Bolder Ties for a Less Boring Look

Bold ties have a bad reputation, and perhaps for good reason. In the 1940s, shortly after the war, wild tie designs took the US by storm, creating what Esquire would later coin as “the American bold look.” Perhaps it’s because livelier ties helped uplift men’s spirits, or because an embattled Britain could no longer supply the US with its usual materials. Whatever the reason, rayon and Dacron replaced silk, and conservative patterns were forgotten in favor of more flamboyant designs. Rummage through the discount bin in any thrift store today and you can see some of them: ties made with African or Indian iconography, large motifs of pin up girls, or just strange designs inspired by art movements from the early 20th century.

There are times, however, when a bolder tie can look good, and just because many bold ties have been designed poorly (both in the past and today), doesn’t mean that every one should be avoided. Just check out some of the examples above, which I took from Anderson & Sheppard’s vanity book, A Style is Born. Impeccably well-dressed men wearing slightly more interesting designs. There’s a bright fuchsia tie that makes a grey suit look more cheery; a paint splattered grey tie that makes a navy suit look more interesting; and a green tie with an unusual motif that looks not too unlike those 1940s designs I mentioned earlier. For an even bolder look, check out this photo of Barima Nyantekyi, who was shot by Rose Callahan for her book on modern-day dandies. Few men will ever look that good. 

There are a couple of companies I like for bold neckwear. Morigi Milano has some old, deadstock Arnys designs, which were made before the company was sold to the luxury conglomerate LVMH. Their old tie designer, Dominique Lelys, has started his own line called Le Lys, which is available at Cuffs, but the designs aren’t as whimsical (they do have contrasting front and back blades, however, like some of Zegna’s ties). In addition, I really like Drake’s and Battistoni, although many of Battistoni’s better designs are hard to find in the US (they’re carried at Barney’s, but the selection is often not that appealing). Our friend Niyi also has a great line using fabrics from Nigeria, and he’s having a sale at the moment, with a new fall line dropping soon. Lastly, our advertiser Chipp has what they call their “conversational ties,” which have cleverly hidden messages. You can see some of them being worn by Voxsartoria.

Of course, I think most men do best with a drawer full of basic, conservative neckwear. Lots of repp stripes, foulards, and grenadines in dark colors such as navy, dark brown, and forest green. But it also doesn’t hurt to have a few more interesting pieces as well. Things don’t always have to be so boring. 

"Elegance in an Age of Crisis" Exhibit

I swear, New York City seems to get all the awesome menswear-related events. Sample sales, tradeshows, and really, really fantastic exhibits like this one. 

The Museum at FIT (the Fashion Institute of Technology) is holding a special exhibitions gallery from February 7th until April 19th on the fashions of the 1930s. That’s the decade that’s most often considered the “Golden Age” for classic men’s style, and the single most influential time for how we think of classic men’s dress today. 

The exhibit will feature both men’s and women’s clothing, and have a number of outstanding examples of bespoke tailoring from that period. Seen above? The first is a cream jacket from Rubinacci, a tailoring house in Naples, Italy. It’s made from tussah silk, which is a textured material somewhat like the nubby stuff we see advertised today as “raw silk.” This was considered to be a very aristocratic cloth at the time in Naples. The man who made the jacket was Vincenzo Attolini, a Neapolitan tailor who’s most often credited with having invented the soft shouldered, “deconstructed” Neapolitan cut. It is a style that today has defined Neapolitan tailoring. 

The smoking jacket you see in the middle was made by Gardner and Wooley. It was tailored from green velvet and satin. Gentlemen used to wear these at home when they were smoking tobacco (usually in the form of pipes or cigars), or just when they were lounging about, entertaining guests or hosting semi-formal occasions. The jacket’s purpose was to prevent smoke or ashes from getting onto the wearer’s business clothes or formalwear. 

Finally, the three-piece suit you see at the end was made by Anderson & Sheppard in London. It’s difficult to tell from the small photo, but if you look closely, you can see the chest is cut a bit full. Notice how there’s extra cloth that “drapes” vertically near the armholes? This is what’s known as the “drape cut,” a style that was invented by the Dutch-English tailor Frederick Scholte and then popularized by Edward VIII (better known to some as the Duke of Windsor). Scholte later passed his technique on to an apprentice named Per Anderson, who of course is the “Anderson” in Anderson & Sheppard. It may interest some readers to know that the drape cut was also the precursor to the zoot suit, which was a style deeply embedded in both jazz music and racial politics in 1940’s America. Many may be familiar with the history of the Zoot Suit Riots

Anyway, as I was saying, the exhibit opens next week. It was co-curated by Bruce Boyer, a remarkable menswear writer (having penned some of my favorite books, such as Elegance and Eminently Suitable) and a previous guest in our video series. I’m deeply sad I’m not in NYC and thus won’t be able to go. On the upside, there’s a book being released that will give a more in-depth study of the clothes featured. I’ve already put in a pre-order.