is silly bullshit.

Drape Yourself in Sulka
Back in the 1920s, Nancy Kahn’s grandfather was welcoming patients into his home office on the east side of Manhattan, wearing shirts and ties exclusively from A. Sulka & Co.—“much to my grandmother’s chagrin,” says Nancy. Sulka was in the midst of its rise to prominence as a haberdasher to American royalty, like Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Hollywood leading men, as well as actual royalty, like the Duke of Windsor. While Nancy’s grandmother may not have appreciated the expense of a Sulka wardrobe, she recognized the quality of the silk and workmanship, and saved her husbands neckwear—from subtle to loud; richly colored, printed silks in stripes and abstract patterns. Sometime in the late 1920s, according to family lore, she deconstructed the ties, ironed the silks flat, cut them into triangles, sewed them by hand into squares, and sewed the squares into a 60-inch square quilt with black satin backing.
The quilt was handed down to Nancy, who has put it up for sale in her Etsy shop. Although the opportunity to drape yourself in silks from one of the world’s great lost men’s clothiers is rare and tempting, Nancy recommends this as a decorative, rather than functional, item. Which is true to the spirit of neckties as well.
- Pete

Drape Yourself in Sulka

Back in the 1920s, Nancy Kahn’s grandfather was welcoming patients into his home office on the east side of Manhattan, wearing shirts and ties exclusively from A. Sulka & Co.—“much to my grandmother’s chagrin,” says Nancy. Sulka was in the midst of its rise to prominence as a haberdasher to American royalty, like Kennedys, Rockefellers, and Hollywood leading men, as well as actual royalty, like the Duke of Windsor. While Nancy’s grandmother may not have appreciated the expense of a Sulka wardrobe, she recognized the quality of the silk and workmanship, and saved her husbands neckwear—from subtle to loud; richly colored, printed silks in stripes and abstract patterns. Sometime in the late 1920s, according to family lore, she deconstructed the ties, ironed the silks flat, cut them into triangles, sewed them by hand into squares, and sewed the squares into a 60-inch square quilt with black satin backing.

The quilt was handed down to Nancy, who has put it up for sale in her Etsy shop. Although the opportunity to drape yourself in silks from one of the world’s great lost men’s clothiers is rare and tempting, Nancy recommends this as a decorative, rather than functional, item. Which is true to the spirit of neckties as well.

- Pete

It’s On Sale: J Press Grenadines

J Press has been having a 25%-off sale for a while now, but they just put up a new four-day “flash sale” code. Get an extra 10% off by punching in EXTRA10 at checkout. The code works on a number of items, including the grenadine neckties you see here

The shipping charge is about $15, which negates some of the savings. For comparison, know that Drake’s and EG Cappelli grenadines run between $125 to $150 at full retail, but sometimes can be had for about $90 on sale. More affordably, Sam Hober’s are $80, Kent Wang’s are $75, Knottery’s are $55, and Chipp2’s are $49.50. The last four almost never go on sale, so you should expect the full price to be standard. 

$35 Lambswool Ties

I’d like to meet Paul Winston someday. As regular readers know, Paul runs the traditional clothiers business Chipp2/ Winston Tailors out of midtown Manhattan, and his father – Sidney Winston – was one of President Kennedy’s tailors. I’ve talked with Paul a few times over the phone and he always comes off as an incredibly charming man with lots of great stories (which he tells in his slight New Yorker accent). Last time we spoke, I asked him why doesn’t he charge more for his grenadines. They’re handmade in the US and use the same fabric as everyone else, but are currently cheaper than grenadines machine stitched in East Asia. Paul told me that it’s because he’s old enough to remember what prices used to be like back in the day, and can’t bring himself to charge more, even if people will pay. I’d normally think that was some slick marketing line, but when you talk to Paul, you easily get the sense that he’s a real deal, sincere guy, and I believe him.

In any case, Paul recently got a bunch of lambswool ties in. Since he runs a custom clothier business, he has some lambswool left over from jackets he’s made, so he decided to turn them into ties and sell them at a cheap price. There are seventeen colors, all solid, which make them a good complement to patterned shirts and jackets. Each tie measures 58.25” long and 3.25” in width, and costs $35 (shipping for up to three ties is $7.50 within the US, and $13.50 for international). Unlike his grenadines, these are machine stitched, but still made in New York. The interlinings are a wool/ poly blend, and a bit thicker than what seems to be the trend in high-end neckwear these days, but I knotted a few of them up and they still seemed great. With a little bit of tugging on each side of the loop, as demonstrate here by Bernhard Roetzel, you can get the knot pretty small. For $35, I think they’re a pretty good buy. Good enough that I purchased one for myself before sending the lot back.

I snapped a few photos, but for some reason, the colors didn’t come out terribly well the group shots. In the top most photo, moving from top to bottom we have: tan, gold, toast, sky blue, light blue, navy, and black. The “black” should really be the same color as my navy sport coat, which the ties are laying on top of. It’s really more of a midnight navy, not true black, in my opinion. The tie labeled navy (second from the bottom) is perhaps one shade lighter than a midnight navy. The colors are better represented in the close-up pictures, though navy and black are still lighter in the photos than they are in real life.

In the second group shot, again moving from top to bottom, we have: grey, light grey, pumpkin, mauve, coral, purple, light plum, and lilac. Again, the colors are better represented in the close up photos.

Tan and sky blue are already sold out, and two colors not pictured here are chocolate brown and royal blue. Customers can request swatches if they’d like to get a better sense of the fabrics’ textures and colors. And if you purchase something and don’t like it, Paul is happy to take returns. 

To order, you can just go to Chipp2’s website and buy one of their dog ties, then in the comment section, say something like “I don’t want a dog tie, I want a ….” Or you can call Paul directly at (212) 687-0850. Unlike his grenadines, which will always be available, this is a limited run only. The quantities are quite uneven, and some colors only have six or less in stock. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. 

It’s On Sale: The Knottery Silk Knit Ties

The Knottery is having a clearance sale right now, with 50% off all of their ties, pocket squares and scarves (with the exception of their grenadine ties). Use code HALFSIES until Friday to receive the discount. 

I own a few of their silk knit ties and can recommend them and have reviewed them in the past. For just $12.50 you can pick up the staple black silk knit tie in either 2.25” or 3” widths. Derek has written about the versatility of the black silk knit tie and I tend to agree. Personally, I’d also pick up the navy one, too, but that’s just my own personal bias toward that color — and there are plenty of colors to choose from

I’d also recommend taking a look at the dual-textured silk knit tie (called “The Acquittal”), which has a checkerboard of small and large knitted loops. This adds a nice visual differentiation that you don’t see on most silk knit ties and I think is a great way to have some subtle variation on a solid-colored tie. A good deal for $17.50. 

-Kiyoshi

The Price of Chipps
Paul Winston over at Chipp2 kindly gave us a heads up yesterday to say that the price of his grenadines will be going up March 1st. Instead of $47.50, which is what they’re priced at now, they’ll be $49.50 starting next month. That’s because the price for grenadine fabric has been steadily rising, so Paul has to keep up. Even with the price hike, however, Chipp2 remains the most affordable grenadine tie supplier around. And if you for some reason could only own one tie, it probably should be a navy grenadine. It’s arguably the most versatile tie you can own. 
To buy one of Chipp2’s greandines, call Paul at (212) 687-0850 or visit his shop at 28 West 44th Street in New York City (it’s between 5th and 6th Avenue). You can also order them online through a slightly circuitous route. First go to Chipp2’s website and order one of the dog ties. Then in the comment section, tell him which color grenadine you want and the correct charge will be made on your credit card. He also accepts Paypal.
To read more about Chipp2’s grenadines, you can check out a review we did of them last year.
Update: One of our readers asked for the width of Chipp2’s grenadines. They’re 3.5” wide, and about 58” to 59” in length. If you need, Paul can shorten them for you, but if you want them narrowed, your best bet is to take them to TieCrafters (who charges about $22 or so). Note, Chipp2’s grenadines are all hand stitched, so there will be some variation in measurements because of the nature of the work. It won’t be much, but expect a 1/16 or 1/8” allowance. 

The Price of Chipps

Paul Winston over at Chipp2 kindly gave us a heads up yesterday to say that the price of his grenadines will be going up March 1st. Instead of $47.50, which is what they’re priced at now, they’ll be $49.50 starting next month. That’s because the price for grenadine fabric has been steadily rising, so Paul has to keep up. Even with the price hike, however, Chipp2 remains the most affordable grenadine tie supplier around. And if you for some reason could only own one tie, it probably should be a navy grenadine. It’s arguably the most versatile tie you can own. 

To buy one of Chipp2’s greandines, call Paul at (212) 687-0850 or visit his shop at 28 West 44th Street in New York City (it’s between 5th and 6th Avenue). You can also order them online through a slightly circuitous route. First go to Chipp2’s website and order one of the dog ties. Then in the comment section, tell him which color grenadine you want and the correct charge will be made on your credit card. He also accepts Paypal.

To read more about Chipp2’s grenadines, you can check out a review we did of them last year.

Update: One of our readers asked for the width of Chipp2’s grenadines. They’re 3.5” wide, and about 58” to 59” in length. If you need, Paul can shorten them for you, but if you want them narrowed, your best bet is to take them to TieCrafters (who charges about $22 or so). Note, Chipp2’s grenadines are all hand stitched, so there will be some variation in measurements because of the nature of the work. It won’t be much, but expect a 1/16 or 1/8” allowance. 

The Most Basic Ties
Like any part of a good wardrobe, building the right collection of neckties requires some forethought and planning. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful neckties out there, but not all of them will be worth buying. Knowing which ones are requires some thinking about what you plan to wear your ties with.  
If you wear suits often, consider silk foulards. Foulards are those small-scale, symmetrical patterns featuring things such as medallions, florets, or geometric shapes. They’re typically conservative in nature and printed on medium weight silks. These will be good in dark colors such as navy, burgundy, dark green, or dark brown. Pick something with a bit of light blue or white somewhere in the pattern and you have the advantage of picking up the color in your shirt.
If you mostly wear sport coats instead, then focus on repp stripes. It’s not that you can’t wear silk foulards with a sport coat, it’s that often you’re safer off – if not better off – with something striped. Dark ties with small repeating geometrics are often a bit too “suit-ish” for odd jackets. Plus, if push came to shove, you can usually wear a repp-striped tie with a suit, at least to most occasions. Again, focus on dark colors, as those will be the easiest to wear, and try to get ties in various scales of pattern. Some ensembles look better with big block stripes, while others will call for a thinner stripes. It’s nice to have some flexibility.
Finally, it’s always good to have some solid-colored, but also textured, ties on hand. These include woven grenadines, fuzzy wools, and silk knits. Such ties pair especially well with rustic sport coats or suits, such as those made from tweed or corduroy, and they’re quite useful if you wear patterned shirts often. You can wear a patterned tie with a patterned shirt, but a solid, yet textured one will take less thinking and always be tasteful.
Of course, these aren’t the only ties worth buying, and as you expand your collection, it can be nice to pick up things such as dotted silks, ancient madders, and even some unusual designs. However, the above sets a good foundation and helps underscore something important: no matter what you choose for yourself, buy ties that work well with what you typically wear, not just ones that happen to look good on a store’s counter.

The Most Basic Ties

Like any part of a good wardrobe, building the right collection of neckties requires some forethought and planning. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of beautiful neckties out there, but not all of them will be worth buying. Knowing which ones are requires some thinking about what you plan to wear your ties with.  

If you wear suits often, consider silk foulards. Foulards are those small-scale, symmetrical patterns featuring things such as medallions, florets, or geometric shapes. They’re typically conservative in nature and printed on medium weight silks. These will be good in dark colors such as navy, burgundy, dark green, or dark brown. Pick something with a bit of light blue or white somewhere in the pattern and you have the advantage of picking up the color in your shirt.

If you mostly wear sport coats instead, then focus on repp stripes. It’s not that you can’t wear silk foulards with a sport coat, it’s that often you’re safer off – if not better off – with something striped. Dark ties with small repeating geometrics are often a bit too “suit-ish” for odd jackets. Plus, if push came to shove, you can usually wear a repp-striped tie with a suit, at least to most occasions. Again, focus on dark colors, as those will be the easiest to wear, and try to get ties in various scales of pattern. Some ensembles look better with big block stripes, while others will call for a thinner stripes. It’s nice to have some flexibility.

Finally, it’s always good to have some solid-colored, but also textured, ties on hand. These include woven grenadines, fuzzy wools, and silk knits. Such ties pair especially well with rustic sport coats or suits, such as those made from tweed or corduroy, and they’re quite useful if you wear patterned shirts often. You can wear a patterned tie with a patterned shirt, but a solid, yet textured one will take less thinking and always be tasteful.

Of course, these aren’t the only ties worth buying, and as you expand your collection, it can be nice to pick up things such as dotted silks, ancient madders, and even some unusual designs. However, the above sets a good foundation and helps underscore something important: no matter what you choose for yourself, buy ties that work well with what you typically wear, not just ones that happen to look good on a store’s counter.