Commonwealth Proper was kind enough to send me one of their wool flannel neckties for review about a month ago and after wearing it a few times, I’ve shifted my views on wool neckwear.
Before getting into that, I want to go over the details of the necktie itself. The tie’s fabric is a rather substantially thick wool flannel from Italy. It feels about as heavy as any wool flannel trouser I’ve worn, but perhaps slightly scratchier to give it some slight texture.
The tie’s interlining is what I believe to be wool and is of moderate thickness, giving the flannel even more weight in the blades. This is not a light and airy necktie, it’s definitely denser. The tipping is a vintage silk with an ivory ground and burgundy print that features a floral scenery.
One of the details I always look for on a necktie are the bar-tack stitches. As you can see below, the bar tack on both blades are done quite well. From experience, bar tacks like these won’t come undone — unlike some lesser-constructed ties I’ve had in the past that were surprisingly priced similarly.
In terms of how the tie knots, this is where I go back to my initial thought of changing my mind on how wool ties knot. Frankly, I’ve been slowly more indifferent or against wool neckwear in the past. Either the tie is too thick to be knotted well — even with a four-in-hand — or the tie is too flimsy and the fabric too much like a sponge that it turns into a mushed ball at the knot that lacks substantialness. Other times I found the wool fabric too rigid and lifeless to work.
But, the flannel of this particular tie has worked quite well for me in the few times I’ve found to wear it. It knots well and forms a dimple that looks substantial. The knot doesn’t feel obtusely large nor too compacted. The tie has enough mobility in it not look stiff as a board when worn. It’s my opinion that the tie is extremely well-balanced.
I should note that the tie’s width is smaller than my preferred ideal — measuring in at 3”, whereas my typical preference is for 3.5” — but I found it’s worked well with parts of my wardrobe for the cooler months. I feel the tie works best for casual evenings, against a white shirt and darker jackets in grey, charcoal and navy, preferably with some texture — like a tweed or heavy flannel. I’ve paired it with and OCBD and a chunky-knit cardigan as well as my grey donegal tweed suit (as seen below).
Commonwealth Proper's neckties are made in the U.S.A. and they seem to be producing small numbers of each type of design that arrives in stock. You can find the tie in dark grey flannel (the one they sent me), mid-grey and also black. Check them out as they continue to release new items to their online store.
One of the most under-appreciated details on a necktie is the bar tack. I’ve had neckties that I’ve paid a hefty sum for that lacked a decent bar tack and came undone after a few wears, which is a moment of disappointment when you think back to how much the tie cost. It’s a tiny detail, unnoticed by so many — wearers and manufacturers alike — but I happen to enjoy the tactile feel of a well-sewn one.
Louis Walton's bar tacks are impressive, as you can see above. I consider it on par with those found on Vanda Fine Clothing's and Panta Clothing's neckties. It's better than the bar tacks found on Drake's London and Polo Ralph Lauren, in my opinion. It's the first thing I noticed when I received a review necktie, handmade by owner Gregory Walton (he named the company after his father) in San Francisco.
"I started making ties because I realized the things I liked were very expensive and I felt that with practice I could make something just as nice as the things in the shops I liked," Gregory said. "In my family it has been a practice to learn to make the things or do the services we like."
Gregory’s been sewing neckties since 2008 and initially gave them away as gifts until a friend asked him to design a line of ties and pocket squares for his shop.
The tie Gregory sent me is this navy Japanese cotton with white flowers in a six-fold design. The tie is lightly lined and untipped, two details I particularly enjoy. It also features a hand-sewn slip-stitch to allow the tie to recover after being worn.
I asked Gregory about some of the technical challenges of learning how to sew ties by hand, and unsurprisingly he said it’s not easy. One of his mentors taught him how to make patterns for shirts and trousers, which helped him develop his own patterns for neckties.
"There is still a measure of trial and error involved because I make each tie with the client in mind," Gregory said. "Therefore, the shape and length of each tie is different depending on the size and preferences of the client. I am constantly learning and trying different things."
Another challenge is sourcing fabric and thread, because they’re not available at just any fabric store, often needing to be sourced from mills directly. Finding good fabric is extremely important to him because it affects how the tie drapes and knots.
While the design and pattern of the fabric is originally what caught my eye (I’m always a sucker for navy ties), the light cotton actually goes nicely with a variety of summer and warm-weather jackets and the “neat” flower pattern gives just enough visual variety to break up an ensemble of solids. I liked it in particular against a light blue linen shirt and a white linen-cotton jacket.
If you’ve been following the Louis Walton tumblr, you’ll notice that Gregory’s also been expanding his skillset into leather goods, including belts and keyholders. If you took a look, you’ll see they look damn impressive.
"I am very excited to be branching into leather work and find it o be very rewarding," Gregory said. "I am starting with small pieces like keyholders and wallets, and I hope to offer larger items like briefcases and bags for men next year. I do everything by hand and it leads to pieces that are very strong and structured, while still being soft and pliable."
Gregory also mentioned he’s working on outerwear pieces with a local tailor to be offered as made-to-measure items.
It should also be noted that Gregory’s training under Beatrice Amblard of April In Paris fame. For those who don’t know, Amblard is a former Hermes artisan that now has her own label designing custom leather accessories in San Francisco.
Tonight marks the first presidential debate for the 2012 general election and it’s a time when partisans should be encouraged to show their affiliation. Now, there’s a lot of crass and tasteless ways to do this through clothing (just take a look at the junk on Zazzle, CafePress or even eBay), but for those looking for the love of politics and menswear, I’ve put together this guide.
Southern Proper: $75, available in a huge range of colors and designs. Wovens in red, crimson and purple; repp stripe in blue (above); printed in red, crimson and blue; another printed GOP elephant on red silk; and political elephants and donkeys surrounded by stars.
Sette Neckwear: $265, available in three designs each for Democrats and Republicans. Elephant print in red, blue and purple. Donkey print in blue, scarlet and yellow. (These 7-fold ties are my personal favorite.)
Tucker Blair: $95, needlepoint belt.
Smathers & Branson: $165, needlepoint belts for both Republicans and Democrats.
Prince Albert Slippers:
Shorts and Trousers:
Orvis: $15.20 (on sale), in Republican red and Democrat blue.