To tie or not to tie? That is the defining question of menswear. For Joe Dandy, the tie is perfect for bringing a punch of personality to a man’s wardrobe and artfully expanding his accessory choices.
These days you’re more likely to see the power elite (Joe Dandy’s talking to you, Justin Trudeau) in a suit and crisp, open-collar shirt than decked out in ties. So does this mean that the tie — that erstwhile addition to the corporate wardrobe, that tried and true rite of passage for a young man anticipating his first interview, and the formal evening essential — is facing extinction?
Not even close. While there is a certain je ne sais quoi about an open collar, the tie isn’t going anywhere soon. In the world of business attire, wearing a tie is how man can forge his individuality. In fact, a necktie is often the first thing people notice about a man’s wardrobe — and a bit of colour or brightness, an unusual pattern or a subtle graphic can offer a strong clue to the personality that lies beneath.
Evolution of the Tie
The necktie is said to have begun in the court of French king Louis XIII in the 17th century. It seems the king had hired Croatian cavalrymen as mercenaries during the Thirty Years’ War and he was quite taken with the sophisticated way they knotted scarves around their necks. His court soon adopted this look, replacing their stiff ruffled collars.
It would take hundreds of years for the tie to morph into something resembling what we wear today. Previously, ties were made of tasseled strings, ribbon, embroidered linen and even yards of lace. We have Jesse Langsdorf, a New York tie maker, to thank for the modern tie. In the 1920s, he cut his fabric at a 45-degree angle to the weave and used a three-piece construction to create the tie we see today.
Essential Tie Facts
Ties are not that tricky: tie them a few times, experiment with a few knots and you’ve got the art covered. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind:
Length: Whatever your height, your tie should hit right at the belt line. Not above. Not below. Just right.
Width: the more conservative ties should be about five to seven centimeters at the widest point. Don’t go wider! But you can go skinnier — the thin tie pairs up nicely with a modern-cut suit.
Colour: Solid is respectable, especially if you are looking for a tie to strongly anchor a suit. Remember, the tie should complement the suit or the shirt. Blue and orange, charcoal grey and rose, or black and just about anything make great combinations.
Pattern: A subtle pattern can show a tie off. Too much pattern, however, and no one will be able to take their eyes off your neck wear. As for Santa ties, just don’t unless you’re working on Christmas Day.
Loose vs. Tight: A loose tie, with the knot pulled out slightly and the top button open, says, “I’m not really trying” while really, really trying. A tie is meant to be worn crisp against the collar; it shows you know what you’re doing. If the tie is too tight (it shouldn’t restrict breathing) check your collar size and revisit. Otherwise, keep the loose tie for after work.
Accessories: Yes, even ties have accessories. Thanks to Mad Men, the tie bar is cool again, but it should sit between the third and fourth button of your dress shirt; it should never be wider than the tie; and it should fasten the tie to the shirt, not just keep the tie together. This is also where you can bring in some personality.
Bowties: Bowties are still hot, but the bowtie of today isn’t the same as the one your grandpa wore. In fact, there are a host of options to choose from, some formal, some not so much. Bowties go with just about anything: a suit, a cardigan or an Oxford with the sleeves rolled up.
Pocket Square: While not technically a tie, the pocket square is hot this year. It should be subtle — a simple bit of colour or pattern peeking from the suit pocket. It should complement your tie or shirt. (It shouldn’t necessarily match them and definitely shouldn’t be the focal point.) Remember, subtlety wins. And never use the pocket square as a hanky.
Go Ahead, Tie One On
So yes, you can leave off your tie these days and still achieve a polished business look. But wouldn’t you rather start the conversation with “Nice tie!” and stand out from the crowd with your stellar choice in neckwear? The tie is here to stay.
Tips for Buying a Tie
Handling a tie is crucial; feel the fabric, flip it over and check out the lining and the seams. Here are a few tips to help you in your tie shopping.
1. The ideal tie fabric is silk. Fabrics mimicking silk tend to feel brittle. Wool and cashmere also make great ties.
2. The best tie linings, their sole purpose being to stop the tie from wrinkling, are made with wool.
3. A quality tie will be made from three pieces of fabric, a cheaper one from two.
4. Hold the tie up by the narrow end. It shouldn’t twist and turn. If it does, the material wasn’t cut correctly and the tie won’t hang properly.
5. Inspect the tie for any loose threads or runs in the material; if the finishing isn’t great, the rest of the tie likely isn’t either.
By David Alexander