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Ties I've Learnt to Avoid

Updated: Jan 13, 2019

First of all, apologies for taking a while to publish this article.

This is the 50th post on the site so I wanted to make this one more special -- by looking back to my sartorial journey.

Over time I've come to a realization that despite I have a sizable collection of ties, I actually don't have that many to choose from.

This is a rather common problem for people around my age I suppose, since we are used to acquiring accessories that are rather flashy or fashion-forward to prevent ourselves from looking 'too old' with our formal ensembles.

And I must say this notion could be traced back to high-end fashion houses, regarding how they often attempt to break down the formality of the suit by pairing it with ephemeral and flamboyant accessories.

Whether with or without intentions, this inevitably misleads youngsters.

For me, this all changed when a very close friend of mine gifted me a navy and silver wave print silk tie from Henry Poole as a birthday present. (picture above)

I recalled expressing a slight dismay concerning how the tie was so wide (8cm) comparing to my existing collection of ties (mostly 5.5cm - 7cm at the time).

'Well then maybe you should try something different,' he replied, 'you don't know whether you like it until you try that on.'

The tie would soon become one of the first pieces for my wardrobe of classic menswear, and it is still one of my favorite in the collection to this day.

Reflecting on the mistakes that I've made, I would like to share with you all some tips and advice so you wouldn't have to repeat my footsteps.

My more flamboyant past with skinny ties and rather weird color combinations...

Wearing skinny ties do not necessarily make you look stylish

No, I'm not talking about slim knitted ties, but the skinny printed silk ties created by high-end fashion brands to match their equally skinny jacket lapels.

In order for you to get the most wear out of your ties, you should always invest in something that has a moderate width (say 7-9cm, depending on the body shape); as history has proven that anything too narrow or overly wide (say like examples of the 60-70s and the 80-90s respectively) ended up being designated to a specific time period.

Nonetheless, it is always a better idea to get something closer to the wider end regardless of your build. This all goes back to the point that wearing skinny ties would always be incoherent with more formal ensembles, and would even make the wearer less mature to some extent.

So stick to the classic because you would be able to wear them for the years if not the decades to come as they would hardly be replaced anytime soon.

Pairing plain and glossy ties requires a certain level of sophistication

It is not surprising that shiny silk ties tend to have a bad reputation among menswear enthusiasts. This is especially the case as we could often see them being paired with rather plain and dark suits in more traditional office environments -- an overwhelming contrast in general.

To be fair, I found the real problem lays not at the tie itself, but rather how the tie is being paired with. If we look deeper into what went wrong with outfits that involve a shiny tie, we could usually see that there is a pattern of men pairing them with rather muted-color suits and plain shirts. There is simply nothing in the rest of the outfit to support its sharpness.

In order to pull off this type of tie, there has to be more texture going on to create harmony. Say matching them with striped shirts or eye-catching pocket squares so that the outfit could be more coherent in general.

It is easy to run into the title of being a 'peacock', however, if the pattern and color are matched inappropriately; or the matching color is just as stark as the tie. I recalled wearing my green suit (the one above) with the tie above. The color certainly matches, but it's just not something I'll do again.

All in all, I would always recommend starting off with ties that have a darker complexity.

There are good patterns and bad patterns

Not all ties are made with the same level of practicality, and this is especially the case for patterned ties.

To start off, novelty ties (like the ones above) should certainly be off the chart. Because of their design (and the texture in particular for the second one), they are certainly not to be worn with formal outfits. Fashion-forward ties simply do not last.

Then there's the question of the size of the patterns. Whether it would be the more conservative ones like striped or spot ties, or bolder ones like paisley, floral, or motif ties; the tie would work well as long as it receives enough support from other parts of your outfit.

When two different patterns are placed together, they should differ in size yet at the same time not overly contrasting. So say like a large paisley tie would work well when it's stood against a Bengal stripe shirt, but not a butcher’s stripe or a plain one. It's either too much or too stark respectively. And this rule applies to all the patterns I have mentioned above.

Too bold yet too thin, this paisley tie is one of the hardest pieces to pair with.

But there's also a twist to this. The reality is that most men tend to invest in plain shirts when they first started their sartorial journey, simply because it is the most versatile.

Thus this raises the issue that ties with bolder and bigger patterns would always be more secondary than the thinner spot or strip ties. But there is nothing wrong about it.

In fact, starting off with one or two particular patterns could actually allow you to build up a more versatile capsule wardrobe, especially considering you would need to invest in suitable pocket squares as well. (Keep in mind that if the tie is too bold, it would also increase the difficulty in pairing the right pocket square)

Of course, there are many omissions to this list. (Nothing of the number of folds, the weave, the material, the interlining and so on) But hopefully it should serve as a basic introduction to what kind of ties you should avoid (and look for) the next time you've decided yourself a new accessory.

All in all, however, it's all about your personal taste and style. Do break the rules if you're confident enough.



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