How to Wear a Suit Without Looking Like a Mannequin

The mannequin look is a serious problem.

I see men around town everyday wearing suits and looking more like mannequins than men in suits. The suit is wearing them, they are not wearing it. It makes me sad. They’re missing out on the joys of expression you can have through suiting.

How is it this happens? Well, you’ve probably seen it before.

Plain suit, plain shirt with open collar. No pocket square or personalisation of any kind. I call it the mannequin look.

Which is probably unkind to mannequins, because usually someone goes to the effort of accessorising them to look pleasing.

Anyway, let’s get to it; it’s easy to wear a suit without looking like a mannequin:


This is the simplest way to avoid looking like a mannequin. Personally, I avoid wearing a suit without a tie most of the time. Simon Crompton often comments that a suit without a necktie looks incomplete, and I agree with that statement.

This isn’t to say you can’t go and do that. A louder shirt may make up for a lack of necktie – especially if the suit is worn casually – but whether you pull that off comes down to your individual style.

I don’t mind the uber-casual suiting trend of wearing a white tee and crisp white kicks with a suit. Something about it appeals to me, though I’m yet to do it.

You don’t HAVE to wear a tie. At the very least though, you need to pop a pocket square in that breast pocket. A total lack of accessories will have you looking like a mannequin, guaranteed.

You don’t have to wear a pocket square.

It’s a common misconception among people in the classic menswear space that you have to wear a pocket square with suits or jackets, and that to do otherwise would be unstylish.

This isn’t the case. Sometimes, your outfit is busy enough with patterns and colours and a pocket square may be the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back. Perhaps you have a tie that commands attention and a pocket square would detract from the tie’s effect. So, you leave it out.

Here’s an example from Nik Nystrom:

His shirt and tie are both loud, bold patterns. He’s kept the jacket and tie to block colours and deliberately omitted a pocket square, because the two present patterns are more than enough for the eye to take in. It’s a great example of when to leave the pocket empty.

If you’re wearing a lapel chain, it’s also a good idea to leave the pocket squares at home. One accessory per zone is enough, two’s a crowd in this context. Overloading your outfit with accessories doesn’t constitute sprezzatura, taste does.

An aside: great accessories won’t save a poor quality suit.

Your accessory game can be on point, but it won’t matter much without the basics being right. Make sure your suit is a quality build, made from quality fabric and make sure it’s a quality fit!

A cheap polyester suit with amazing tie and pocket square is still going to be a cheap polyester suit.

Related reading: Complete Guide to Choosing The Perfect Suit Jacket

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune to get a decent suit; keep your eye on the clearance sections or if you know your measurements, shop online for new or second hand.

In conclusion: tie, pocket accessory or both!

All you need in order to wear a suit without looking like a mannequin is an accessory! Whether it be a tie, pocket square, lapel pin, lapel chain or a combination of some; accessorise! No office is too conservative for a simple necktie.

That’s all for today!

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Do you have a favourite accessory? Drop a comment below.

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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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