Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide
Today we go over the only two elements of white on a tuxedo ensemble besides the shirt in our Black Tie Guide. And they’re right next to each other.
Part 6: Pocket Square and Boutonnière 
The great expanse of black of the tuxedo can be visually jarring, so it’s good to have elements of your ensemble that break it up. This is where decorating the lapel and breast pocket comes in. 
Pocket squares should be kept relatively simple in most cases. A linen handkerchief with hand-rolled edges in a simple fold will work just fine. Alternatively, you could attempt to create a “puff” instead if you prefer a look that’s not as rigid and straight-laced. The option is up to you. 
Why not white silk? Frankly, there’s no hard rule about this, but linen won’t reflect light like silk will and your lapels, cummerbund and bowtie already are made of silk. It’s good to have some texture diversity. 
Pocket squares can be found cheaply at The Tie Bar for $8-$10, but I think they’re a bit smaller in size (11.5” square) and I believe their edged are machined. Update: I’ve been told by Greg at The Tie Bar that only their wool-blend and silk-woven squares are machine stitched. Their other squares — including their cotton squares — have hand-rolled edges. So, that makes them a pretty good deal.
I’ve found Kent Wang’s pocket squares ($20) to be really nice and they have hand-rolled edges. They’re also slightly larger at 12” square.
As for decorating the lapel, it’s fairly straightforward: go with a white carnation boutonnière. For this to work your boutonnière hole on the lapel must be functional and opened, which higher quality suits will have already done. If your boutonnière hole is sewn shut, you can have a tailor open it up and make it functional. 
If it’s not obvious, you don’t want the kind of fake boutonnière that’s pinned to your lapel. Not only will it ruin the silk facings but it looks tacky — better to go without. 
-Kiyoshi

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget: A Black Tie Guide

Today we go over the only two elements of white on a tuxedo ensemble besides the shirt in our Black Tie Guide. And they’re right next to each other.

Part 6: Pocket Square and Boutonnière 

The great expanse of black of the tuxedo can be visually jarring, so it’s good to have elements of your ensemble that break it up. This is where decorating the lapel and breast pocket comes in. 

Pocket squares should be kept relatively simple in most cases. A linen handkerchief with hand-rolled edges in a simple fold will work just fine. Alternatively, you could attempt to create a “puff” instead if you prefer a look that’s not as rigid and straight-laced. The option is up to you. 

Why not white silk? Frankly, there’s no hard rule about this, but linen won’t reflect light like silk will and your lapels, cummerbund and bowtie already are made of silk. It’s good to have some texture diversity. 

Pocket squares can be found cheaply at The Tie Bar for $8-$10, but I think they’re a bit smaller in size (11.5” square) and I believe their edged are machined. Update: I’ve been told by Greg at The Tie Bar that only their wool-blend and silk-woven squares are machine stitched. Their other squares — including their cotton squares — have hand-rolled edges. So, that makes them a pretty good deal.

I’ve found Kent Wang’s pocket squares ($20) to be really nice and they have hand-rolled edges. They’re also slightly larger at 12” square.

As for decorating the lapel, it’s fairly straightforward: go with a white carnation boutonnière. For this to work your boutonnière hole on the lapel must be functional and opened, which higher quality suits will have already done. If your boutonnière hole is sewn shut, you can have a tailor open it up and make it functional. 

If it’s not obvious, you don’t want the kind of fake boutonnière that’s pinned to your lapel. Not only will it ruin the silk facings but it looks tacky — better to go without. 

-Kiyoshi

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)

Q and Answer: What About Cheap Ties?

Adam writes: You guys always feature really nice, but also really expensive stuff. For ties, you might like to highlight www.thetiebar.com. They offer some truly hideous ties, but also some really nice ones, especially for wardrobe staples in solids, stripes, wool—and all at only $15 a pop. The quality is on par with ties costing 3-4 times the price or more. I think your readers might appreciate that they don’t have to fill out their tie collection at $150 a pop to look sharp.

I’ve never bought a tie from The Tie Bar (feel free to send me some, if you’re reading this Tie Bar people), but I have handled a couple in thrift shops. I agree with you, they are roughly the quality of a tie that costs 2-4 times as much. If you changed out the tag on the red tie pictured above, put a Macy’s store brand tag on their, or Tommy Hilfiger or Calvin Klein, I don’t think anyone would notice. They are certainly equivalent to a tie that retails for $30-60.

But how much of a compliment is that, really?

While Tie Bar ties are, in my experience, better than, say, novelty ties you’d buy at the flea market with Bugs Bunny on them, I hesitate to recommend them.

Here’s the thing with ties: no one buys them at retail except the kind of desperate men who run into the store and says: “WHAT COLOR TIE GOES WITH A BLACK SUIT? MY AUNT JUST DIED!”

So, there are two questions: what ties do I recommend, and what should you pay for those ties.

The lowest level of tie I recommend is usually Lands’ End. Their ties aren’t on par with a truly excellent tie, like the blue Drake’s tie pictured above. They are, however, an excellent value at their price point (often on sale at around $20-35). The Lands’ End ties in my collection are roughly comparable to the Brooks Brothers and Polo ties I own, which retail in the range of $75 or so. That is to say: they are fine. The silk is heavy enough, and the construction good enough, that most people wouldn’t notice that I wasn’t wearing a very fine tie.

Most fine ties retail for $100-200. These are the ties we usually recommend when we’re recommending ties. For $100, you can buy a custom tie of excellent quality from Sam Hober, who will make it to your specifications in Thailand. Our friend Kent Wang offers ties of this quality for just under a hundred dollars, including our own club tie. For $150 or so, you can buy something from an outfit like Drake’s, or from our friend Will of A Suitable Wardrobe. These are ties worth paying extra for.

I have dozens of ties. Maybe a hundred. I think I paid retail price for one of them (a grenadine from Sam Hober). I’ve bought many, many ties used. If you’re one of about 85% of men, ties always fit, so they’re a great thing to buy at thrift stores. Try eBay, too: I love the country designs of Holland & Holland, and grab them for $25 or $30 when I can. These days, my collection is so full that I only buy ties that I love, and regular readers will recall that I sold about 75 six months or so ago.

I find that as I’ve come to appreciate the quality of truly fine neckties - the Marinellas and Drake’s and Borrellis of the world, I want fewer, finer ties. Since I also thrift and eBay avidly, I can fulfill my interest in novelty that way, without ever stepping foot inside a store.

My strongest recommendation is to remember that quality trumps quantity, every time.

So… when you can buy a Drake’s tie for $50 on eBay, is it worth spending $20 on one from the Tie Bar? Or $30 on one from Lands’ End? Should you spend the time thrift shopping to build up a wardrobe of ties at $3 each? Is a tough-to-find tie like a striped grenadine worth its $150 retail price? Only you can do that math for yourself.