The Foundation of a Good Necktie Wardrobe
I don’t know anyone who wears ties that doesn’t have more neckwear than they need. Ties are relatively inexpensive, easier to size right, and can help satisfy that urge to buy something new. The problem with accumulating ties here and there is that you often wind up with a haphazard collection – one with dozens of pieces, but never the right thing to wear.
In my time wearing ties, I’ve found the ones that get the most use fall into two categories.
Solid-colored, Textured Weaves
The first are solid colored, textured weaves – such as grenadines and silk knits (for year-round use); raw silks, tussahs, and linens (for spring/ summer); and wool, cashmere, and the occasional boucle (for fall/ winter). As I mentioned in my post on Donegal ties, the advantage of solid colored, textured weaves is that you can wear them with almost any shirt and jacket combination. Have a patterned shirt and jacket? The solid color helps things not look too busy. Have a solid colored jacket and shirt? The textured weave helps things not look too boring. Having a stable of good, solid colored, textured neckwear helps you look put together without forcing you to think too much about what goes with what in the morning.
Stripes
The second are striped ties, like you see above. Traditionally, Englishmen wore these ties with the stripes sloping down from left to right, while Americans went the other direction. The style originated in the early 20th century, when decommissioned British officers continued to wear their regimental colors after they returned to civilian life (hence the name “regimental striped ties”). Anglophiles in the United States imitated the practice, but flipped the direction of the stripes so they wouldn’t be accused of being parvenus.  
Today, the colors and direction of the stripes don’t really matter anymore, as nobody really remembers the origin of these things. The only thing that’s important is that such ties – at least in the United States – are incredible versatile. Whereas foulards – a type of small-scale, symmetrical, non-representative pattern (usually geometric or floral in nature) – are often better paired with suits, regimental stripes can be worn with either suits or sport coats. And that’s very helpful if you, like me, wear sport coats more often than anything fancier.
Of course, there are other ties worth buying. Paisley patterned ancient madders are fantastic for fall, and a couple of checked or dotted designs are useful too. But for a solid foundation in your neckwear wardrobe, I’ve found solid-colored, textured neckties, along with regimentals, to be the best. I’d suggest getting them in various materials and colors before you expand too far elsewhere. 
(Above picture taken from a Ben Silver catalog)

The Foundation of a Good Necktie Wardrobe

I don’t know anyone who wears ties that doesn’t have more neckwear than they need. Ties are relatively inexpensive, easier to size right, and can help satisfy that urge to buy something new. The problem with accumulating ties here and there is that you often wind up with a haphazard collection – one with dozens of pieces, but never the right thing to wear.

In my time wearing ties, I’ve found the ones that get the most use fall into two categories.

Solid-colored, Textured Weaves

The first are solid colored, textured weaves – such as grenadines and silk knits (for year-round use); raw silks, tussahs, and linens (for spring/ summer); and wool, cashmere, and the occasional boucle (for fall/ winter). As I mentioned in my post on Donegal ties, the advantage of solid colored, textured weaves is that you can wear them with almost any shirt and jacket combination. Have a patterned shirt and jacket? The solid color helps things not look too busy. Have a solid colored jacket and shirt? The textured weave helps things not look too boring. Having a stable of good, solid colored, textured neckwear helps you look put together without forcing you to think too much about what goes with what in the morning.

Stripes

The second are striped ties, like you see above. Traditionally, Englishmen wore these ties with the stripes sloping down from left to right, while Americans went the other direction. The style originated in the early 20th century, when decommissioned British officers continued to wear their regimental colors after they returned to civilian life (hence the name “regimental striped ties”). Anglophiles in the United States imitated the practice, but flipped the direction of the stripes so they wouldn’t be accused of being parvenus. 

Today, the colors and direction of the stripes don’t really matter anymore, as nobody really remembers the origin of these things. The only thing that’s important is that such ties – at least in the United States – are incredible versatile. Whereas foulards – a type of small-scale, symmetrical, non-representative pattern (usually geometric or floral in nature) – are often better paired with suits, regimental stripes can be worn with either suits or sport coats. And that’s very helpful if you, like me, wear sport coats more often than anything fancier.

Of course, there are other ties worth buying. Paisley patterned ancient madders are fantastic for fall, and a couple of checked or dotted designs are useful too. But for a solid foundation in your neckwear wardrobe, I’ve found solid-colored, textured neckties, along with regimentals, to be the best. I’d suggest getting them in various materials and colors before you expand too far elsewhere. 

(Above picture taken from a Ben Silver catalog)

Lower Your Tie Clip
I like this photograph of Sean Connery on a bicycle for a lot of reasons. It’s not only amusing to me, but gives you an idea on how well-fitting clothing allows you to move. It illustrates that “fit” doesn’t exactly mean “ultra slim”. 
But there is a small detail worth pointing out in this photo about the functionality of accessories, too. Notice Connery’s tie clip is positioned about half way down his shirt — as I think it should be. 
I’ve noticed a lot of guys wearing their tie clips up higher — presumably to show them off — but the tie clip becomes more irrelevant the further up it travels toward your neck.
A tie clip (or tie bar, tie tack or tie pin) should help keep your tie flat against your chest as you wear it, especially without a jacket. This helps keep it from getting in your way as you lean over to do work, eat, or in this case ride a bike without having the wind flap the tie’s blades in your face. 
(Photo via fuckyeaholdhollywood, which I’ve really enjoyed recently.)
-Kiyoshi

Lower Your Tie Clip

I like this photograph of Sean Connery on a bicycle for a lot of reasons. It’s not only amusing to me, but gives you an idea on how well-fitting clothing allows you to move. It illustrates that “fit” doesn’t exactly mean “ultra slim”. 

But there is a small detail worth pointing out in this photo about the functionality of accessories, too. Notice Connery’s tie clip is positioned about half way down his shirt — as I think it should be. 

I’ve noticed a lot of guys wearing their tie clips up higher — presumably to show them off — but the tie clip becomes more irrelevant the further up it travels toward your neck.

A tie clip (or tie bar, tie tack or tie pin) should help keep your tie flat against your chest as you wear it, especially without a jacket. This helps keep it from getting in your way as you lean over to do work, eat, or in this case ride a bike without having the wind flap the tie’s blades in your face. 

(Photo via fuckyeaholdhollywood, which I’ve really enjoyed recently.)

-Kiyoshi

Of course Paul Feig is wearing this tie for the Game of Thrones premiere. Of course he is.

Of course Paul Feig is wearing this tie for the Game of Thrones premiere. Of course he is.

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. 

-Kiyoshi

Yellow Hook Necktie Co.: Now available
Some of you may remember Rob from Brooklyn, who has been featured previously in our "real people" series. Previously, we mentioned his new venture, Yellow Hook Necktie Co., and we’re happy to tell you the site has formally launched this week and the ties look really superb. 
The opening collection features seven neckties (although one has already sold out) in a variety of fabrics suitable for the colder weather. They are each made one at a time by one of two people, Jene or Maria, whose biographies you can read on the site. 
The ties are either three or six fold and are all unlined, have hand-rolled edges and no tipping — all details that happen to be a growing personal preference of mine. If you want to see more photos beyond what’s on the official site, then check out their Facebook page.
Best of luck to Rob on his new venture at Yellow Hook Necktie Co.!
-Kiyoshi

Yellow Hook Necktie Co.: Now available

Some of you may remember Rob from Brooklyn, who has been featured previously in our "real people" series. Previously, we mentioned his new venture, Yellow Hook Necktie Co., and we’re happy to tell you the site has formally launched this week and the ties look really superb. 

The opening collection features seven neckties (although one has already sold out) in a variety of fabrics suitable for the colder weather. They are each made one at a time by one of two people, Jene or Maria, whose biographies you can read on the site. 

The ties are either three or six fold and are all unlined, have hand-rolled edges and no tipping — all details that happen to be a growing personal preference of mine. If you want to see more photos beyond what’s on the official site, then check out their Facebook page.

Best of luck to Rob on his new venture at Yellow Hook Necktie Co.!

-Kiyoshi

It’s On Sale: Wool Challis Neckties

While I’ve personally reduced my wardrobe down to a variety of navy neckties, the two exceptions in my closet feature giant paisley designs on them. One is an ancient madder and the other is printed on wool challis that I picked up at Cable Car Clothiers on my last day in San Francisco. I really enjoy the look of a big, bold paisley pattern for some reason and for colder weather the wool challis printed ties pair well with tweed jackets, chunky-knitted cardigans or a navy blazer. 

Ralph Lauren’s clearance sale has reduced their wool “estate” challis ties to $52.49 — about 60% off — and having handled them in stores I think they’re rather superb if you find giant paisley prints to be your taste. Unfortunately, the photos don’t really do the muted and dark tones justice. 

-Kiyoshi

Seven Things Better Bought Used

It’s sometimes easier to buy new, but there are some things that are pretty much always better bought used. Here’s our list of seven.

  1. Peacoats Every designer in the world has “riffed” on the pea coat, but the original is still the best. The heavy melton wool has protected sailors from the elements on-ship for decades, and it’ll protect you from pretty much anything. Best of all, vintage pea coats are freely available both from local vintage shops and online vendors. I love the ones from the 1940s-1960s, but it’s hard to go wrong. Remember that they’re sized to fit over heavy sweaters, and expect to pay $50-100.
  2. Cufflinks  There was a time when men wore suits, and with them, double-cuff shirts. So just about every man had cufflinks. That time has mostly passed.
    The result is a market glut of links. Go on eBay any day of the week and you’ll find literally thousands of pairs, from costume to fine jewelry… 1970s to 1890s. We prefer double-sided links here at PTO, and you’ll find plenty at any estate jeweler or vintage seller. Try Edwardian eight-carat gold, or enamel from the Art Deco era. Or grab yourself a cheap pair of Swank novelty links from the 1960s. Get some shirt studs while you’re at it. They’ll all be much cheaper on the second-hand market than new.
  3. Formal Wear  Unlike most men’s styles, formal wear has remained largely static since it was codified at the beginning of the 20th century. That means that if you can find a conservatively-styled tuxedo from almost any era, it will be right at home today. The bonus: it’ll probably be better-made than all but the finest new equivalents. With a bit of diligence, you can find a great tuxedo for a hundred dollars or less.
  4. Knock-Around Ties  Once you have a basic wardrobe of ties - a few solids, a few basics - you’ll find yourself wishing for novelty. Unless you’re shopping the highest end of the market, you’ll find plenty of functional ties at your local consignment or thrift stores for pennies on the dollar. Get a sense of the difference between a fine tie and a poor one, and don’t settle for less than decent… but once you’ve done that, go wild. There’s no shame in a necktie wardrobe filled out at $10 each, rather than $100.
  5. Watches A fine watch is a status symbol these days, when most men just wear a thirty-dollar quartz model on their wrist. Luckily, there’s a vintage option for almost any budget. Handsome mechanical watches from lesser-known brands are easily available for $50 or so second-hand. You can buy a beautiful Longines or Hamilton for a hundred or two. Kick it up to five hundred and there’s a pile of gorgeous Omegas within your grasp. And of course if you bump it into the thousands, there are many more choices, almost all for less than new.
    Try paging through the buy-and-sell forums of watch enthusiast communities like WatchUSeek and TimeZone, or visit a reputable jeweler in your town. Heck - if you’re buying something cheap, just take a flier on eBay. No matter what, you’ll get a more distinctive piece at a better price.
  6. Cashmere Sweaters  For a variety of reasons, cashmere’s gone downhill in the last twenty years or so. The good stuff has a smoother, tighter, denser finish… and you’ll only find it second-hand. The good news is that second-hand cashmere knits rarely go for more than $50-100 each. If it’s in good shape (be diligent), it can literally last a lifetime.
  7. Hats Men’s hats have declined precipitously not just in popularity, but also in quality. Low-end hats from the middle of the last century are as good as the high-end hats you’ll buy in a department store today. There are a few fine makers left, mostly making custom hats, but even once-fine brands like Borsalino and Stetson now make mediocre, expensive products. Vintage hats, though, are inexpensive, freely available (another supply/demand thing) and often of very fine quality. Great hats effortlessly hold their shape without being stiff, and feel fine to the hand. Expect to pay between $50 and $200 for something really good.

(Thanks to PTO twitter followers @D_Lippy, @frivmo, @voxsartoria, @platypusjones, @prairie_oysters, @SkySwartout, @HoffM, @TheMikeSwartz, @TheS_P500 and more for your ideas!)

Photos: Peacoat by Resheie54 , Cufflinks Simon James, Tux Stephen Depolo, Watch Guy Sie, Ties Brian Johnson, Cashmere Stolte-Sawa Hat David D

How It’s Made: The Necktie

Excerpted from S2E3 of Put This On, “(New) Traditions”

Filmed at the factory of Drake’s London

The Necktie Series, Part VIII: Taking Care of Your Collection
For the final installment of my special series on neckties, I thought I’d end by talking a little about how to maintain your collection. At this point, I’ve hopefully convinced you that quality ties are worth purchasing over cheaper ones. So let’s talk a little about how to make your purchases last. 
Removing your tie: Always untie your tie in the same way you tied it. Never yank on the tail until it comes through the knot. If you do this, you will stretch out and misshape the interior and exterior fabrics, which over time will cause warping. Also, make sure your nails are nicely trimmed when you reverse the knot. Especially for some silk ties, such as diamond weaves by Charvet, a loose nail can pull the silk when you dig your fingers in. 
Every once in a while, some new member on StyleForum will confess that they leave their ties knotted and just hang them up by their loops. This is terrible. First of all, it robs you of the pleasure of tying a knot, which is really enjoyable once you become good at it. Second, by keeping your ties knotted, you misshapen the blade and create really nasty wrinkles that will be hard to get out. 
Removing wrinkles: Some people iron their ties with a towel between the hot iron and silk. I’ve seen a few ties ruined this way, so I can’t imagine ever doing this to one of mine. Instead, I recommend just hanging up your tie after you wear it. If you buy quality ties, the interlining will be made of wool, so the fabric will naturally relax. If you’re in a pinch, try hanging the tie up in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. The soft steam from the shower should help the process along. 
Storing your ties: For most of my ties, I hang them up after I wear them so that the fabric can relax. Then the next day, I fold them in half, so that each pointed end is touching each other, and then loosely roll them up. For knit ties, I skip the hanging part because they don’t wrinkle, and are more likely to warp if they’re hung for too long. Those just get loosely rolled up when I get home. 
You can store your rolled up ties in a drawer with or without an organizer (I personally use one like these). Woodlore also has some nice cedar equipment, which you can buy for pretty cheap through Meijer. 
If you have a large collection of ties, or don’t wear yours that often, it may be better to just hang your ties up instead of rolling them. I’ve found that when ties have been stored rolled up for too long, they can retain a bit of a curve once you unroll them. It falls out within about an hour’s wear, but I suppose the problem can be avoided altogether by just hanging your pieces. 
Cleaning: Jesse wrote a great post about how to clean ties. I strongly agree with his TieCrafters recommendation. They’ve done wonders for the ties I’ve accidentally damaged. They can also do alterations on your ties - making them shorter or skinnier - if you need them to. Just remind them that you don’t want your ties pressed, otherwise you’ll lose the nice soft edges. 
Traveling with your tie: I’m a graduate student, so I only need one tie when I travel. As such, I wear mine on the plane. For people who need more ties when they travel, you can try rolling up your ties and putting them in your shoes, which you then pack into your luggage. This can be unpleasant if you have stinky shoes, however. For those people, try these leatherette roll cases (with or without a button clasp) or Col. Littleton’s No. 12 tie case. I’ve never tried any of these products, however, so I can’t attest to their quality. 
So that’s it. I’ve talked about how ties are constructed and what makes for a quality piece. I’ve also recommended the basic styles that you should start with and talked about how to best tie a knot. With this final post about how to maintain your collection, I think you should be well on your way to bettering your collection. To review the previous installments of this series, click here. 
I’m currently working on a similar series for custom shirts, and I’m really excited to say that it’s even better than this tie series. Keep an eye out for it. 
(photo credit: Sartoriana Antiquitus)

The Necktie Series, Part VIII: Taking Care of Your Collection

For the final installment of my special series on neckties, I thought I’d end by talking a little about how to maintain your collection. At this point, I’ve hopefully convinced you that quality ties are worth purchasing over cheaper ones. So let’s talk a little about how to make your purchases last. 

Removing your tie: Always untie your tie in the same way you tied it. Never yank on the tail until it comes through the knot. If you do this, you will stretch out and misshape the interior and exterior fabrics, which over time will cause warping. Also, make sure your nails are nicely trimmed when you reverse the knot. Especially for some silk ties, such as diamond weaves by Charvet, a loose nail can pull the silk when you dig your fingers in. 

Every once in a while, some new member on StyleForum will confess that they leave their ties knotted and just hang them up by their loops. This is terrible. First of all, it robs you of the pleasure of tying a knot, which is really enjoyable once you become good at it. Second, by keeping your ties knotted, you misshapen the blade and create really nasty wrinkles that will be hard to get out. 

Removing wrinkles: Some people iron their ties with a towel between the hot iron and silk. I’ve seen a few ties ruined this way, so I can’t imagine ever doing this to one of mine. Instead, I recommend just hanging up your tie after you wear it. If you buy quality ties, the interlining will be made of wool, so the fabric will naturally relax. If you’re in a pinch, try hanging the tie up in the bathroom while you take a hot shower. The soft steam from the shower should help the process along. 

Storing your ties: For most of my ties, I hang them up after I wear them so that the fabric can relax. Then the next day, I fold them in half, so that each pointed end is touching each other, and then loosely roll them up. For knit ties, I skip the hanging part because they don’t wrinkle, and are more likely to warp if they’re hung for too long. Those just get loosely rolled up when I get home. 

You can store your rolled up ties in a drawer with or without an organizer (I personally use one like these). Woodlore also has some nice cedar equipment, which you can buy for pretty cheap through Meijer

If you have a large collection of ties, or don’t wear yours that often, it may be better to just hang your ties up instead of rolling them. I’ve found that when ties have been stored rolled up for too long, they can retain a bit of a curve once you unroll them. It falls out within about an hour’s wear, but I suppose the problem can be avoided altogether by just hanging your pieces. 

Cleaning: Jesse wrote a great post about how to clean ties. I strongly agree with his TieCrafters recommendation. They’ve done wonders for the ties I’ve accidentally damaged. They can also do alterations on your ties - making them shorter or skinnier - if you need them to. Just remind them that you don’t want your ties pressed, otherwise you’ll lose the nice soft edges. 

Traveling with your tie: I’m a graduate student, so I only need one tie when I travel. As such, I wear mine on the plane. For people who need more ties when they travel, you can try rolling up your ties and putting them in your shoes, which you then pack into your luggage. This can be unpleasant if you have stinky shoes, however. For those people, try these leatherette roll cases (with or without a button clasp) or Col. Littleton’s No. 12 tie case. I’ve never tried any of these products, however, so I can’t attest to their quality. 

So that’s it. I’ve talked about how ties are constructed and what makes for a quality piece. I’ve also recommended the basic styles that you should start with and talked about how to best tie a knot. With this final post about how to maintain your collection, I think you should be well on your way to bettering your collection. To review the previous installments of this series, click here

I’m currently working on a similar series for custom shirts, and I’m really excited to say that it’s even better than this tie series. Keep an eye out for it. 

(photo credit: Sartoriana Antiquitus)

“[Being well-dressed is] not a question of having the world’s largest wardrobe, and certainly not an elaborate one. It’s a matter of the right clothes, clothes that illustrate the inspiration and taste of the man wearing them. The aim is a relaxed elegance, a nonchalant nod towards a simple refinement.” — Just one of a pile of insights from Michael Drake of Drake’s on the details of style.