Should You Wear a Jacket Without a Tie?

Tips & Tricks

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It’s a popular question that we get asked all the time; it’s probably because you see a lot of men wearing it yet it goes against traditional style rules. We’ll answer this question once and for all definitively, should you wear a jacket without a tie?

Can You Wear A Jacket Without A Tie?

Hell yes! In this day and age, you can wear whatever you want and no one can hinder you. Of course, if you know us, the long answer is it depends.

Why? Because historically, men would not wear a jacket without a tie. Also, keep in mind that just because you can wear whatever you want, doesn’t mean that it’s always advantageous to wear it and so it’s always good to have the right purpose for when you dress.

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A tieless Barack Obama

A tieless Barack Obama

For example, just look at previous presidents Barack Obama or George Bush; they would often be seen wearing a suit with a dress shirt but without a tie. Now, they did that purposefully because they wanted to seem more approachable to the common man and at the same time, be presidential. For most other people, this is a no-go because the business suit is simply too formal to be worn without a tie. That being said, if you dress on purpose and you know what you’re doing, it’s good.

Personally, I break the rules from time to time. Wearing a jacket without a tie is not one of them, at least not very often. But I’ll explain to you when I wear a jacket without a tie and why I usually always have a tie.

Traditional Style Rules For Wearing A Jacket Without A Tie

Patterned sport coat with denim shirt

Patterned sport coat with a denim shirt

1. You can go tieless with very casual and heavily patterned jackets.

It could be also made out of a different material such as linen, cotton, or a blend and they’re just predestined because they’re by definition, more casual and relaxed. Wearing a jacket without a tie is relaxed too and because of that, they go well together.

I see a lot of men wearing orphaned suit jackets that are basically part of a dark business suit but then paired without a tie, it simply looks odd. A tie or a bow tie or maybe even an ascot adds a visual interest in your triangle below your face. If you wear a casual combination such as a sport coat with a pattern as well as a dark blue denim shirt, it also creates some visual contrast and it still highlights your face. So these are combinations where you can really forego the tie.

If your jacket is heavily patterned you can skip the tie

If your jacket is heavily patterned you can skip the tie

In terms of patterns, it includes houndstooth or pepita patterns, maybe a larger Prince of Wales check and even a smaller one, if you have bolder colors in your jacket that’s all a good indicator that it can be worn without a tie. At the same time, if you have a jacket that has stripes in it, be it rope stripes, pinstripes or chalk stripes, that always requires some form of neckwear.

Never skip the tie for striped jackets

Never skip the tie for striped jackets

That being said, never wear a striped jacket without a matching pair of pants because it will immediately look like an orphaned suit jacket which is not very flattering. Also, a pinstripe suit, for example, is quite formal so pairing it with denim or chinos makes it look quite weird. Of course, if you have a coarser linen jacket in a solid color, that can also be worn without a tie because the material makes it casual. So you always have to take everything into consideration.

As a general rule, if you have peak lapels on your jacket, you should always wear it with a tie because peak lapels are always more formal than notch lapels.

A white shirt without a tie is not a good look

A white shirt without a tie is not a good look

2. You can wear a jacket without a tie when the ensemble is rather casual.

Let’s say you’re wearing worn-out boat shoes maybe with some chinos and a jacket, in that case, it would look odd to have a tie because a tie is more formal and the other end is quite informal and you want to avoid those clashes.

At the same time if you, for example, have loafers, a pair of chinos, a dress shirt and a blazer you can definitely wear a tie with that because it’s a little dressier.

Black shoes are wrong for this ensemble

Black shoes are wrong for this ensemble

One combination that I see men wear a lot is a blazer with denim. In that case, denim is quite informal and so I suggest you skip the tie. That being said, don’t wear black shoes with your outfit because black shoes are more formal, denim is informal, a blazer is somewhat in between. If you then wear a white shirt without a tie, everything looks off in terms of formality and it’s just not a pleasing look.

3. You can skip the tie when you’re at a moment’s notice.

Let’s say you’re at the office and you just quickly learn that a customer came in and you have a jacket hanging there. Yes, put on a jacket. It’s more formal than if you had no jacket at all and it’s okay to skip the tie in that particular situation. But ideally, you just have a tie somewhere that you can put on when you’re required to.

It is a good idea to have any form of neckwear handy for unexpected events

It is a good idea to have any form of neckwear handy for unexpected events

4. You go to a party and you are unsure of the dress code.

In that case, it might make sense to have a little bow tie tucked away or a regular tie, maybe in the car, so you can quickly put it on. Alternatively, you can maybe even forego the jacket because if you’re the only person there in a jacket and everyone else is in a Hawaiian shirt, it makes you look really weird.

Always keep in mind that a piece of neckwear such as a tie formalizes your outfit and so taking off your jacket but keeping on your tie makes you look like a little flower boy at a wedding and it’s not a look you want to go for. That being said, it takes five seconds to take off a tie.

A stained tie is not a great sight

A stained tie is not a great sight

5. You actually stain your tie.

It happened to me before, I stained my tie during lunch. It just looked odd so I just took it off and it creates an overall better look than having a tie that is stained.

A casual dress shirt

A casual dress shirt

6. You can forego the tie if your shirt is quite casual.

By that, I mean you have a summer shirt and of a linen blend maybe in a pink, orange or yellow tone. Alternatively, it could be a shirt with checks in multiple colors. Also, the style of the collar has an impact on it. For example, a button-down collar is more casual and can be worn open very easily without a tie. Also, there are shirt collars that are tailored to be worn without a tie and open and obviously, you should not put a tie on those either.

As a general rule, the more casual your shirt is, the better it is to be worn without a tie. Of course, other factors such as accessories in your jacket come into play as well but just looking at the shirt, that’s the rule.

Avoid loud boutonnieres and pocket squares

Avoid loud boutonnieres and pocket squares

Few Things To Keep In Mind If You Go Tieless

Always wear either a pocket square or a boutonniere and you can even pull off both. You need something in your chest pocket that creates a visual element of interest at the same time, it makes your overall appearance look a lot more polished.

If you want to wear a boutonniere as well as a pocket square without a tie, they have to really work well together and balance each other out. By that I mean, choose a flower that’s very small and unassuming such as a small blue boutonniere.

You want to avoid bright boutonniere and pockets square colors because otherwise, it’s too flashy. Also, consider the size of your lapel, if you have a very skinny lapel, I’d probably skip the boutonniere. If it’s medium to wide, you can add one but always avoid a large boutonniere in bright colors with a pocket square because it looks just odd without a tie.

When Should You Not Skip The Necktie?

Alright now that you know when you can skip the tie, let’s talk about the occasions when your jacket always requires one.

Faint stripe suit dotted tie and white linen pocket square

Faint stripe suit dotted tie and white linen pocket square from Fort Belvedere

1. Whenever You Wear A Suit

You need a tie whenever you wear a suit which means you wear a matching pair of pants and a jacket. A suit is generally quite formal especially when it’s a darker business suit. There may be exceptions to that, for example, if you have a tobacco brown linen suit and in that case, you might forego the tie but as a general rule, if you wear a suit, a tie is always the best choice.

The reason is that the tie is a visual focal point that ties the outfit together. Frankly, I made this mistake once when I applied for law school. I wore a dark navy single-breasted business suit with a red silk pocket square, a white shirt and without a tie. I thought I didn’t want to be too formal and skipped the tie but looking back, I should have just chosen a different outfit altogether. At the end of the day, if you wear a suit, you show that you respect traditional clothes rules and because of that you should wear it properly with some neckwear.

A perfect outfit for a casual friday at the office - do not miss the tie

A perfect outfit for a casual Friday at the office – do not miss the tie

2. If You Incorporate Traditional Business Colors

Let’s say you have a dark navy blazer with a pair of gray flannel pants, overall, that is a combination which is generally less formal in a suit but it’s a very business appropriate combination and because of that, you should always have a necktie. If you’re not a friend of neckties or you want to be different, you can also try to wear an ascot or maybe a bow tie.

Notice that all men are wearing neckties

Notice that all men are wearing neckties

3. For Very Formal & Dignified Events

At those events, you never want to look half dressed and at a wedding, some people might forego the tie but at a funeral, you certainly can never forego the tie because it’s a solemn event that you attend because you want to show respect to the deceased as well as the family.

Mercer and Sons Button Down collar with S-curve

Mercer and Sons Button Down collar with S-curve

4. If Your Shirt Collar Is Not Conducive To Being Worn Without A Tie

That’s the case if your collar is too big and would collapse on itself without the stability of the tie or if the shirt collar tips would make their way out on top of the lapel because that’s a very 70’s look that makes it look pretty dated.

Likewise, if you have formal collars with a larger spread, I suggest you go with a tie. At the same time, if you have a button-down collar, for example, they’re more conducive to be worn without a tie.

A definite style don't: a visible undershirt

A definite style don’t: a visible undershirt

5. If Your Undershirt Would Peek Out

Some men love undershirts and that’s fantastic but if your undershirt is really a t-shirt and it peeks out underneath your shirt collar when it’s unbuttoned, it’s simply a no-go and a fashion faux pas.

So you have two options, either you wear a necktie or ascot or you get an undershirt that has a deep cut out so it doesn’t show and that way you can forego the tie.

Matt Letscher as Joe Kennedy and Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson in a still from Boardwalk Empire.

Matt Letscher as Joe Kennedy and Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson in a still from Boardwalk Empire.

6. When You Have Formal Dress Shirts

What makes dress shirts formal? In a nutshell, if your dress shirt features French cuffs for cufflinks, then it’s formal and should be worn with a tie. If your dress shirt is solid white and has French cuffs, the same is true.

Ralph Lauren Gray Flannel Suit & Blue Winchester Shirt

Ralph Lauren Gray Flannel Suit & Blue Winchester Shirt

7. If You Are Wearing A Winchester Shirt

Last but not least, if you have a Winchester shirt which means you have either a contrasting collar which is usually white or a contrasting collar and shirt cuffs, then that makes it more formal and you should always wear it with a tie.

How often do you go without a tie? What are your favorite tieless outfits?

Should You Wear a Jacket Without a Tie?
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Should You Wear a Jacket Without a Tie?
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A definitive guide on how to wear your jackets without a necktie.
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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