It's quite clear that the necktie has been eliminated from the daily office dress code. It was just yesterday that I took a stroll around the City of Sydney and only saw a small handful of men still wearing a tie as they ambulated their way to their jobs. Soon enough, their ties will no longer be around their neck but thrown in the trash never to be worn again.
"The general belief is that when a formerly functional item of clothing becomes purely decorative, it usually doesn’t last more than a generation or two. But that wouldn’t explain why the tie remains a requirement for many offices — perhaps its demise is yet to come."
But why was the tie previously such an important part of the corporate man's dress code?
As Esquire said, the tie is purely fashionable except for one function that we know as the "Arrow Effect".
The Arrow Effect
Let's start with the original function of the neck tie. The primary function of the neck tie is purely fashionable. The length of the tie and the knot acts as an arrow directing the viewer to the wearer's face.
However, the function that the collar is that it creates the sharp ends of the arrow pointing to the wearer's face. The knot and the collars act as the pointer and the body of the tie acts as the body of the arrow.
Why Is The Arrow Effect Important?
Since the tie is being eliminated from the office dress code this causes the "arrow effect" of the tie to be redundant. Instead what's left is a vacuum of space around the torso that doesn't do any pointing.
However, your choice of collar still matters for two reasons. Firstly, the display of the collar manages to balance your accented facial features. Secondly, depending on the kind of collar you choose, it will enable your collars to neatly tuck underneath your jacket lapels.
Here's what I mean using a comparison between a shorter spread collar and an abbreviated cutaway collar when not wearing a tie.
The shirt collar on the left is my own semi-cutaway that I would wear with a tie on occasion. On the right is an image of an abbreviated cutaway collar. We'll talk more on these kinds of shirt collars in a sec.
Can you see how the collar is the most prominent feature of the shirt and no longer the tie? Can you also observe how the collars are laid out underneath the lapels of the jacket to point to the face? The image on the left goes directly vertical, whilst the image on the right with the larger spread cutaway collar is more horizontal.
Due to the fact that the most prominent accent of the shirt is the collar and it directly points to the wearer's face, this is crucial for you to choose the right collar to balance out your facial features.
How to choose the right collar
To keep it plain and simple, if you have a long elongated face opt for a spread collar as to not emphasise the length of your face. If you have a relatively round face (like I do), opt for a smaller collar spread.
Here's what I mean:
Sounds plain and simple right?
Here are the different types of shirt collars that you'll encounter and whether you should wear it without a tie.
Image courtesy of the Parisian Gentlman.
1. Cutaway - Can't go tieless
There are many different styles of cutaway collars that you'll see. Traditionally, the cutaway collar was designed to remove as much of the collar as possible so as to emphasise the knot of the tie.
Would I recommend donning a cutaway collar with no tie? Nope.
The collar seems to almost wrap all the way around the wearer's neck and looks a bit awkward. You may be able to tell that the wearer isn't aware of this no tie rule as he also seems to be wearing a pin-stripe suit jacket separately with his chinos. Which is a no-no.
2. English Spread - Can go tieless with weighted and solid collar stays or magnetic collar stays
The english spread is a less severe version of the cutaway collar. Many bloggers and style forums advise not to go tieless with a cutaway collar as the wider the spread, the harder the collar becomes to tame.
However, if equipped with weighted brass/steel collar stays or better yet magnetic collar stays, english spread collars can be worn.
English spread collars are great for men with long, elongated shaped faces.
Spread collar - Can go tieless
Spread collars is basically the standard collar for whether you wear a tie or not. The formality of the collar is for everyday use and is fairly similar to the English spread. It may be difficult to identify the difference between the regular spread and the English spread.
The easiest way to tell the difference is by comparing the two spreads and length of the collar. Regular spread collars are shorter in length and have a smaller spread. Whilst English spread collar have a wider spread and longer collar lengths.
4. Forward point - Can't go tieless
Forward point collars are made for men who wear ties with their shirts. They're great for men with round circular faces as the point drags down to elongate the face.
They can't be worn with ties as the spread for the tie is not wide enough for the collars to reach underneath your jacket lapels.
Imagine if the tie was removed and top button undone. Can you see how the spread and the length of the collar would not be long enough to tuck underneath the jacket lapels?
This is why forward point collars can't be worn without ties.
5. Snap-tab - Can't go tieless
They're not as popular anymore as they're specifically made to fix the collar down as the wearer dons a tie. It would look awkward to see an undone flap underneath the collar as the wearer is tieless. The tab wouldn't have any useful function except to make things look awkward.
Daniel Craig's James Bond in Skyfall attempted to bring the snap tab collar back into style with no avail. Since the tie isn't coming back anytime soon, neither is this type of collar.
6. Abbreviated spread - Can go tieless. Recommended either not wearing a jacket or using steel/magnetic collar stays
The abbreviated spread is the modern version of the cutaway collar with a slightly smaller spread. The major feature of this collar is the short length of the collars which means if worn with a tie, the tie would also need to be slim to match.
My only concern with the abbreviated collar is that when worn with a jacket, the collars would be too short to remain tucked underneath the lapels and will constantly slide out through the day.
Thus, I'd recommend donning abbreviated spread collared shirts when not wearing a jacket for this upcoming Summer or using magnetic collar stays to keep them fixed in place.
7. Club collar - Can go tieless however no collar stay pockets.
Club collars are an interesting case as they look great with or without a tie. So the choice is really up to you. The only problem with the club collar is that they rarely ever have collar pockets for collar stays. Your only option is to starch your collar to keep it stiff as you wear it without a tie. Got an extra half hour in the morning to starch your shirt? Neither do I.
The origins of the club collar was exclusive to Britain's Eton College but since had spread to civilian use. Kind of like the oxford cloth button down (OCBD) of Oxford university. However, the OCBD has without a doubt maintained popular use since the late 1800s.
On the positive side though, club collars are absolutely perfect for men with sharp edged faces. Especially for those with an angular jawline.
8. Button down collar - Can go tieless
Button down collar are perfect as they eliminate the need for collar stays as they fix down the collar to the shirt and prevent the collars from flopping.
There are button downs that have long and short collars with wide and shorter spreads. So it's totally up to you which you choose relative to your face shape.
The major function of the button down is to neatly fix the collar down to the shirt allowing the wearer to go tieless.
Hint - If your office requires you to wear a jacket, your best bet is to choose a moderately longer shirt collar for the ability to tuck them underneath the lapels of your suit jacket.
There's nothing more off-putting than wearing a shirt underneath your jacket and the collars never seems to tuck underneath. #sloppy
If your office is on the casual side where you won't need to wear a jacket, then you should opt for shorter shirt collars.
"The longer the collar, the more formal the shirt."
For those with elongated faces, your best shirt collar options when going tieless are; English spread cutaways, abbreviated spreads, club collars and short length button down shirts.
For those with round circular faces your best choices are; shorter spread collars with sharper points and long button down collars. Long button down collars are your best friend.
I've created this post as it seems that no one has yet created a simple yet thorough explanation of how to choose the right shirt collar.
I hope this helps you out. If you have any further questions or if any of this isn't clear, then you can shoot me an email personally at "firstname.lastname@example.org".
Raising the collar standard,