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.”

Why Pay for Canvas?

As many readers know, suit jackets and sport coats mainly come in three types of construction: fused, half-canvassed, and fully-canvassed. A fused jacket will have a lightweight fusible interlining sandwiched in-between the two outer shell fabrics, and a canvassed one will have a canvas made from animal hair (usually horse or camel) mixed with either cotton or wool. Generally speaking, canvassed jackets will cost considerably more than fused ones. So why pay for them?

Well, one of the reasons is that a canvassed jacket will have a lot more three-dimensional shape. Animal hair can be molded using steam, heat, and pressure, much like how a woman’s hair can be shaped using a hot curling iron. With that shape, you get a much more beautiful garment. 

Take a look above. The top most photo is of Alan See with his lovely wife at the menswear trade show Pitti Uomo. He’s seen here wearing a three-piece suit by Liverano & Liverano, a bespoke tailoring house in Florence, Italy. Notice how his lapel line “blooms” as it moves from the buttoning point to his shoulders? It has a “roll” to it, rather than being pressed flat against his chest. Similarly, just below him are JefferyD and MostExerent, both of which also have nice, shapely lapels that “roll” near their buttoning points.

To understand how this is achieved, look at the bottommost photo above (also taken from JefferyD). Moving from left to right, the first material is haircloth, which is made from wiry horsetail strands. This is used to add shape to the chest and shoulders (ever put on a Tom Ford suit and feel like you’re wearing a prosthetic chest? This is because he puts in a ton of haircloth into his suits). The second material is wrapped haircloth, which is a softer, more affordable alternative. Next, we have a wool canvas (the brown material) and a fusible (the black material). These are added on top of the haircloth and extend from the shoulders to the hem (the haircloth is only in the chest). Notice that the brown wool canvas has a natural roll to it while the black fusible is limp. This natural roll is what gives those lapels their “bloom.” 

Of course, this isn’t to say that fused garments aren’t worth buying. They’re considerably more affordable, which is nice if you’re on a budget or if your tastes are still developing. It can take a long, long time for your tastes to settle and for you to develop an eye for what truly fits and flatters you the most. It would be a shame if you had to make your mistakes on much more expensive garments. 

If you have the money, however, and you feel confident in your choices, canvassed garments can be much more handsome. And once you own some, know how to best preserve their shape (after all, that’s what you paid for). Make sure your jackets aren’t smashed against each other in your closet and use hangers with wide, flared out shoulders. Our advertiser The Hanger Project sells some really nice ones, but if you want something more affordable, check out Wooden Hangers USA. Also, stay away from bad dry cleaners, as they can really press the life out of your jackets’ lapels, shoulders, and chests. I ship my stuff to RAVE FabriCare, but you can look for someone more local. Finally, be careful with garment steamers, and don’t hang your jackets in the bathroom while taking a shower. Steam will take out the wrinkles, it’s true, but it’ll also take out the shape. If that ever happens, you can send your jacket to a place that gives a good handpressing. That should be done every once in a while anyway, just so your jackets can maintain their form. 

(Photos via NY Mag, JefferyD, and MostExerent)

The Simple Pleasure of Wearing Clothes
Many menswear writers like the overload the simple topic of how men should dress with an unnecessary amount of complications. There are rules and theories for everything, and a background of esoteric terms for fabric types and clothing details that you have to memorize in order to understand those rules. On some level, I think men largely benefit from understanding these things. We at Put This On, obviously, try to present some of them to our readers. At the same time, one shouldn’t let these theories muddle the simple pleasure of getting dressed. The act of waking up, pawing through your closet, and then slipping into the clothes you’ve selected for yourself can be a very enjoyable part of one’s day.
In a recent documentary, Tom Ford explained this scene from A Single Man, where his distraught protagonist George drags himself out of bed in order to get dressed. The scene wasn’t in the original book Ford based his movie on, but he put it in because it related to him. When he’s in a deep and dark depression, one of the things he enjoys doing is putting on a suit. “It might be false,” he said in the documentary, “but I feel like if I shine my shoes, put on a tie, and make myself look as good as I can possibly look, I feel better. That somehow it’s armor; it’s a ritual that I go through.”
And isn’t that what’s enjoyable about clothes? Aside from making us look better at job interviews and first dates, nice clothes are enjoyable simply in and of themselves. I enjoy putting on a pair of wool trousers, a perfectly fitting dress shirt, and my favorite sweater even if I’m planning to stay home.
Apart from dampening our love for dressing, I worry that a hyper-rational, over-thought approach to dressing can needlessly confuse men. Perhaps they’ll fumble their way through their closet and ignore their own intuitions (or worse still, fail to develop one). Or they fall back into a kind of unimaginative “paint by numbers” approach to dressing. The latter seems particularly joyless to me.
So, by all means, take what you can get from books and websites about classic men’s style. I think many of them are helpful. But at the same time, learn to train your own eye for what looks good. I still think one of the best ways is by observing others. Develop a sensitivity for the nuances of how and why certain things work, and apply it to your own sense of style. Most importantly, even more than learning about whether black or brown shoes go best with fawn gabardine trousers, learn how to enjoy wearing clothes. There’s a lot of pleasure in it. 

The Simple Pleasure of Wearing Clothes

Many menswear writers like the overload the simple topic of how men should dress with an unnecessary amount of complications. There are rules and theories for everything, and a background of esoteric terms for fabric types and clothing details that you have to memorize in order to understand those rules. On some level, I think men largely benefit from understanding these things. We at Put This On, obviously, try to present some of them to our readers. At the same time, one shouldn’t let these theories muddle the simple pleasure of getting dressed. The act of waking up, pawing through your closet, and then slipping into the clothes you’ve selected for yourself can be a very enjoyable part of one’s day.

In a recent documentary, Tom Ford explained this scene from A Single Man, where his distraught protagonist George drags himself out of bed in order to get dressed. The scene wasn’t in the original book Ford based his movie on, but he put it in because it related to him. When he’s in a deep and dark depression, one of the things he enjoys doing is putting on a suit. “It might be false,” he said in the documentary, “but I feel like if I shine my shoes, put on a tie, and make myself look as good as I can possibly look, I feel better. That somehow it’s armor; it’s a ritual that I go through.”

And isn’t that what’s enjoyable about clothes? Aside from making us look better at job interviews and first dates, nice clothes are enjoyable simply in and of themselves. I enjoy putting on a pair of wool trousers, a perfectly fitting dress shirt, and my favorite sweater even if I’m planning to stay home.

Apart from dampening our love for dressing, I worry that a hyper-rational, over-thought approach to dressing can needlessly confuse men. Perhaps they’ll fumble their way through their closet and ignore their own intuitions (or worse still, fail to develop one). Or they fall back into a kind of unimaginative “paint by numbers” approach to dressing. The latter seems particularly joyless to me.

So, by all means, take what you can get from books and websites about classic men’s style. I think many of them are helpful. But at the same time, learn to train your own eye for what looks good. I still think one of the best ways is by observing others. Develop a sensitivity for the nuances of how and why certain things work, and apply it to your own sense of style. Most importantly, even more than learning about whether black or brown shoes go best with fawn gabardine trousers, learn how to enjoy wearing clothes. There’s a lot of pleasure in it. 

Tom Hanks. World Champion.
I’m even throwing my support behind the slightly louche tie. That’s called panache.
(Side note: at what point did Tom Ford get the exclusive concession on making showbusiness dudes look like anything other than goofuses at these events? It is possible to dress formally, elegantly, respectfully and still have some flair, people other than Tom Ford.)

Tom Hanks. World Champion.

I’m even throwing my support behind the slightly louche tie. That’s called panache.

(Side note: at what point did Tom Ford get the exclusive concession on making showbusiness dudes look like anything other than goofuses at these events? It is possible to dress formally, elegantly, respectfully and still have some flair, people other than Tom Ford.)

Tom Ford: Visionary

Look past the fashion-industry required nonsense talk, and I think you’ll find an interesting a very smart man in Tom Ford. I certainly found this hour-long special from the Oprah network worth my time.

It’s on Overstock.com

I like the fact that this post is going to reward people who spend their Friday nights at home surfing menswear blogs. Your dedication is rewarded. 

Three good deals at Overstock.com right now:

Superga 2750 Classic for $29.99: My favorite plimsoll. I wrote about them for the Five Days of Summer series. I think they retail between $65 and $90, normally. Oh, and they also have them in navy and camel for the same price.

Tom Ford aviator sunglasses for $149.99: These typically retail for $300. They’re one of the best aviators out there, in my opinion. I hate to do “celebrity styling” shots, but this photo of Brad Pitt gives a decent sense of how they would look when worn (assuming the shape of your face is similar to his). A Head Long Dive also made a good post about them last year.

Timex Easy Reader for $22.49: Again, something I wrote in my Five Days of Summer series. Not that big of a savings here, as this normally retails for about $35, but I wanted to include three things to round this post out, so here you go. 

I really don’t have a problem with his designs, other than the price, but every time I see a picture of Tom Ford, I am terrified.  He looks like he’s about to eat a siamese cat.

I really don’t have a problem with his designs, other than the price, but every time I see a picture of Tom Ford, I am terrified.  He looks like he’s about to eat a siamese cat.

“Americans have grown too accustomed to being comfortable. I find a different kind of comfort when I know I look good.” — Tom Ford, quoted in a call to arms on Less.Gentle.Men

Designer-turned-director Tom Ford talks about his first film A Single Man with Elvis Mitchell.