WHEN HEADS of state including President Biden, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and outgoing Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi posed for photos at last month’s G-7 Summit in Germany, it was clear they’d reached a consensus on at least one issue: Ties are passed. Though all seven men wore suits and starched white shirts, there was no neckwear in sight.
They lacked, however, a unified policy on how to look polished without a silk knot to complete their ensembles. Most freed just one shirt button, though Mr. Draghi dared to release two. Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s shirt collar, unmoored and splaying wildly, appeared to be flying away more quickly than his grip on his office. Collectively, their outfits looked slapdash, as though they’d gotten dressed with ties that morning but whipped them off just before the camera flashed. (Which may well have been the case.)
“Taking the tie off is a way to say, ‘Hey, I’m relaxed, and I’m going to be open with you,’” said Richard Thompson Ford, professor of law at Stanford University and author of “Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History.” But the leaders’ styling instincts achieved the opposite. “They don’t look comfortable. There’s something awkward about [their outfits],” said Mr. Ford.
“An absentee tie can leave men with an ‘unfinished’ look.”
The scene in Bavaria amplified a niggling issue many men are facing: As dress codes relax and ties increasingly telegraph stuffiness, folks are left to dress without their trusty silk companions for meetings, weddings, cocktail parties and, in Spain, it seems, most government business. On July 29, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that he has urged public officials not to wear ties going forwards, “when it isn’t necessary,” in a bid to save energy (presumably on air conditioning, though he didn’t specify ).
An absentee tie can leave men with an “unfinished” look, said Lauren A. Rothman, a personal stylist to politicians and businessmen in Washington, DC “I see many of my clients struggling…[They’re saying]’I had my collection of designer ties and now [they] feel like too much. What am I going to do next?’”
When there’s no strip of silk to entertain the eye, it’s especially important that the suit fits snugly, said Dag Granath, co-founder of Stockholm tailor Saman Amel. The jacket should sit neatly on your shoulders and hug the back of your neck, he said, praising the G-7 fit of Italy’s Mr. Draghi (far left, above). A quiet, unstructured shoulder—rather than a boxy rope one—is ideal, said London tailor Charlie Casely-Hayford, because the “softer line pairs nicely with an open-collared shirt.” Among his other tips: Higher-waist pants help reduce the tieless “expanse of white space in the middle of your body.”
Both tailors were deeply troubled by Mr. Johnson’s runaway shirt collar. When going sans tie, said Mr. Casely-Hayford, do everything to ensure your collar stays obediently beneath your lapels. Opt for longer, wider collars; spread collars; button-down collars—or sidestep the issue and wear a band-collar shirt. Mr. Casely-Hayford’s top solution? A one-piece collar. Cut from a single piece of cloth—rather than two, like regular collars—it has an unstiff roll that “looks fantastic without ties.”
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Another risk with going tieless: Looking blah without that flash of color. So consider other ways to introduce character, said Mr. Granath. Avoid a shiny, Botox-smooth worsted wool suit, and choose tailoring fabrics with mellow texture: brushed flannel, flecked mélange, herringbone or Birdseye, a cloth dotted with tons of tiny bumps like an armadillo’s armor. No need for bold shades. Navy, chocolate or charcoal work well, said Mr. Granath. Textured fabrics “give something for your eye to rest on without changing the level of formality.”
Zach Garst, a tax consultant in Houston, applies similar thinking to his supporting garments. Since ditching ties post-WFH, Mr. Garst, 25, has been pairing his suits with “more adventurous” button-downs, including supple linen-blend ones and a textural chambray number. He’s also trying out cashmere-linen polo shirts which, he said, “elevate that techy, Mark Zuckerberg blazer-and-T-shirt situation that I don’t necessarily want to be part of.”
For Robert Giaimo, a restorer in McLean, Va., it’s all about accessorizing with colorful touches. “Once the tie’s off, I would never go without a pocket square and fun socks,” said Mr. Giaimo, 70. When attending weddings in recent months, Mr. Giaimo enlivened his sapphire-blue Canali suit with a blush-pink pocket square and matching socks. “[The suit] doesn’t even look close to complete without them,” he said. “It’s a snappy look.” And, possibly, one worthy of the next G-7 stage.
Three unslick suits with alternative shirts to try
1. A Simplified Look
Band-collar shirts can only be worn tieless. An unshiny flannel jacket looks laid-back; a pocket square adds flavor. Jacket, $1,835, Drakes.com; shirt, $280, General Dispensary, 917-472-7018; pocketsquare, $45, ToddSnyder.com
2. A Posh Polo Steps In
Textured with tiny bumps, a Birdseye suit needs no supporting players. A formal-ish, linen-blend, button-down polo completes the breezy affair. Jacket, $895 with suit pants, ProperCloth.com; shirt, Similar styles for $275, TheArmoury.com
3. A Happily Bare Collar
A one-piece collar rolls casually inside a brushed-cashmere flannel jacket. Saman Amel Jacket, about $3,200, available in September, MrPorter.com; shirt, $195, P. Johnson, 917-533-5879; Sunglasses, $385, GarrettLeight.com
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