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20-40-60 Etiquette Men answer: Should I wear a tie?

by Helen Ford Wallace Published: July 22, 2013


Men of  various ages answer questions in this extra edition of the regular 20-40-60 Etiquette column that runs in The Oklahoman and on

QUESTION: Recently, my father received a lifetime achievement award from a golf association in another state. Cocktails for the event, attended by 400 people, were at 5:30 p.m. followed by 6:30 p.m. dinner.

One of the guests, a 40-something male, and I had a conversation about the dress for the event. He noted he was uncertain what to wear given the event’s time, type of event and time of year (warm, summer evening). He wore a suit and tie. Other men wore sport coats with slacks. How do you determine if a tie is necessary?


NICK TANKERSLEY, 30s, Web editor, NewsOK: A tie is only necessary if the invitation clearly states the dress guidelines; otherwise it’s all a matter of personal style and whatever code of etiquette you subscribe to. I only wear a tie when I am wearing an outfit in which it will fit as a part. I don’t force in a tie just to appear more professional or proper. From what I’ve seen, those that wear a tie as a way of saying “look, I’m dressed like a real life grown-up” usually wear the worst, least stylish ties and tend to tie very small, unappealing knots. To summarize, if the rest of your outfit calls out for a tie, then wear a tie; otherwise don’t worry about it.

Now, as for what to wear in such a situation: I tend to favor anything that will keep me from becoming a sodden mess under my clothes. We all sweat, but some of us much more than others. That should have a lot to do with how you dress. There are few accessories less appealing than giant sweat rings under your arms. Dress in a way that will breathe and will keep you comfortable. I would avoid any heavy blazers, and jeans are just as hot and uncomfortable as any pair of wool slacks. There are two questions I would ask myself: 1. Does this look good? 2. Can I wear this all night without passing out? If you answer yes on both accords, then, that’s what you wear.

FORD SANGER, 30s, local businessman: To determine if a tie is necessary, I would consider that this is an evening event with more 400 people. I also would imagine you will see a little of everything when it comes to fashion and dressing for the event. Since this is an award for your family member I would consider wearing a tie and looking your best out of respect. As the evening progresses and if you feel that a tie is too much, you can always take it off and have a more casual look.

BRAD MCNEILL, 40s, owner, A&B Paving: One simple rule: It’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. I would rather wear a tuxedo to the mall than a T-shirt to a wedding. Having said that, ties are for evening attire, usually after 7 p.m., or for formal events such as a wedding or funeral. One other thing is to always wear a sport coat. Even if you don’t have a tie on, a sport coat will cover a multitude of sins. Even if you are wearing jeans, a sports coat will make you look appropriate.

SCOTT KINNAIRD, 50s, executive chairman, A La Mode Inc.: In this current era of relaxed and eclectic dress codes, it’s true everything from ties to jeans will be seen at nice events. Hollywood, fame worship and questionable taste all play a part. But the son, as well as his friend, shouldn’t think twice about wearing a coat and tie to his father’s big night. That’s less of a question about fashion and more a display of basic respect.

CLAY HEALEY, 50s, owner, AIC Title Service LLC: My gut reaction to this question is that if the invitation contains the words “lifetime achievement award” then a suit is appropriate, or at a minimum a tie and sport coat. I feel this way no matter the time of the event, the type of event or the time of year. A person’s lifetime achievement is something to be respected, no matter that the achievement is (“merely”) for golf, or that the event begins in the late afternoon during the heat of the summer. For a warm summer evening, wear a summer suit. Or a summer jacket and tie.

RON JAMES, 60s, independent oil producer: Since 400 golf buddies will be gathered for cocktails, rest assured there will be a broad diversity of dress. I would ask myself a simple question: What would Arnold Palmer wear? Arnie would show up in a sport coat with an open collar. He would shy away from fellows in suit and tie knowing that they are involved in rule-making or undercover tennis players.

Take advantage of this part of the golf game where mulligans are unlimited and memories are remarkably short.

by Helen Ford Wallace
Society Editor
Helen Ford Wallace is a columnist covering society-related events/news for The Oklahoman. She puts local parties online with daily updates. She creates, maintains and runs a Parties blog which includes web casts. She is an online web editor for...
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