It’s On Sale: Drake’s of London

The clearance sale at Drake’s ends on Thursday and it’s worth taking a look over what remains in stock (I believe they’ve added items since the sale first started). There are plenty of non-solid grenadine ties in stripes and patterns and several uniquely designed ancient madder ties as well (they always seem to have the best designs, in my opinion). Pocket squares and scarves are on sale, too. 

For those wondering, a VAT discount is applied and ties seem to start at around $80. I can understand the price can still be a bit high for some, however, I can honestly say that I’ve never owned a Drake’s tie that wasn’t superbly made and didn’t knot beautifully. 


The Necktie Series, Part V: “Novelty” ties

It may seem strange to talk about novelty ties when discussing a basic, minimal necktie wardrobe. However, an overly basic necktie wardrobe can be, frankly, a bit boring. Sometimes you want something a bit more novel and playful. The key here is to choose something fun without crossing into kitsch. I’ve chosen three options for you to consider and included some photos to illustrate what I think are perfect executions. When these are done right, they can be excellent variations on the staples I’ve been talking about this week. 

Bicolor knits

Bicolor knits are possibly the most underrated thing in menswear right now. As I noted, you’ll soon find that knit ties are some of the most versatile that you can buy. Most men, fortunately or unfortunately, find themselves in increasingly casual settings, and a knit tie works best for these environments. Solid knits are great, but for a little more punch, I recommend bicolor knits. These ties are made with two different colored yarns and, if the yarns are woven in a slightly open weave, they can slightly vary in color depending on the angle they’re seen from. They’re absolutely stunning in person. 

Gallo and Drakes are probably the most well-known makers. Unfortunately, you can only get Gallo in Italy, and they sell for about $125. Drakes is a bit more easily obtained, since they have an online store, but they still run about $150. They also don’t carry them all the time. 

Much more affordable are Kent Wang’s, which sell for $75. His are made on an older loom, which means there is an overlapping seam on the back. This gives it a bit more of a three-dimensional appearance, which I like. Newer looms make them just like socks, so the seams lay flat. 

Other options include A Suitable Wardrobe, which has a very nice bicolor, and The Dandy Store. You can get 15% off your order at The Dandy Store by punching in the code: WELCOME_STYLEFORUMERS

For the bold, get two high-contrast colors such as brown and navy. For something subtler, try something like a dark purple and navy. The color combinations here are endless. 

 Raw silks

The term raw silk can be a bit confusing. In the silk industry (more professionally known as sericulture), I’ve seen the term “raw silk” refer to pure silk fibers that haven’t been treated with any chemicals. I’ve also seen it refer to silks that haven’t been stripped of their sericin, the gooey substance that sheaths the silk when it leaves the silkworm’s lips. 

For ties, however, it seems that the term generally refers to silks taken from wild silk worms. In traditional silk production, silk worms are raised on a “silk farm.” Once these worms have encased themselves in their cocoons, workers drop them into hot water in order to kill them and remove the sticky sericin. The cocoons are then brushed until the end of the silk filament is found, at which point they’re carefully unraveled and spun onto spools. You can see a wonderful video of the process here

Thus, raw silks in this case refer to a deviation from the traditional process - when the worms aren’t killed, but instead allowed to transform into moths. Once the moths are newly formed, they secrete an alkali fluid that dissolves a hole in the cocoon so that they can emerge. The hole breaks the silk filament into shorter fibers, which are then spun like cotton or hemp, rather than reeled onto a spool in one continuous strand.

There are two main types of raw silks - shantung and tussah. Both combine irregular thick and thin yarns in the warp and weft. This creates an uneven surface and color, which gives it a slightly rough and textured hand. However, shantung typically will have the sericin left on, which makes it feel a bit more thick. It will also have less of a sheen than tussah will have. 

For me, the upside to raw silks is almost all in its slubby quality. Knits and grenadines are great ways to add texture, but nothing beats the uniqueness of a slubby raw silk tie. Drakes so far seems to be the only maker of slubby ones. They’re a bit expensive, but you can’t argue with how amazing their ties are. 

Contrasting blades

Finally, we have ties with contrasting blades. I’ve always liked these. When I need the tie to be a bit more traditional, I tuck the blade into the keeper; when I want something a bit more playful, I don’t. When you move naturally throughout the day, the blade peeks out in a playful manner, which I think makes the tie a bit more fun. I’ve included a photo of GW with his contrast color Zegna tie. You can also see Wale wear one in his “You in Reverse” video (which, by the way, is a must see). 

There are a few companies that make these. Pierrepont Hicks has for a while now. I’ve never handled one personally, but Jesse wore one of their bow ties in his last video. Another excellent option is Sam Hober. Since Hober’s ties are all bespoke, you can ask for a contrasting blade, in any color, on any tie. I’ve showcased an example of one of his latest commissions in the photo montage above. I have to admit I’m not that crazy about the color combination, but that’s the client’s choice. The craftsmanship on a Hober tie, however, is one of the best on the market. I’m actually thinking about commissioning a contrast blade tie from him sometime this month. 

So that’s it. This past week I’ve covered your necktie staples and discussed some “novelty ties,” just for the sake of diversity. That should give you some idea of what your most basic collection should look like. Come back next week for the last three parts of this series, where I’ll discuss tie knots and how to maintain your ties. 

(Special thanks to Michael Hill of Drakes for help with this article, and Mark Cho at The Armoury, GW of MostExerent, and Ethan Desu, also at The Armoury, for letting me use their photos!)

The Necktie Series, Part III: Starting Your Basics

In my estimation, a well dressed man needs at least a dozen or two neckties. A dozen if he doesn’t wear ties often; two dozen if he does. The next three entries to this series are about how to build that basic, minimal necktie wardrobe. I’ll begin with the bare basics:

Solid grenadine

Jesse has given a lot of great advice here over the years. One of his best is his constant advocation for grenadines

There are two kinds of grenadines - garza grossa and garza fina. Garza grossa is a looser, bigger weave, and the silk slightly moves over time. Garza fina, on the other hand, looks a bit finer, and the weave is a bit tighter. Both will give you the texture you need in a simple tie, but grossa’s will be more apparent from a distance. 

J Press grenadines are garza finas, and Kent Wang’s are garza grossas. Drakes of London and Sam Hober sell both. 

Solid, ribbed faille or basketweave

The other plain basic is your slightly ribbed silk failles and basketweaves. These works like your grenadines - simple, easy to wear ties that add just a touch of texture to your wardrobe. Their textures aren’t as striking as a grenadine’s, but they’re still noticeable from about an arm’s length. Jesse and GW have commented on the value of a simple necktie collection, and ribbed silk failles and basketweaves serve this purpose well. 

Pin dot

Next we have pin dots, which have become some of my favorites. Like many of the other ties on this list, pin dot ties can vary in scale, from minidots to slightly larger dots. Slightly smaller, more subtle patterns are best in this case, as they tend to be a bit more elegant and versatile. 

Club tie 

Finally, we have the club tie. Sometime in 1880, faculty members at Oxford University started taking the ribbons from their straw hats and wearing it around their neck (why, I have no idea). Soon, the practice was copied at other prestigious institutions, and the style was eventually picked up by the middleclasses in order signal their social standing. These days, the stripes and colors don’t really signal much, though there are exceptions - your favorite menswear website, for example, has a club tie, and it’ll signal that you’re part of a small, elite group of men who actually know how to dress themselves. 

Club ties can come in block or ribbon stripes, and like the garza grossas and garza finas, which you pick is completely up to you. 

Where to buy ties

As for where to buy these ties from, some of the best are by E. Marinella, Nicky of Milan, Isaia, Charvet, E&G Cappelli, and Drakes of London. I also really like Ralph Lauren Purple Label ties, but it might be because I’m a whore for Ralph Lauren’s higher end stuff. Ties from these makers are handmade from the best fabrics. They drape, as well as knot, beautifully. However, they’re also pretty expensive - ranging between $150 and $250 per tie. You can sometimes find them on sale at Saks or Barneys, but you have to wait and hunt. 

One of the best deals on the market is Sam Hober, a bespoke tie maker who handmakes all of his wares. What is the advantage of a bespoke tie? With bespoke, the maker pours his effort into one tie just for a customer, which allows him to supervise and ensure all the details of the tie construction are done well. Examine, for example, the qualitative difference between these two luxury ties - the blue one is a bespoke unlined seven-fold by Sam Hober and the brown is an off-the-rack by Borrelli. Notice the quality of the sewing, lack of crinkling, and softer rolling edges on Hober’s tie. It’s incredible to me that he’s able to offer the quality and service he does at the prices he gives.

Other nice handmade ties can be had through Kent Wang, Howard Yount, and Panta. Like Hober, these will also run between $75 and $100, and they’re very nice. You can read Jesse’s glowing review of his Panta ties here. You can also check out J PressBrooks Brothers, Mountain and Sackett, and, of lesser quality, but still decent, Lands End. Lastly, StyleForum member gshen, who has been a popular pocket square supplier, has started hand-making ties. I haven’t had the chance to handle any, but from the photos and reviews I’ve seen so far, they look great. You can read more about them on his blog

Lately, there has been a lot of buzz over raw silk ties. I’m a big, big fan. However, almost without exception, all of the good ones are made by Drakes of London, who seems to be the only producer of slubby versions. To me, the slubs are what give raw silk ties their true charm. Unfortunately, while Drakes is undoubtably one of the best tie makers in the world, they cost about $150 per tie, which can  be too expensive for many men. 

Fortunately for you, I’ve found a reasonable alternative. Mountain and Sackett has two ties made out of English noile silk. The company has a nice shot of the two ties on their homepage. I have the brick red one and really like it. 

As I’ll explain later this week, raw silks are often taken from cocoons where the silk worm has been allowed to chew through. In a typical silk production, silk worms are killed while they’re still in the cocoon, so that a single thread of silk can be drawn out. When the silk is taken from a cocoon with a hole in it, the fibers tend to be much shorter, which can result in a rougher hand.

Noile silks are similar. These are the short fibers left after silk has been combed through or spun. When this material is woven, the fabric ends up being nubby and has flecks of color throughout the yarn. It actually looks so similar to raw silk that it’s often mistaken for it. The only difference is that it’s a bit more matte and lacks the sheen of traditional silk. One could probably describe it as a “cotton looking version of raw silk.” 

Thus, Mountain and Sackett’s noile silk tie a really great option if you’re looking for a raw silk-esque tie at an affordable price. It’s not a slubby as Drake’s, but it’s certainly more slubby than J Press’ raw silks, and priced at about 50% less of each. Its lack of sheen also makes it feel a bit more casual and even ideal for summer wear.

Lastly, just as a note, I think Mountain and Sackett is one of the best kept secrets out there, which is strange because they exhibit all the things menswear enthusiasts care about. The company is over 50 years old, based in New York, and produces completely handmade goods in the US (except for their knit ties, which are made in Italy). These ties knot and drape beautifully. I get as nice of a dimple on my Mountain and Sacketts as I do from some of my luxury-end ties like Kiton, Brioni, and Hermes. Most importantly, they’re one of the most affordably priced at around around $60 per tie. The quality to price ratio here is really incredible, and I encourage you to take a look at their catalog