Picking a necktie, part 4: My personal philosophies

Note: This is the fourth and final 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.

Color, pattern, texture — those are all more-or-less rules and suggestions for how to pick your necktie. Good guidelines meant to be tested to limits until they become natural in the process.

But as you play with the endless possibilities and gradually build up your neckwear wardrobe, you’ll probably, eventually, devise a set of your own philosophies toward what goes under your collar.

These are mine. I hesitate to call them personal rules or maxims, because they’re so personal to me, my wardrobe and what I’ve found works. So, don’t take them as something everyone — including you — should do.

If I wear a tie, I wear a jacket. Or a cardigan sweater, waistcoat, sweater vest or light coat. I feel like you need a layer on over your shirt if you wear a tie, otherwise it doesn’t look right. The tie isn’t framed by a “V” around your upper middle chest and neck. Something’s just off about that for me.

Neckties do actually serve a purpose: to keep your collar upright under your jacket. Most off-the-rack and cheaper shirting will slouch beneath your jacket without a tie (or button-down collar). A tie keeps you from looking sloppy while wearing a shirt and jacket.

There’s such a thing as “too skinny”, but it’s not the same for everyone. I draw the line at 2.75” for knit ties and 3” for regular ties. I find the skinnier my tie gets, the tougher it is to achieve a great knot and dimple.

Don’t be afraid to go “fat” on tie widths. I think that if your lapels are a bit average sized (or wider), then why not try ties that are 3.5” in width or larger? They look imposing and knot gorgeously with even a simple four-in-hand.

Silk knit ties are great for travel. Some people don’t like to wear them with suits, but I often pack them for when I’m traveling for work. You don’t have to worry about creasing them in your luggage and I’ve gotten by with packing just one navy silk knit for an entire week.

More than half of my current tie collection consists of two types: silk knits and navy ties. The silk knits are often where I turn toward for when I need something colorful, with texture and yet a bit more casual. The navy ties are often what I wear to work. I buy solid navy ties in a variety of fabrics, widths and sometimes with conservative patterns on them. I have over a dozen ties where the dominant color is navy and find they work wonderfully into my daily uniform.

Find a few cheap but good solid ties to keep as an emergency necktie. Maybe keep one in your car, your briefcase or your office. Don’t buy anything fancy or expensive — keep it plain and cheap. Same with a plain white dress shirt. You’ll never worry about spilling something on yourself again.

There are two types of ties that get attention. You have those that are loud with their pattern and radiate brightly across the room. Often it seems as if the wearer is using the tie to signal to everyone that he exists — and often upon closer inspection the tie looks kind of cheap. I feel this way about “designer” or especially “novelty” ties, as if one’s sense of humor can be displayed on silk (or polyester). To me, this is the wrong way to draw someone’s attention. The preferred way is to wear a quality tie with subtle details that are only apparent up close to a trained eye, moving uniquely with the wearer’s outfit, integrated perfectly. You wouldn’t know it across the room, but you’d definitely notice it if you were close enough for a conversation. If you want to make an impression with your neckwear, then do it from only several feet away.

When buying new, there’s often a pricepoint where quality does jump significantly, but there’s often a plateau of diminishing returns where you’re probably just paying for a brand name sewed on the back. I have a hard time telling people what they should spend on a tie, but I know that I personally haven’t regretted any of my “expensive” tie purchases. Although, I’ve gotten equal satisfaction with finding steals of equal quality on eBay and thrift stores.

Think about how a tie fits in your wardrobe when buying a new one. I’ve seen a lot of really cool neckties that I would love to own, however, they don’t fit with my wardrobe at all and I’d rarely wear them. There’s often a reason why something is the “least-worn” item in your wardrobe.

Bowties aren’t for me. I have one that I wear with my tuxedo, that’s it. Nothing against people who like wearing bowties and I can think of instances where I might wear one, but I just would rather wear a tie. I like having that length of silk laying down the length of my chest.

For knots: four-in-hands for silk knits and button-down collars. And once in a while I’ll use a half-Windsor, because that’s the one my father taught me.

I don’t think of wearing a tie as “dressing up”, despite what others might think. You can wear a tie casually or formally. You can have fun wearing a tie, or wear one with seriousness. There’s enough variety out there to fit almost every occasion and environment.

18 Notes

  1. sashu reblogged this from thesilentist
  2. afistfulofstyle said: Skinny ties get a bum rap. Even 2” can look good with a couple caveats. 1: they’re ALWAYS informal NEVER with a suit. 2: you can channel Tarintino if you’re Harvey Keitel or Sam Jackson. Otherwise? Make sure that skinny tie has some color.
  3. acutestyle reblogged this from thesilentist and added:
    If you haven’t read these articles yet, you should. Great stuff. Hurricane literature.
  4. mdt said: Amen. Tie without jacket = sunday school.
  5. thesilentist posted this

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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