Picking a necktie, part 3: Texture

Note: This is the third part in a series to help you with picking a necktie. Be sure to read the other parts if you have the time or curiosity.

At this point, you should be easily coordinating or matching while picking a necktie based on color and experimenting with picking a necktie by pattern — perhaps mixing stripes and checks and polka dots. You’re getting into some really cool, dandy-level combinations (or perhaps finding your monochrome look) and wondering how to make this whole thing more complicated and interesting.

So, let’s talk a bit about textures in a necktie. The average necktie is fairly standard, satin or reppe in silk. Nothing too terribly unusual and kind of flat. Not that there’s anything wrong with simplicity in texture, because it enables a lot of interesting prints and patterns to be used on its surface. But sometimes you want your necktie to have a texture to it that provides a visual difference.

Why would you want a textural difference? For one, it helps add some dimension to your necktie to diversify it from the other relatively flat surfaces of your jacket and shirt. If you’re wearing a worsted wool, flannel or chino-cotton jacket, then you’ve got a very plain surface that’s lacking depth. So, the necktie is a great place to add some visual complexity in that respect.

Here’s a fairly common sight: a worsted wool suit with a cotton dress shirt. Now, there wouldn’t be anything wrong with wearing a solid reppe silk necktie with this outfit with a chunky knot and a beautiful dimple. But why not play with the edges a bit and use the necktie as a place to get some of that textural contrast? I’ve paired this with a navy grenadine silk necktie, whose weave creates hills and valleys. It’s a more interesting and luxurious look than if you were to go with a solid satin or reppe tie. You see so many people in boring suits and boring shirts in the world, but if you were to have your suit properly fitted you’d be a step above. And if you were to introduce a simple tweak like this, you’d be a league above most while still wearing something very conservative.

Another reason to take an interest in texture is to have seasonally appropriate neckwear. While there’s nothing wrong with having some all-season neckties that can work in any situation, it certainly never hurts to have seasonal neckties to go with your seasonal clothing.

For the spring and summer, look for ties made from seersucker, madras, linen or raw silks. All of these look great with summer jackets made of similar materials. Depending on your style, you can either get these in fairly sober colors and patterns, or go the route of brighter color palettes and whimsical patterns. Either way, these ties tend to be more casual because of their materials, just like jackets in these materials would be. Can you mix these ties into more “serious” outfits? Maybe, but I certainly wouldn’t try it on something like a job interview or testifying in a hearing. 

For the colder months of fall and winter, get out the heftier and warmer fabrics. Ties made of wool flannel, cashmere and tweed will go nicely with jackets made of the same fabrics. Again, much of the seasonal suggestions for the warmer months apply when it comes to pairing these elements. The palette will probably feature more earth tones and patterns will feature classic checks, herringbones and tartan plaids. The one thing I do think goes particularly well with heavy tweed jackets is a knitted silk tie. Yes, this is more of an all-season tie coming to bat here, but I just really like the contrast of the shiny silk against the bland donegal tweed, yet you also have the three-dimensional effect of the knitted silk that works in a way I don’t think other flatter silk ties would. For a similar reason, this is why I recommend using silk pocket squares during the colder months with your heavy cloths — the contrast is very high, but looks great.

When it comes to satin, shiny neckties — solid or patterned — I feel they have a special place during the evening. During the day they’re too bright and flat, and I think the hours of sunlight allows you the opportunity to wear your more casual, texturally deep fabrics around your neck because the light allows these subtleties to be seen easier. The evening, however, and it’s low light is where satin ties look much nicer, taking what little light there is and reflecting it back to your eyes. I think this is why evening wear for men has satin facing on the lapels and benefits from a satin bowtie. 

For the example above, I’ve paired a patterned satin silk tie with a black, wool, double-breasted blazer. The wool flannel is fairly flat, but the satin works in high contrast against it. I’ve worn this several times while going out in the evening and it’s become a bit of a go-to during the cooler months. It’d be tempting to wear a solid silk knit in midnight navy or black, but I don’t think it works as well. Satin’s a bit flashy, but I think it’s at home during the hours of dark.

In summary:

Texture can bring visual depth to your otherwise flat outfit to elevate its complexity. It can help solidify a seasonal outfit through fabrics and color palette. And it can be used to help differentiate dressing for the day and the evening. Contrasting textures are often as important as complimentary textures.

If you want to learn more about types of neckties, The Necktie Series at Put This On written by dieworkwear is a fundamental resource to give you an overview (and tell you where to buy some great neckwear).

Tomorrow: personal philosophies.

Previously: patterns.

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    I got my favorite tie from the Red Kap banquet clothing line.
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About The Silentist

A menswear blog on finding your personal style, written by Kiyoshi Martinez.

I work at Khaki's of Carmel and live in the Monterey Bay area. Formerly from Chicago.

E-mail me, I'm fairly nice: thesilentist@gmail.com

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