In response to my last post, a reader named Tessa asked:
[W]hat are good ways to dress down a tie? I really enjoy wearing ties, especially at gay bars, where a woman in a tie isn't necessarily out of place. But I don't want to look like I'm trying to be formal when I'm just out dancing with my friends.
Great question! I can certainly sympathize: I'm rarely in formal settings, yet leap at any semi-plausible opportunity to don neckwear. Two key things to remember: (1) inject some whimsy and/or color and/or self-awareness; (2) keep the pants casual. Let's check out a few approaches.
1. Throw on a colorful or super-casual jacket or sweater. Check out the picture at left. A white shirt and black tie alone would be way too formal. The sweater with a T-shirt, too casual. Combine 'em both, and the look is bold, fun, and colorful. The two looks below illustrate the same idea. A denim jacket (left), varsity-jacket (right; must be worn ironically), or even a black leather jacket are great ways to say, "Yeah, I'm wearing a tie. And I'm having a freakin' blast doing it."
2. Pull a hat trick. A casual hat, like the driver's cap this model is wearing (right), is dapper and does a nice job dressing down the tie. The pants aren't super casual, but see how they're dressed down with a pair of Vans and a casual watch? That ensures that you know she's going for a look, not just randomly throwing on the first hat she found in her closet. (That watch is good for dressing down. I got one on Amazon last year and it's held up great. A steal for $14.96. This calculator watch for $14.99 would do the trick, too.)
By the way, it helps to know thyself. Be aware of your own look. If you have a mohawk, or wear ear gauges/tunnels/plugs, or sport a bunch of visible tattoos, your look will likely be easier to dress down, since you already look less formal. On the other hand, if you're like me and have none of the above, you're going to have to add one or two additional accouterments to dress down a tie to the same degree.
6. Cultivate the "self-aware nerd" look. This is a close enough cousin of the un-self-aware nerd look that it can be a little risky, but it's definitely worth a shot. Note the throwback glasses and rolled up sleeves? The two butches below are totally stealing my fashion moves.
7. Mix prints. Click on the pic at right if you can't see it well on your screen. (This guy is apparently a famous actor, but I'm not always clued in on the culture loop--e.g., my recent introduction to the concept of "jeggings.") He has on a red gingham print under a vest with a much larger pattern in beiges and browns. His skin tone and musculature no doubt help, but the match works because he's mixed a small print with a large one (so the two don't compete), plus there's no color clash happening. He's mixed prints, but only one color is poised to "pop." If his vest was a green plaid, I'm not sure anyone could pull it off (well, except maybe Rachel Maddow).
Have a blast dressing down your ties, #teambutch! And send in your pics--I want to see you rocking these looks.