Q I know you like traditional clothes and neckties, but today there are fewer and fewer times when I wear a tie. Still, I do like to look good and it isn't easy to get a distinctive look with just a jacket, shirt, dress pants and no tie. How do you look really good when going tieless?
A It's all about the collar. Really! When you wear a jacket with an open-at-the-neck shirt, the shirt collar becomes extremely important. This is also true when you're just wearing a good-looking shirt and dress pants without a jacket. Mastering the current tieless look is not as easy as you might think.
When going tieless with a suit, a blazer or a sports jacket, opt for a shirt collar that stands up crisply without wrinkling and does not get stuck under, or lap over, the jacket's lapel. Two different types of shirt collars work well without a tie: one is the traditional button-down collar and the other is the more "fashion look," the straight point collar.
A button-down collar worn open and tieless is a standard Ivy League/preppy way of dressing, somewhat on the casual side. Conventional Ivy Leaguers and professor types almost never abandon this collar; it is definitely in their comfort zone. The look usually includes an Oxford cloth shirt with button (barrel) cuffs (not French cuffs), a single-breasted two-button jacket, and either slip-on loafers or cap-toe lace-ups rather than dressier wingtips. This is a professional, appropriate way that many establishment men dress; it is not a "stylish" look.
But for tieless "style" dressing with a point collar shirt, small elements make a big difference. The length of the collar points is crucial; so is the spread. The collar should not be so short that there is space left between the points and the jacket's lapel, and not so long that the tips pop up over the jacket. In other words, avoid both very short and wide-spread cutaway collars. When going tieless, today's sharp dresser opts for a collar that has been (or looks as if it has been) professionally ironed.
You want something that is crisp and face-framing. Not only should the collar points be the right size, but they should also be kept stiff with removable collar stays. Stays are the easiest way to accomplish that "professionally ironed" look. And, while I know this is something many men will balk at, another factor that adds the right note of crispness to your collar is starch. Men who are truly "into dressing" have their shirts meticulously ironed. They ask for "light starch" for the entire shirt, or merely have the collar and cuffs starched. Either method adds the right amount of polish for a refined, sharp look.
Be sure your shirt is not too big in the collar; you want the open collar to fit and hug the neck nicely. Besides choosing the right shirt collar, the man who wants to look good while tieless should concentrate on expanding his shirt wardrobe to include a variety of handsome shirt patterns. Explore the many great-looking small plaids, tattersalls, mini-checks and interesting textures (from pinpoint Oxford to end-on-end weaves) that are to be found in upscale men's clothing stores and online.
Also, when going tieless in a professional environment, leave only the top one or two buttons open. To some men, going tieless means buttoning up all the buttons, including the top one. Although GQ is currently touting this style, it seems all wrong to me. It calls attention to the fact that you are not wearing a tie and reminds me of the overly-compulsive lead character on reruns of the TV show, "Monk" ... looking foolish. The tieless look should state clearly that losing the tie is a purposeful choice on your part and not related to laziness, comfort, or neglect. Though a handful of young celebrities like Timothee Chalamet and Ryan Gosling may be going for a unique "new" look with the all-buttoned-up shirt, it doesn't solve the problem that, when you wear it, it seems like you forgot your tie.
Please send your men's dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: