IS THE TIE DEAD? Is a question that was put to me by Alex recently.
Is the tie dead?
Certainly, in the more modern and progressive workplaces (particularly in the creative world), ties are almost anathema. Whilst open collar shirts are acceptable, a tie really is a step too far beyond the smart-casual or business-casual look.
Despite this, however, a tie does remain a mainstay of smart wear. Job interviews, weddings and funerals all call for that piece of fabric tied around one’s neck.
I suspect, that whilst the styles of tie have changed over time, and will continue to do so, I very much doubt the tie will ever be forever confined to the history books.
A Brief History of Tie
We’ve got the Croatians to thank for the origins of the tie. During the Thirty Years War all the way back in the 17th Century, the intricate designs on the fabric used to tie the top of Croatian mercenaries’ uniforms piqued the interest of Louis XIV. At a mere 7 years of age, he took a fancy to this particular fashion and set a trend among the French nobility – the Cravat.
The cravat then went on its merry way to be proliferated throughout the world, whereupon it would go through a series of evolutions. The style of knot used to tie a cravat, and its associated complexity, became a signifier of a man’s wealth and standing in society. Equally, regimental striped ties were used to show membership of clubs, teams or schools, and further served as an indication of standing in society.
Whilst regimental ties typically have their stripes going from the left shoulder to right hip, Brookes Brothers introduced a range of ties with stripes in the opposite to differentiate from these regimental ties.
It wasn’t really until the Industrial Revolution that the tie as we know it today came about, largely out of a need for something that was easy to tie and would last an entire day at work. Though widths, lengths, decoration and manufacturing methods have changed over time, the fundamental style of tie hasn’t changed since then.
Ties in the Modern Day
I’ve discussed before in my What is it with Men and Watches article, that we men have few real opportunities to differentiate ourselves and show some character in our dress sense. Ties, I believe, offer one such opportunity, and worn right can be a strong weapon in your arsenal of accessories.
The most simple way to differentiate yourself from the masses is to tie your tie properly. Choose the right knot for your shirt and tie it right. There’s nothing worse than someone with a fist-sized, loose knot sat around their neck. So learn the three main knots you should have at your disposal: The Four-in-Hand, The Half-Windsor and The Full-Windsor. Fortunately, Ties.com have a very helpful guide, with illustrations and videos on how to tie all three of these and even more esoteric knots.
If you’re wearing a shirt with a narrow spread collar, you’ll want to go with a narrower knot. The Four-in-Hand is perfect for this, though you have to go without some symmetry in the knot. As a result, this type of knot is also good for more informal occasions where you might choose to pair a skinny tie worn slightly slack around a shirt with its top button undone.
As your collar spread gets wider, it’s best then to progress first to a Half-Windsor and then to a Full-Windsor. These knots are more formal, and a little trickier to tie, but best compliment a smarter suit or blazer.
Length matters. In fact, it matters so much, and so many people get it wrong, that I’m going to devote a whole section to it.
Look, it’s simple. Your tie should be long enough so that when you’re standing up straight, the tip of it should touch the middle of your waistband/belt.
Too long or short looks ridiculous. Plus, if you’re tall and lanky, wearing a short tie will only make you look more so. If you’ve got a bit of a belly, a short tie will only accentuate and draw attention to your paunch.
It takes a bit of practice to get right, and I’m sure tying and untying your tie until you get the length ‘just so’ is the last thing you want to do, but getting it right makes all the difference.
Colours and Patterns
Thank God the novelty ties of the 80’s and 90’s are gone. Except for those who continue to wear/buy them. Don’t be one of them.
There’s a huge array of colours, patterns and materials at your disposal. You can use a brightly coloured tie to make an otherwise muted suit ‘pop’. Equally, an extravagant pocket square paired with one of your otherwise conservative ties can make a whole outfit come together.
Experiment. See what works and what doesn’t. A word of caution, though – don’t go too OTT. It’s best not to mix a multitude of patterns and colours, or you’ll start to look like a clown. If your shirt has a bold strip, it might be best to go for a solid colour tie. Also, whilst your tie should complement your pocket square, it’s generally inadvisable to match their colours and patterns exactly.
In all honesty I rarely wear a tie, but when I do, I always find it bolsters my confidence. So, whether you wear a tie every day or once in a blue moon – wear it with pride!
Nathan Stowe owns and writes for Manporium.com, The Luxury Blog for Men.