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. 

It’s On Sale: Post Imperial Ties

Our friend Niyi in New York recently started a small line of men’s accessories under the label Post Imperial. The line has a selection of neckties and pocket squares that are very much in keeping with Niyi’s bold and unique sense of personal style. And while I’m much more of a conservative dresser myself, if there’s ever a time to wear bold ties like the ones you see above, it would be in the summer time with cotton or linen suits. 

At the moment, he has a 30% off Memorial Day sale, which you can get if you punch in the code PIMEM14 at checkout. That discount applies to the two indigo and white ties you see above, which are made in New York City, but out of Italian linen and Japanese cotton fabrics. Niyi tells me these were treated to an old and traditional Nigerian hand dyeing process called adire, where the fabric is first painted with a dye-resistant starch in order to achieve a kind of “reverse print” effect. You can check out more photos of one of the ties at Sid Mashburn

Real People: Finding Your “Voice”

Ethan Newton of The Armoury recently wrote a nice piece about finding one’s “voice” when it comes style, and it reminded me of Niyi in New York. Niyi is a bold dresser, often wearing things I’d never wear, and using them in a ways I’d never consider, but he’s also often pulling off looks that I admire. 

Above are two good examples. In the first photo, he’s wearing a tie I also happen to own. It’s a striped burgundy raw silk from Drake’s, which they sold a couple of years ago. When I wear mine, I pair it with a simple, light-blue, striped shirt and a conservative solid-tan sport coat. Niyi, on the other hand, is wearing his here with a dotted lime green shirt (!) and a more attention grabbing seersucker suit. 

In the second photo, he’s in a more somber, solid navy suit, but has enlivened the look with his choice in a tie and pocket square. The tie is actually from his own accessories line. It’s a navy cotton that’s been treated to a process called adire, a kind of hand-dyeing treatment developed by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. Niyi himself is of Yoruba descent, and his men’s accessories line heavily reflects his heritage. You can check it out at his website and (soon) Sid Mashburn

I’ve always believed that you don’t have to share other people’s choices in clothing in order to appreciate their style. Niyi’s bold sense of dress reflects his personality as much as my conservative sensibilities reflect mine. It’s this diversity of dress, and pursuit to find one’s own “voice” as Ethan puts it, that makes dressing personal, social, and fun. 

Real People: Bold Dressers

I consider myself a fairly conservative dresser, but I don’t think one has to dress conservatively in order to look good. Niyi from New York is a perfect example. He has a very strong, bold sense of personal style. What he wears might not suit everyone, but it works excellently for him.

Pictured above are two of his recent summer ensembles. The first combines charcoal trousers with a tan sport coat (the best combination for charcoal trousers, in my opinion), and plays a bit with proportions. The jacket’s gorge is higher, lapels narrower, and collar points shorter. I’d normally think such proportions look affected on most guys, but Niyi carries it off here exceptionally well. I also like the soft fit of the jacket along the shoulder line, and think it helps him look natural and relaxed.

The second ensemble is deceptively more complicated than it seems. Here, Niyi is mixing four patterns without any of them clashing. There are the narrow stripes on the suit, the wider stripes on the shirt, the boldly patterned tie, and the complementary (but not matching) patterned pocket square. To go with the summery shirt and suit, he’s picked chestnut shoes instead of your regular dark brown. I think it looks fantastic.

Incidentally, like our friend Rob, Niyi is also putting together his own men’s accessories label. It’s called Post Imperial, and the two ties you see here are actually from his line. I’m told that the shell fabric is made of a cotton treated in “adire” – an old hand dying process developed by the Yoruba people in the southwest region of Nigeria. These ties will be available in Spring of 2014.