The Most Versatile Knit Tie

Jake over at Wax Wane already wrote about black silk knit ties this week, but I thought I’d give them another plug anyway. Black is, unexpectedly, one of the most versatile colors for knit ties. Better than the standard go-to colors for neckwear, such as brown, burgundy, and bottle green. Better even than the always wearable navy. The black silk knit was perhaps most famously worn by the literary version of James Bond, who was often described by Ian Fleming as wearing a dark suit, clean white shirt, and a “thin, black silk knitted tie.” It’s also heavily associated with other mid-century icons such as the fellas in The Rat Pack. In fact, one of the first ties I bought as an undergraduate student was a black silk knit, precisely because I thought Sammy Davis Jr. looked so great in them.

You can wear almost anything with a black silk knit tie: brown tweeds, navy jackets, or grey suits paired with white or light blue shirts in solids, stripes, or checks (knit ties are especially nice with checks). Given that many men today want to wear a tie without looking too formal, the black silk knit is about as good as you can get. Versatile in color; casual in form.

There are many places to score one. On the high-end, we have Drake’s, who makes them in a rather unique weave. They’re also commonly found at traditional American haberdasheries, such as Ben SilverBrooks Brothers, and J. Press (the last of which is having a 25% off sale right now). Additionally, Howard YountKent Wang, and Sid Mashburn sell them for between $60 and $75. For more affordable options, consider Land’s End and KJ Beckett. The stock at Land’s End doesn’t include black right now, but they regularly restock their knit tie inventory in wide range of colors and their navy blue’s more like a midnight blue. If you join their mailing list, you’ll be notified of when they do their 30-40% off sales (which happens a few times a season). That will knock down the price of their knit ties to something around $25. Not bad for a tie you can wear with almost anything. 

We Got it for Free: The Tie Bar’s Grenafaux
The Tie Bar recently released a line of solid-colored, textures silk neckties that vaguely resemble grenadines. These aren’t true grenadines; they just somewhat look like them from a few feet away. Curious about the quality, I contacted Greg Shugar, one of the co-founders of the company, to see if he would be interested in sending me one for review. It arrived last month and I’ve worn it a few times since.
The tie is better than what one might expect. It compares well to the mass-manufactured neckties you might find in a department store – the Perry Ellises, Tommy Hilfigers, Calvin Kleins, and the like. To be sure, I don’t think any of these brands make particularly nice ties, but I appreciate that The Tie Bar has a bit more honest pricing - $15 for such a tie, rather than $50 in a department store, regularly discounted to $35, then $25, then $20, in hopes that customers think they’re getting a steal.
Obviously, a $15 tie will have its limitations. The grenafaux they sent me lacks the body on a truly, well-made tie, and the fabric has a slight sheen to it. It’s a bit light and flimsy, and not particularly enjoyable to knot. On the upside, the interlining is a wool-poly blend, which isn’t as ideal as a pure wool interlining, but at least it dimples better than a tie lined with polyester, and the wrinkles fall out a bit more easily at the end of the day.
It’s become a bit of a cliché, but I strongly believe in the “buy less, buy better” philosophy. Better one tie from EG Cappelli than three from Brooks Brothers, and better one from Brooks Brothers than three from Alfani. Men don’t need as much clothing as they think do, and if they traded many of their purchases for nicer things, I think they’d be left more satisfied. The most affordable grenadines I know of are from Chipp2 ($47.50) and The Knottery ($55). After that, there’s Kent Wang ($75), Sam Hober ($80), J Press ($90), Henry Carter ($100), Drake’s, Vanda, and EG Cappelli (~$120). I would feel more comfortable recommending any of these - or even a non-grenadine from a mid-tier maker - over The Tie Bar.
At the same time, I remember there was once a point in my life when I couldn’t afford a $50 necktie. It wasn’t that I was being stingy; it’s just that all my money went to rent, food, and my education. For people who on a truly tight budget, but still wish to dress well, I think The Tie Bar’s grenafux ties are an option. They’re not the best ties in the world, but I couldn’t say someone would look terrible for wearing one. As you can see above, it does indeed kind of look like a grenadine, and The Thrifty Gent wore one a few weeks ago and still looked pretty sharp. Plus, if you needed to skimp on your wardrobe, it would better to cut out $50 from your necktie wardrobe than, say, footwear. There, $50 could mean the difference between full-grain leather shoes and corrected grain, the latter of which you should never buy.
My standard recommendation for affordable neckties remains the same: Land’s End and Brooks Brothers once they hit their sales. They usually discount stuff to under $40 a few times a season. If you can’t afford those, try thrift stores or eBay. If you don’t have the time, however, then consider The Tie Bar’s grenafaux. I still believe people should buy the best they can afford – as they’ll be happier in the long run – but the same can be said about buying what you can afford, and not spending outside of your means. 
(Pictured above, from left to right: The Tie Bar’s grenafaux, Drake’s navy grenadine, E.G. Cappelli blue grenadine)

We Got it for Free: The Tie Bar’s Grenafaux

The Tie Bar recently released a line of solid-colored, textures silk neckties that vaguely resemble grenadines. These aren’t true grenadines; they just somewhat look like them from a few feet away. Curious about the quality, I contacted Greg Shugar, one of the co-founders of the company, to see if he would be interested in sending me one for review. It arrived last month and I’ve worn it a few times since.

The tie is better than what one might expect. It compares well to the mass-manufactured neckties you might find in a department store – the Perry Ellises, Tommy Hilfigers, Calvin Kleins, and the like. To be sure, I don’t think any of these brands make particularly nice ties, but I appreciate that The Tie Bar has a bit more honest pricing - $15 for such a tie, rather than $50 in a department store, regularly discounted to $35, then $25, then $20, in hopes that customers think they’re getting a steal.

Obviously, a $15 tie will have its limitations. The grenafaux they sent me lacks the body on a truly, well-made tie, and the fabric has a slight sheen to it. It’s a bit light and flimsy, and not particularly enjoyable to knot. On the upside, the interlining is a wool-poly blend, which isn’t as ideal as a pure wool interlining, but at least it dimples better than a tie lined with polyester, and the wrinkles fall out a bit more easily at the end of the day.

It’s become a bit of a cliché, but I strongly believe in the “buy less, buy better” philosophy. Better one tie from EG Cappelli than three from Brooks Brothers, and better one from Brooks Brothers than three from Alfani. Men don’t need as much clothing as they think do, and if they traded many of their purchases for nicer things, I think they’d be left more satisfied. The most affordable grenadines I know of are from Chipp2 ($47.50) and The Knottery ($55). After that, there’s Kent Wang ($75), Sam Hober ($80), J Press ($90), Henry Carter ($100), Drake’s, Vanda, and EG Cappelli (~$120). I would feel more comfortable recommending any of these - or even a non-grenadine from a mid-tier maker - over The Tie Bar.

At the same time, I remember there was once a point in my life when I couldn’t afford a $50 necktie. It wasn’t that I was being stingy; it’s just that all my money went to rent, food, and my education. For people who on a truly tight budget, but still wish to dress well, I think The Tie Bar’s grenafux ties are an option. They’re not the best ties in the world, but I couldn’t say someone would look terrible for wearing one. As you can see above, it does indeed kind of look like a grenadine, and The Thrifty Gent wore one a few weeks ago and still looked pretty sharp. Plus, if you needed to skimp on your wardrobe, it would better to cut out $50 from your necktie wardrobe than, say, footwear. There, $50 could mean the difference between full-grain leather shoes and corrected grain, the latter of which you should never buy.

My standard recommendation for affordable neckties remains the same: Land’s End and Brooks Brothers once they hit their sales. They usually discount stuff to under $40 a few times a season. If you can’t afford those, try thrift stores or eBay. If you don’t have the time, however, then consider The Tie Bar’s grenafaux. I still believe people should buy the best they can afford – as they’ll be happier in the long run – but the same can be said about buying what you can afford, and not spending outside of your means. 

(Pictured above, from left to right: The Tie Bar’s grenafaux, Drake’s navy grenadine, E.G. Cappelli blue grenadine)

Linen Sweaters

Linen sweaters can be very useful in the fall. They add an extra layer of protection without wearing too warm, making them perfect for days that range from chilly to cool. Cotton sweaters do this as well, of course, but every cotton sweater I’ve owned has lost its shape too easily. The body and sleeves bag after a while, cuffs lose their elasticity, and wrinkles get set into the elbows. Fine for sweatshirts, but less ideal if you want something dressier.  

That leaves linen, which I’ve been wearing on weekends. The Bay Area’s weather has this annoying tendency to not be so chilly in the afternoon that you’d need a sweater, but as soon as nightfall comes, you quickly wish you had one. So I’ve been wearing my linen sweater on days like these, which has kept me comfortable in both the afternoons and evenings.

In addition, I’ve found that linen can add a bit of texture to an otherwise unremarkable ensemble. For example, in the photo above, I have my brown leather jacket, light blue cotton shirt, and grey flannel trousers. Put together, there’s perhaps too much reliance on solid colors, but once you add the rougher texture of a linen sweater, you add a little subtle variation where there needs to be. (Granted, my own pictures don’t show this texture off very well, but the last image, taken from A Suitable Wardrobe, does).

Unfortunately, there aren’t many places that make, or even sell, linen sweaters. The best I know of is Inis Meain. Where you’d think linen can bag over time, Inis Meain’s version holds up just as good as the best merinos and lambswools. You can buy one from A Suitable Wardrobe. In the past, they’ve also manufactured them for Ben Silver and JL Powell, but those retailers are not selling them at the moment. For something more affordable, check Brooks Brothers, Land’s End, and Club Monaco. Those are unfortunately linen-cotton blends, which makes me suspect they won’t hold their shape as well over time, but on the upside, they’re also a fraction of the price. You can also find linen-cotton blend sweaters at Ralph Lauren, though they don’t seem to stock any recommendable ones this season. Ebay may have some from previous years, but you’ll want to avoid the flimsy, loosely knit, baggy variety. A discerning eye and some patience should land you something good. 

Shawl Collar Cardigans

As legend has it, the original cardigan was invented for Lieutenant General James Brudenell, the Seventh Earl of Cardigan. He wanted a sweater that he could put on without ruining his perfectly coiffed hair. So, the front was cut open, buttons put in, and voilà – we have the cardigan sweater. How the shawl collar – a detail originally designed for the Victorian smoking jacket – got mixed in is unclear. Perhaps it’s because both were considered at-home pieces for lounge and leisure. Who knows.

In any case, shawl collar cardigans make for great autumnal sweaters. The elongated line of the collar nicely frames the face while the body of the knit keeps the wearer comfortable and warm. Today, you can get these from a number of companies, and they range from the stratospherically priced to the reasonably affordable.

I’ll start with the stratospherically priced. Even if we’re not able to afford them, they’re fun to look at (and talk about). These tend to be knitted in Scotland and made from multi-ply wool, cashmere, lambswool, or camelhair yarns. Multi-ply means that multiple plies are twisted together to form a thicker, stronger yarn. This gives the sweater more warmth and durability. The yarns are also usually made from longer animal fibers, which means there are fewer weak points that can break and result in pilling. Finally, the weaves tend to be denser and tighter, which helps ensure that the sweater will keep its shape for years to come. The result, while expensive, is something that’s incredibly chunky, plush, and warm. Wear one of these on a chilly morning and you’ll be immediately be impressed with the quality. 

You can find such cardigans at a number of traditional American clothiers. Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, Kabbaz-Kelly, and Paul Stuart have exceptionally nice ones. From Europe, there’s Drake’s, Berk, Johnstons of Elgin, and Peter Johnston. Ovadia & Sons also makes a nice, thick lambswool one that’s suitable for someone wanting a slimmer fit. All of these tend to be expensive, but some will go on sale at the end of the season. In fact, Ben Silver has some at 50% off now.

For something more affordable, check out J Crew, Rugby, Brooks Brothers, Gant, Land’s End, Orvis, and Save Khaki (one of which is on Gilt). These tend to be thinner than the ones mentioned above, and will likely have cheap, plastic buttons instead of animal horn. You can swap out the buttons yourself, however, for about $30-50. Finally, you may want to consider the options at Northern Watters, White of Hawick, and Black Sheep. I have no personal experience with their products, but nice things have been said about them across the various menswear forums. And although their websites aren’t terribly appealing, it’s important to separate out marketing hype from quality of clothing. They may just be the right middle point between the over-priced, under-delivered “fashion brands,” and the superlative, but incredibly expensive, Scottish knits. 

Put This On Season 2 Episode 2 Clothing Credits

Introduction & Thrifting with Street Etiquette

Suit - High Society Tailors (fabric by Molloy & Sons)

Scarf - Vintage Brooks Brothers

Shirt - Thin Red Line

Tie - Drake’s of London

Square - Put This On Gentlemen’s Association

Shoes - Vintage Florsheim

How It’s Made: Leonard Logsdail

Coat - Vintage Kiton

Shirt - CEGO Custom Shirtmakers

Tie - Lands’ End

Square - Put This On Gentlemen’s Association

Trousers - Pro Tailor

Shoes - Vintage Alden

Online Discount Shopping
Since writing at Put This On, I’ve made an effort to talk about how men can build wardrobes on tight budgets. My posts on strategic spending and affordable basics, for example, were written in that spirit. With so many blogs and magazines focusing on outrageously expensive items, I think it’s important to talk about more realistic acquisitions. Men can still look well dressed without spending thousands of dollars a year on clothes. 
If you want the most affordable deals, companies such as Land’s End and J. Crew are probably good places to start. J. Crew is a bit expensive at full retail, but much of their company branded inventory (i.e. non-third party stock) is discounted by 50% or so at the end of the season. 
For something a bit better, you’ll have to turn to online discount houses. This is where higher-end brands tend to be sold for 10-40% of their retail value. Granted, given that these items are extremely expensive in the first place, the sale prices can still be somewhat hefty. However, if you’re looking for high quality items at a better price, these are the places to search.
Flash sites: This model is perhaps the most well known - discounted items are offered at some site for a limited time only. The biggest flash site is Gilt Groupe, but there are many others. Check MyHabit, Jack Threads, Belle & Clive, Ru La La, Ideeli, and HauteLook. The stock at these places really range. There’s a lot of junk, but also everything from Jack Spade to Finamore. If you sign up for an account, some sites give you the option of receiving emails from them, which means you can more easily stay on top of their sales each week. 
Clearance houses: Things that couldn’t sell at retail are often sent here for clearance. Yoox and Three Different are two of the bigger online clearance houses. Again, there’s a lot of junk, and they apparently style their models blindly, but if you know your brands, you can pick up some very good deals. If you don’t, do a little research on StyleForum. 
Online discount boutiques: In addition to the big clearance houses, there are smaller boutiques that acquire their stock through a variety of different means. Malford of London, Virtual Clothes Horse, Shop the Finest, and eHaberdasher are very good ones. There’s also Exquisite Trimmings, which focuses on neckties, pocket squares, and scarves. The inventory at these places tend to be better selected than the big discount houses.
Discounted footwear: A Fine Pair of Shoes and eBay seller sausages234 are two very good sources for discounted shoes. Grapevinehill is mostly unremarkable, but they carry Ralph Lauren footwear, some of which is decent. Finally, there’s Classic Shoes for Men. The photos there aren’t as nice as the ones at the aforementioned sites, but the stock is just as good (if not better). The proprietor, Mr. Sevan Minasian, noted that he’ll throw in a free gift with your order if you mention our site. 
Us: Kind of goes without saying, but there’s also our eBay roundups and Inside Track newsletter. The first includes customized search links to help you find deals on eBay and the second has sales announcements every week. But you already knew that. 
Now, I’m sure few people will remember all those sites next time they’re shopping for something specific, so I suggest you bookmark them somewhere and save them for later. You could save yourself some considerable money if you do. 
(Photo above: An inside look at Gilt Groupe’s warehouse, taken by Notcot)

Online Discount Shopping

Since writing at Put This On, I’ve made an effort to talk about how men can build wardrobes on tight budgets. My posts on strategic spending and affordable basics, for example, were written in that spirit. With so many blogs and magazines focusing on outrageously expensive items, I think it’s important to talk about more realistic acquisitions. Men can still look well dressed without spending thousands of dollars a year on clothes. 

If you want the most affordable deals, companies such as Land’s End and J. Crew are probably good places to start. J. Crew is a bit expensive at full retail, but much of their company branded inventory (i.e. non-third party stock) is discounted by 50% or so at the end of the season. 

For something a bit better, you’ll have to turn to online discount houses. This is where higher-end brands tend to be sold for 10-40% of their retail value. Granted, given that these items are extremely expensive in the first place, the sale prices can still be somewhat hefty. However, if you’re looking for high quality items at a better price, these are the places to search.

  • Flash sites: This model is perhaps the most well known - discounted items are offered at some site for a limited time only. The biggest flash site is Gilt Groupe, but there are many others. Check MyHabitJack ThreadsBelle & CliveRu La LaIdeeli, and HauteLook. The stock at these places really range. There’s a lot of junk, but also everything from Jack Spade to Finamore. If you sign up for an account, some sites give you the option of receiving emails from them, which means you can more easily stay on top of their sales each week. 
  • Clearance houses: Things that couldn’t sell at retail are often sent here for clearance. Yoox and Three Different are two of the bigger online clearance houses. Again, there’s a lot of junk, and they apparently style their models blindly, but if you know your brands, you can pick up some very good deals. If you don’t, do a little research on StyleForum
  • Online discount boutiques: In addition to the big clearance houses, there are smaller boutiques that acquire their stock through a variety of different means. Malford of LondonVirtual Clothes HorseShop the Finest, and eHaberdasher are very good ones. There’s also Exquisite Trimmings, which focuses on neckties, pocket squares, and scarves. The inventory at these places tend to be better selected than the big discount houses.
  • Discounted footwear: A Fine Pair of Shoes and eBay seller sausages234 are two very good sources for discounted shoes. Grapevinehill is mostly unremarkable, but they carry Ralph Lauren footwear, some of which is decent. Finally, there’s Classic Shoes for Men. The photos there aren’t as nice as the ones at the aforementioned sites, but the stock is just as good (if not better). The proprietor, Mr. Sevan Minasian, noted that he’ll throw in a free gift with your order if you mention our site. 
  • Us: Kind of goes without saying, but there’s also our eBay roundups and Inside Track newsletter. The first includes customized search links to help you find deals on eBay and the second has sales announcements every week. But you already knew that. 

Now, I’m sure few people will remember all those sites next time they’re shopping for something specific, so I suggest you bookmark them somewhere and save them for later. You could save yourself some considerable money if you do. 

(Photo above: An inside look at Gilt Groupe’s warehouse, taken by Notcot)

We Got It For Free: The Knottery Grenadine and Silk Knit Ties
The Knottery, a relatively new entrant in men’s neckwear, recently sent me two of their ties to review. The package came last week and in it was a solid navy grenadine, which is part of a new collection of grenadines they’ve just introduced, as a well as a solid burgundy silk knit.
The silk knit is straightforward enough. Whereas regular neckties have more complicated constructions, silk knits are simply woven on machines either in tubular constructions or attached through a seam at the back. The ones at The Knottery are three inches wide and made in the first method (tubular). Some men prefer this because without the seam, you don’t have the small bump going down the back, which in turn won’t bulk up the knot. I personally have never had a preference either way. What I do think men should consider, however, is the material and weave that the knit is formed in. Silk, cotton and wool will obviously create different looks, and each can be woven in a different weave. One only needs to compare the silk knits at Drake’s, J. Press, and Land’s End to see what I mean. None are better than the others, but they do serve different tastes. If you like the material and weave at The Knottery, these seem like a decent value at $25.
The grenadines are perhaps a bit more exciting. With the exception of Chipp2, I don’t know of any other retailers selling grenadines for under $60. The Knottery’s are $55, three inches wide, and made from the same silk grenadine fabrics that all the other high-end makers use (with the exception of “mock” grenadines, I believe there are only two sources for “true” grenadine fabrics, and both of them are very good). They are also constructed in New York by a very well respected American manufacturer (I can’t reveal who, but they’re well respected).
Perhaps their only faults are that they’re made with a 50/50 polyester-wool interlining, which means that the tie won’t relax as easily after a long day’s wear, and that they’re machine made. Normally, with high-quality wool interlinings, you can hang your tie up for a night and the wrinkles will naturally fall out. This is a bit more difficult with blends. The machined seam at the back also seems a bit tight, which I admit makes me wonder about the tie’s longevity. On the one hand, numerous high-end makers have told me that a slightly looser slip stitch is essential to ensuring that the tie has enough give when it’s being wrapped tightly around a neck, and can return to its original shape when it’s unknotted. On the other hand, before wearing handmade neckties, I wore mid-tier, machine-made ties from department stores for years, many of which had these tighter stitches, and none of them snapped. Their only problem was that they looked a bit lifeless and failed to give a good dimple when knotted, but none of these are issues that The Knottery’s grenadines suffer from.
Outside of those concerns, the rest are just preferences. My favorite grenadines are from Drake’s, Sulka (now defunct), and E.G. Cappelli, all of which are lightly lined. The Knottery’s are a bit heavier, but not as heavy as my grenadines from J. Press. They also have a slightly peculiar feel when you rub the fabric between two fingers – a feel that’s not too unlike rubbing the fabric of a silk knit together, which doesn’t happen with any of my other four-in-hands. Not better or worse for it, mind you, just different.
Of course, some may wonder how these compare to Chipp2’s grenadines, which are the other affordable option on the market. I admit I like Chipp2’s lighter feel, pure wool interlining, and hand construction, but I dislike that their outer fabric (the silk) is somewhat loosely attached to the interlining itself. The Knottery’s are built like all of my other grenadines, with the brushed interlining staying close to the silk, and I think it gives a more handsome dimple. They’re also easier to order from, though some might find charm in Chipp2’s slightly roundabout process. Perhaps most importantly, Chipp2’s are made from garza fina, which have a fine weave, whereas The Knottery’s are garza grossa, which have a slight honeycomb like appearance. Again, purely a matter of taste, but I generally prefer garza fina with suits made from smoother, worsted wools, and garza grossa with more informal jackets.  
Either way, for those on a budget, you now have two sources to get an affordable grenadine – Chipp2 and The Knottery – both of which offer decent options. 

We Got It For Free: The Knottery Grenadine and Silk Knit Ties

The Knottery, a relatively new entrant in men’s neckwear, recently sent me two of their ties to review. The package came last week and in it was a solid navy grenadine, which is part of a new collection of grenadines they’ve just introduced, as a well as a solid burgundy silk knit.

The silk knit is straightforward enough. Whereas regular neckties have more complicated constructions, silk knits are simply woven on machines either in tubular constructions or attached through a seam at the back. The ones at The Knottery are three inches wide and made in the first method (tubular). Some men prefer this because without the seam, you don’t have the small bump going down the back, which in turn won’t bulk up the knot. I personally have never had a preference either way. What I do think men should consider, however, is the material and weave that the knit is formed in. Silk, cotton and wool will obviously create different looks, and each can be woven in a different weave. One only needs to compare the silk knits at Drake’s, J. Press, and Land’s End to see what I mean. None are better than the others, but they do serve different tastes. If you like the material and weave at The Knottery, these seem like a decent value at $25.

The grenadines are perhaps a bit more exciting. With the exception of Chipp2, I don’t know of any other retailers selling grenadines for under $60. The Knottery’s are $55, three inches wide, and made from the same silk grenadine fabrics that all the other high-end makers use (with the exception of “mock” grenadines, I believe there are only two sources for “true” grenadine fabrics, and both of them are very good). They are also constructed in New York by a very well respected American manufacturer (I can’t reveal who, but they’re well respected).

Perhaps their only faults are that they’re made with a 50/50 polyester-wool interlining, which means that the tie won’t relax as easily after a long day’s wear, and that they’re machine made. Normally, with high-quality wool interlinings, you can hang your tie up for a night and the wrinkles will naturally fall out. This is a bit more difficult with blends. The machined seam at the back also seems a bit tight, which I admit makes me wonder about the tie’s longevity. On the one hand, numerous high-end makers have told me that a slightly looser slip stitch is essential to ensuring that the tie has enough give when it’s being wrapped tightly around a neck, and can return to its original shape when it’s unknotted. On the other hand, before wearing handmade neckties, I wore mid-tier, machine-made ties from department stores for years, many of which had these tighter stitches, and none of them snapped. Their only problem was that they looked a bit lifeless and failed to give a good dimple when knotted, but none of these are issues that The Knottery’s grenadines suffer from.

Outside of those concerns, the rest are just preferences. My favorite grenadines are from Drake’s, Sulka (now defunct), and E.G. Cappelli, all of which are lightly lined. The Knottery’s are a bit heavier, but not as heavy as my grenadines from J. Press. They also have a slightly peculiar feel when you rub the fabric between two fingers – a feel that’s not too unlike rubbing the fabric of a silk knit together, which doesn’t happen with any of my other four-in-hands. Not better or worse for it, mind you, just different.

Of course, some may wonder how these compare to Chipp2’s grenadines, which are the other affordable option on the market. I admit I like Chipp2’s lighter feel, pure wool interlining, and hand construction, but I dislike that their outer fabric (the silk) is somewhat loosely attached to the interlining itself. The Knottery’s are built like all of my other grenadines, with the brushed interlining staying close to the silk, and I think it gives a more handsome dimple. They’re also easier to order from, though some might find charm in Chipp2’s slightly roundabout process. Perhaps most importantly, Chipp2’s are made from garza fina, which have a fine weave, whereas The Knottery’s are garza grossa, which have a slight honeycomb like appearance. Again, purely a matter of taste, but I generally prefer garza fina with suits made from smoother, worsted wools, and garza grossa with more informal jackets.  

Either way, for those on a budget, you now have two sources to get an affordable grenadine – Chipp2 and The Knottery – both of which offer decent options. 

Q and Answer: How Can I Get an Office-Appropriate Wardrobe for $500?
americastoppushing writes: I just got a job at a major publishing house in NYC and the whole staff here is very well dressed. I need to jump from grad school clothes to stylish office clothes quickly. I have about $500 to spare right now and I need to make some significant changes to my wardrobe, including shoes, a laptop bag, and at least a few shirts and pairs of pants. Where can I get the most for my money? I’d like to get things that are fairly versatile.
First, congratulations on the new job and for graduating grad school. I’m actually finishing up a grad program myself, so I can appreciate what a grind it can be. 
As for your wardrobe, I’m afraid $500 won’t going to get you very much, especially if you need it soon. But let’s see if we can’t give it a try. 
For shoes, I recommend a pair of brown derbys (also known as bluchers). Derbys have “open lacing,” which means the shoelace eyelet tabs are sewn on top of the part of the shoe that covers your toes and instep. This differs from the more elegant and formal oxford, which has the eyelet tabs sewn underneath. Oxfords are considered more formal because they make you feet look more “dressed.” However, since you can’t afford suits and sport coats at this time, you should embrace the inherent casualness of what you’re wearing by getting derbys. These can be worn with anything from cotton chinos to wool trousers.
Getting them in brown will mean that you can wear them with trouser color (except black, which you shouldn’t be wearing anyway). I recommend a plain toe design for your first pair, but if that’s too boring for you, you can also get them with a perforated or non-perforated toecap. Any of these will be acceptable in an office environment. You can get a pair at Meermin for about $150.  
For dress shirts, you really ought to have at least ten, so that you can get through two work weeks before having to do laundry. However, ten will almost wipe out the rest of your budget and leave you pants-less, so I recommend getting five for now. As soon as you can, pick up another five. 
Your first five should include three solids and two stripes in a mix of white and light blues. These colors flatter the complexion of any man, and they’ll set a good foundation for when you’re ready to wear suits, sport coats, and ties. You can read Jesse’s post about this subject here. I agree with what he said, and would just add that in your situation, it would avoid having people think “here comes that guy in the bright pink shirt again.” You are going to be wearing each of these often, so best to make them look fairly non-descript. 
Design wise, choose the following if you can: semi-spread collars (they look good on every guy); French placket with no pocket (as a proper dress shirt should be); and barrel cuffs (not French cuffs, as you won’t be wearing these with a suit for now). You can browse TM Lewin’s clearance section to see what they have. Their “slim fits” fit decently well on the average sized guy. At $32 a pop, this should set you back $160. 
For pants, I’m going to fudge here and assume you at least have a pair of khaki chinos you can use for casual Friday. To add to this, I recommend two pairs of wool trousers, one solid mid-grey and another slightly darker. If you must choose a pair of non-grey pants (and only if you absolutely must), I recommend brown. Pick whatever weave you’d like (from flannel to sharkskin), but just make sure the fabric doesn’t look too shiny. You don’t want to look like you forgot your suit jacket at home. Sign up for Land’s End’s newsletter and wait for a coupon code to come up. You can then score a pair of their Tailored Fit wool trousers for about $60. 
Finally, we have the laptop bag. Muji has a canvas and leather shoulder option as well as a “3-Way” bag (an unfortunate name) for $80 and $90, respectively. These aren’t the most professional looking of bags, and there are certainly better options out there, but this slides us in at about $515, just fifteen dollars more than the budget you allocated. 
Of course, a basic business wardrobe should have at least double what I’ve listed above – two pairs of shoes so that you can rotate between them (wearing the same pair everyday will quickly ruin the leather), ten dress shirts, and four trousers. Depending on your office environment, you may also want to get a few suits or sport coats at some point. These will make you much more professional looking, but they’ll be considerably more expensive. 
Remember that you can lower your outlay by acquiring things over time instead of buying everything at once. Try thrifting, using eBay, and waiting for sales. Jesse’s guide to thrifting can help you with the first, our eBay roundups the second, and my sales announcements here and at the Inside Track the third. Give yourself a year or two to acquire a decent, basic wardrobe, and perhaps another five to six years to perfect it. It takes a while to acquire what you need and learn how to dress well, but the process itself can be very fun and rewarding. 

Q and Answer: How Can I Get an Office-Appropriate Wardrobe for $500?

americastoppushing writes: I just got a job at a major publishing house in NYC and the whole staff here is very well dressed. I need to jump from grad school clothes to stylish office clothes quickly. I have about $500 to spare right now and I need to make some significant changes to my wardrobe, including shoes, a laptop bag, and at least a few shirts and pairs of pants. Where can I get the most for my money? I’d like to get things that are fairly versatile.

First, congratulations on the new job and for graduating grad school. I’m actually finishing up a grad program myself, so I can appreciate what a grind it can be.

As for your wardrobe, I’m afraid $500 won’t going to get you very much, especially if you need it soon. But let’s see if we can’t give it a try.

For shoes, I recommend a pair of brown derbys (also known as bluchers). Derbys have “open lacing,” which means the shoelace eyelet tabs are sewn on top of the part of the shoe that covers your toes and instep. This differs from the more elegant and formal oxford, which has the eyelet tabs sewn underneath. Oxfords are considered more formal because they make you feet look more “dressed.” However, since you can’t afford suits and sport coats at this time, you should embrace the inherent casualness of what you’re wearing by getting derbys. These can be worn with anything from cotton chinos to wool trousers.

Getting them in brown will mean that you can wear them with trouser color (except black, which you shouldn’t be wearing anyway). I recommend a plain toe design for your first pair, but if that’s too boring for you, you can also get them with a perforated or non-perforated toecap. Any of these will be acceptable in an office environment. You can get a pair at Meermin for about $150.  

For dress shirts, you really ought to have at least ten, so that you can get through two work weeks before having to do laundry. However, ten will almost wipe out the rest of your budget and leave you pants-less, so I recommend getting five for now. As soon as you can, pick up another five.

Your first five should include three solids and two stripes in a mix of white and light blues. These colors flatter the complexion of any man, and they’ll set a good foundation for when you’re ready to wear suits, sport coats, and ties. You can read Jesse’s post about this subject here. I agree with what he said, and would just add that in your situation, it would avoid having people think “here comes that guy in the bright pink shirt again.” You are going to be wearing each of these often, so best to make them look fairly non-descript.

Design wise, choose the following if you can: semi-spread collars (they look good on every guy); French placket with no pocket (as a proper dress shirt should be); and barrel cuffs (not French cuffs, as you won’t be wearing these with a suit for now). You can browse TM Lewin’s clearance section to see what they have. Their “slim fits” fit decently well on the average sized guy. At $32 a pop, this should set you back $160.

For pants, I’m going to fudge here and assume you at least have a pair of khaki chinos you can use for casual Friday. To add to this, I recommend two pairs of wool trousers, one solid mid-grey and another slightly darker. If you must choose a pair of non-grey pants (and only if you absolutely must), I recommend brown. Pick whatever weave you’d like (from flannel to sharkskin), but just make sure the fabric doesn’t look too shiny. You don’t want to look like you forgot your suit jacket at home. Sign up for Land’s End’s newsletter and wait for a coupon code to come up. You can then score a pair of their Tailored Fit wool trousers for about $60.

Finally, we have the laptop bag. Muji has a canvas and leather shoulder option as well as a “3-Way” bag (an unfortunate name) for $80 and $90, respectively. These aren’t the most professional looking of bags, and there are certainly better options out there, but this slides us in at about $515, just fifteen dollars more than the budget you allocated.

Of course, a basic business wardrobe should have at least double what I’ve listed above – two pairs of shoes so that you can rotate between them (wearing the same pair everyday will quickly ruin the leather), ten dress shirts, and four trousers. Depending on your office environment, you may also want to get a few suits or sport coats at some point. These will make you much more professional looking, but they’ll be considerably more expensive.

Remember that you can lower your outlay by acquiring things over time instead of buying everything at once. Try thrifting, using eBay, and waiting for sales. Jesse’s guide to thrifting can help you with the first, our eBay roundups the second, and my sales announcements here and at the Inside Track the third. Give yourself a year or two to acquire a decent, basic wardrobe, and perhaps another five to six years to perfect it. It takes a while to acquire what you need and learn how to dress well, but the process itself can be very fun and rewarding. 

Consider Buff

In classic men’s style, it’s often easier to wear darker ties because a man’s tie is supposed to be darker than his shirt. There are a few exceptions, however. Take for example, ties with a buff-colored background. Buff is a kind of pale yellow-brown color that got its name from buff leather. The color is mostly seen on formal and informal waistcoats, but every so often, you’ll see it on ties as well. 

The picture above is from Patrick Johnson. It shows a man wearing a buff colored tie with a navy striped suit and light-blue dress shirt. The two tones of blue are subdued and conservative, and they contrast and complement well with the brightly colored tie. This would work just as well with a dark brown sport coat and a white and grey striped dress-shirt, especially if you were wearing it during a cool autumn or cold winter season. 

The most versatile ties will always be in dark blues, browns, greens, and reds, but it doesn’t hurt to have a little variety here and there. Buff colored ties can help you stand out without being loud or obnoxious, and they look great if you pair them with the right colors. You can get wool challis ties in this color right now from Drake’s, but if you want something a bit more affordable, there are also these options from Ralph Lauren and E. Marinella on eBay, as well as this Madder print from Sam Hober. Land’s End and Brooks Brothers have some that are a bit more yellow in tone, but I suppose they could also work in the same way. 

For $50 You Can Buy …
There are two major sales right now, both of which are yielding a ton of good deals for under $50. The first is at Land’s End, where you can get 40% off any one item, and free shipping to boot if your order is over $50. Just use the code SNOW (pin 1174) or FROST (pin 9471) at checkout.
Given the stock of already reasonably priced items at Land’s End, this promotion makes for some partiuclarly good offers. For example, there’s a quilted jacket for $40, StormRaker jacket for $25, and brown herringbone wool necktie for $35. I generally find that Land’s End stuff fits a bit big, so you may want to call their customer service to get advice on sizing. Their promotion ends tomorrow.
The second is at J Crew, which is offering an extra 30% off all sale items. Use the code MUSTHAVE at checkout. Here you can get Spring Courts for $35, summer oxfords for $30, and swimming trunks for $20. Their promotion ends Sunday.

For $50 You Can Buy …

There are two major sales right now, both of which are yielding a ton of good deals for under $50. The first is at Land’s End, where you can get 40% off any one item, and free shipping to boot if your order is over $50. Just use the code SNOW (pin 1174) or FROST (pin 9471) at checkout.

Given the stock of already reasonably priced items at Land’s End, this promotion makes for some partiuclarly good offers. For example, there’s a quilted jacket for $40, StormRaker jacket for $25, and brown herringbone wool necktie for $35. I generally find that Land’s End stuff fits a bit big, so you may want to call their customer service to get advice on sizing. Their promotion ends tomorrow.

The second is at J Crew, which is offering an extra 30% off all sale items. Use the code MUSTHAVE at checkout. Here you can get Spring Courts for $35, summer oxfords for $30, and swimming trunks for $20. Their promotion ends Sunday.