There is nothing quite like the feel of a handmade tie.
Below is our complete guide to the handmade tie covering topics such as:
- Handmade vs machine made
- The most popular fabrics
- What is the bias and why it needs to be cut the right way
- Folds: 3 vs 5 vs 7
- Self-tipped or hand rolled?
- The importance of the lining
- Slip stitch and keeper loop
- Key patterns and what works best
- How to style a tie in a way that works for you
The Origins of the Necktie
The necktie in its current form started to appear regularly from the 1920s and was an evolution from the cravat (the French word for necktie), which was made popular in European society during the reign of Louis XIV of France.
Handmade vs Machine made
Most people would naturally assume that a handmade tie is a superior quality, but what really are the differences? A true handmade tie is exactly that, almost entirely made by hand. The tie fabric is firstly marked out, then cut on the bias (more on this below), then pressed and hand sewn. Depending on the tip finishing, a handmade tie will usually take around 30 minutes to make.
A machine made tie is definitely more industrial, where fabric is placed on the machine and it is cut and sewn in a matter of seconds. Impressive yes, but not particularly drawing on the romantic history of quality garment manufacturing.
So what does this mean in practice? A machine made tie is constructed to produce a product for the lowest cost, so the fabrics used tend to be cheaper and the interlining will also be a cheap fabric such as polyester. This means that a machine made tie will often feel quite stiff and wrinkles easily, while the drape is often lifeless and flat.
A handmade tie by contrast is generally made from quality fabrics, with the interlining selected for the particular fabric and fold construction. This not only means the look and texture of the tie are superior, but also has give and flexibility so the knot ties better and it drapes nicely over your shirt.
Fabric Textures & Weight
Ties are made from many different fabrics and fabric blends, but the staples are silk and wool, particularly in winter and lighter fabrics in summer such as linen and cotton. The key things to think about are textures, colours and weight. In winter, you want to go for heavier fabrics which will tend to have more texture and have darker hues such as the below.
Cashmere and thicker wools (which include tweeds) are perfect for Autumn & Winter. The thick fabric and textures match the earth’s tones of dark greens & umber browns and atmosphere which add to that cosy feeling of the colder months. Thick wool ties make a substantial knot that lends itself perfectly to a heavier wool or tweed jacket.
For the warmer months, you want to go for a lighter fabric, perhaps something with an open weave that allows the air to more easily pass through it such as linen. The lightweight and loose weave made from the stems of the flax plant help with airflow and helps to create a laid back feel to your outfit.
Each fabric has its own characteristics which bring a different level of flair to an outfit. Satin silks are better matched to business attire and casual fabrics such as cottons or shantung silks are better suited to more casual jackets such as tweeds, linens or flannels. We have put together a section on how to best match fabrics and looks below.
Why a Handmade Tie is cut on the Bias
The fabric of a handmade tie is cut on the “bias” of the fabric. It is cut on a 45-degree angle to ensure the tie lays flat against the body when worn and should return to its natural state when un-tied and remain wrinkle free. If the tie is cut parallel to grain, it wouldn't have the same flexibility and would be prone to warp & twist, therefore missing out on the exquisite drape that you get from a handmade tie.
Ties are one of the only pieces of clothing which have no real purpose, except to look great, but they are more than just a piece of fabric hanging around your neck. Let us take you through the ins and outs of tie-making by covering:
- What goes into making a tie
- Fabric choice
- Finishing touches
- Keeping your ties looking fresh
- Different ways to tie your tie
- Styling your tie
How ties are made
Handmade or machine made?
There is no doubt that machine made ties make up the majority of the ties on the market right now, but the luxury and attention to detail that can be found in handmade ties is second to none.
These days, most high-street brands are producing cheap ties that are made, most often, by Liba machines. These tend to be of a lower quality as they are made with speed and efficiency in mind rather than the sartorial finish. The inflexible stitching can also affect the way that the tie will lie when knotted, and can cause the fabric to tear in certain circumstances.
Handmade ties are often of a higher quality. They take longer to produce, and they require great knowledge, which is why manufacturers who have been around for decades, and in some cases, centuries, often produce some of the finest ties in the world.
The fabric is firstly cut by hand, on the bias, which means that it is cut diagonally, at a 45° angle, across the grain of the fabric. Cutting on the bias ensures that the tie will drape naturally and without twisting. It also makes sure the fabric will stretch and go back to its original shape after being worn. Cutting on the bias requires more fabric which is why you may see some ties not cut in this way – it’s cheaper to make.
Once the fabric has been cut, the tie is tipped and sewn together, as ties are often made up of several pieces of fabric. When the tie pieces have been joined together, the tie is then pressed, ready to be slipped.
On self-tipped ties (more on this later), a lining is placed into the tie and the hand slipper then pins the fabric along the tie folding onto the lining, creating an even seam along the length of the tie.
Starting at the narrow end, a stretch loop is added while slipping along the tie. The stretch loop is one continuous piece of thread used to slip the tie without joins. This allows the fabric to move when worn and the stretch loop ensures more flexibility. This is unique to a handmade tie.
The ‘bar tack’ or ‘bullion’ stitch is added at each end of the tie while it is being slipped. This is also a special stitch that shows that the tie has been hand sewn. This attention to detail, just in the stitching will result in a luxurious tie likely to last a lifetime.
Just as ties can be bought for a few pounds, they can as easily cost several hundred pounds. While the details like the lining and the handmade process can justify a higher price, the main cost is the fabric of the shell, or main material.
Viscose and polyester:
The cheapest ties will be made out of Polyester, or Viscose. These ties can be shiny, with no texture, and when paired with a quality jacket or suit, can lower the overall effect of your outfit. Instead of viscose and polyester, we recommend natural materials should be chosen, like silk, wool, or cashmere.
Silk ties are durable and will last a lifetime if they are correctly looked after. Draping beautifully around the neck, silk ties can come in a variety of textures including printed, grenadine, or shantung. As one of the most luxurious fabrics, silk looks great with all suits, no matter what fabric they are made with; linen, wool, or cashmere. They are the most formal ties.
Though not all silk is the same quality. Often, ties which are lined with a very thick fabric actually have a poor quality silk which is very thin, the lining is thick to give the impression that the tie is of great quality. But keep in mind that the quality of the tie is not defined by its thickness.
Perhaps some of the most versatile ties are made with wool. Ideal for autumn and winter, wool brings a lot of character and texture to a tie. Like silk, there are different qualities of wool, so always try to choose ties handmade with fabrics from famous mills, like Fox Brothers, who have been producing wool and cloth for more than 250 years. You can never go wrong with great quality wool.
You’ll find wool ties in dark colours, usually all shades of brown, grey and blue. They will complement your tweed and herringbone suits perfectly.
Most people stick to silk ties all year long, and wearing a woollen tie shows a lot of character and uniqueness while being very subtle. It’s a very strong option to consider when you want to show a bit of personality.
Linen and cotton:
These are not the most formal ties, and are quite casual, however they are the perfect ties for warmer months, worn with linen and cotton suits.
Linen and cottons ties usually have a shell composed of a mix of both materials, but as a result, they tend to wrinkle a lot. Great quality ties will have a wool lining which will help them to regain their shape after a long day of wear. Blends of silk, wool and linen are also common, and tend to wrinkle less than blends of linen and cotton.
There are 3 ways that a tie can be finished at the tip: tipped, self-tipped, and hand-rolled.
Tipped is the most common one, where the lining inside the tie is covered by a 3rd material, which is often made of polyester or viscose. This last part is therefore different from the shell of the tie (the main fabric, often made of silk or wool). It’s sometimes a bright colour, or simply a plain one, and it generally matches well with the colours of the shell fabric. Machine made ties tend to be finished in this way.
Self-tipped are similar, in a way that the lining is hidden by a tip lining, but this last material is the very same as the shell. They are more expensive to produce because they require more premium material, but they look fantastic, and show a great attention to detail.
The hand-rolled ties may be the most luxurious ties, depending on your taste. The end of the fabric is rolled and sewn by hand, giving a very sartorial finish, while making the tie lighter. They are also referred to as untipped ties. Handrolling is a delicate skill that takes years to perfect, and as a result it is a more expensive way to finish a tie. With no lining to hide behind, the sewing and the inside of the tie have to be flawless. Untipped ties are perfect for the summer season, as they are lighter than tipped ties.
Times and trends change, and the width of ties change with them.
Skinny ties were brought back by Don Draper and Dior a few years ago. They have a front blade of 6-6.5 cm, and should typically be avoided. They look too small with any kind of collar and lapel.
Slim ties are ideal for those who are on the shorter side of life. If your jackets have narrow lapels, a tie with a width of 7-7.5cm will look great, with the widths complementing each other. Taller men should avoid slim ties, and instead opt for wider options.
The perfect width for a tie, for everyone, is around 8-8.5cm. They are timeless, never too narrow and never too wide, and will look perfect with most suits and jackets.
Wider ties were popular in the 1980s, but not so much today. Usually around 10-11cm, they are now mostly worn by taller men. Wider guys need wider ties, and the opposite is also true. They should be avoided by shorter and slimmer men if you want to avoid that Wall Street look.
Have you always wondered what brands mean when they say 3-folds, 5 folds or 7 folds?
Simply put, ties are made of a single piece of fabric which has been folded, 3 times, 5 times, 7 times, or more.
A 3-Fold tie is the classic number of folds and the most common finish. It involves cutting the tie fabric and simply folding it over and sewing it down the back of the tie. The 3rd fold ensures the upper fabric on the back of the tie is a closed seam. They look great with all knots, especially the four-in-hand.
A 5-fold tie has an extra fold on either side of the fabric which adds more weight to the tie. Some people prefer the weight of a 5-fold tie which gives the tie a little more structure, though 5 fold ties are not very common.
A 7-fold tie is often considered the most sartorial tie. It does not always require an interlining and uses more fabric in the construction of the tie. It's really down to personal preference. The extra folds add further weight and structure, and the finished tie will also give a larger knot when tied. 7-fold ties are sometimes lined with a very thin interlining to make sure they do not lose their shape, but occasionally they are not lined at all and have even more silk to add more weight. These ties tend to wrinkle more and generally need more care to maintain their shape.
7-fold ties are seen as more luxurious as they require more premium fabric and are therefore more expensive. It’s hard to say whether a 7-fold tie is better than a 3-fold tie or not. The latter, if handmade in a great fabric and lined with an adequate material, will drape perfectly and will have plenty of character. The number of folds is more a purist thing than a quality aspect, a 3-fold tie handmade in a Fox flannel will look way better than a 7-fold tie made with a cheap silk, so do not let it fool you.
Most ties have an interlining, which is often hidden when the tie is tipped, or visible when its untipped. The only ties which do not always have some lining are 7-fold ties, although it’s not rare to find them with a very thin lining.
The lining is sometimes made with polyester or viscose, and in this case, it is often thicker to hide the fact that the silk of the shell is of poor quality. Brands see it as a way of reducing costs, however it does have an impact on the knot. Indeed, the knot will be too bulky and will not look as neat as a tie with a thinner lining
Quality ties are always lined with a lining whose weight is adapted to the weight of the fabric of the shell. Wool and cotton are the most used for quality ties.
An interlining adapted to the weight of the fabric gives a nice drape to the tie, allowing it to fall neatly and it also helps to make a beautiful knot.
Without interlining, ties would wrinkle very easily, and would lose their shape. A wool interlining in a silk tie will help the silk return to its original shape as wool has a longer “memory” than silk does. A wool tie will always bounce back to its original shape even after being tied all day. Polyester or viscose lined ties will tend to stay wrinkled, which is why ties lined with these fabrics may lose their shape after a few months.
Some ties do not have interlining, this is the case for 7-fold ties. But they will tend to twist and lose their shape, even if they are of the greatest quality. For this reason, many craftsmen still use a very thin interlining to help the tie keep its shape over time.
You will find the keeper loop on almost all ties. It’s a small piece of fabric, sewn onto the front blade. Its purpose is pretty simple: make sure the back blade stays in place during the day, and therefore hidden behind the front blade. It tends to be made in the same material as the shell for a cleaner look. The higher it is, the better the back blade will look, as it will drape in a better way.
Some people do not like to use the keeper loop, and they prefer to have both blades showing and moving around. It shows some nonchalance, and is often seen at the Pitti Uomo, however it may not be well suited to more formal situations.
If you want to show some sprezzatura, leave the back blade out of the keeper, and knot your tie in a four-in-hand leaving the back blade a bit longer than the front.
The slip stitch is a loop of thread with an excess of thread, whose purpose is to allow the fabric to wrinkle and move during the day without tearing. It’s situated on the back blade and helps to bring back the tie to its original shape after being worn.
Keeping your ties looking fresh
Well-made ties can last a lifetime, but cheaper ties can last longer as well when well cared for. By looking after your ties, you can extend their life and keep them looking as good as the day you bought them. Our top tips for keeping your ties:
- Hang your ties: this helps to remove any creases from the day’s wear
- If hanging space is at a premium, roll your ties, or even store them flat. All our Rampley & Co ties come in a gift box, why not keep your ties in their box?
- We recommend that you always unknot the tie after each outing
- If moths are a problem, make sure to have some moth repellents in your wardrobe. Cedar wood blocks are moth repellent, and could double up as a tie rack as shown below
Tie rack from Dapper Woodwork
Tie knots and proportions:
There are endless ways of tying a tie, but we have summarised our two favourites here:
- The four-in-hand is the most common knot, and for a reason - it’s easy, sophisticated, and works well with a variety of fabrics.
- A Windsor knot works well with thinner materials such as silk which is by definition, very light and thinner than wool. A wool tie tied in a Windsor knot will be very bulky, so it’s worth thinking about the material of the tie and the knot size.
When choosing how to knot your tie, consider the proportions. Shorter individuals may opt for a slighter knot such as the four in hand, however if the collar and lapels are in proportion, a Windsor knot could be just the ticket. If you are on the taller side of life, a bigger knot could be a better option to balance out the appearance.
Styling your ties
If there is only one rule you should remember, is to never wear a pocket square with the same fabric as the tie. It should be avoided in every context.
That being said, there are a few other things to consider when choosing a tie. None of them are hard and fast rules, but recommended to achieve the casually put together look.
Most people like to wear a tie with a fabric similar to the fabric of their suit. Following this rule, a herringbone tie will look great with a tweed jacket. A silk tie will look great with a blend of mohair and wool suit. Contrasting fabrics can also work wonders on your outfit: a silk tie with a more rugged suit for example. You could also wear a thick wool tie with a mohair and wool suit.
Colours should complement each other. If a tie has some orange details in its design, then a pocket square with a hint of orange could match perfectly to tie the look together. Or an orange tie could be paired with a blue pocket square, as both colours are opposite on the colour spectrum and are complementary.
They key is to choose colours which are either close, grey and blue, or opposed, like grey and brown. That way you’ll never go wrong.
By now you should have a better idea of what makes a quality tie and what to look for when you buy a new one. At Rampley & Co, we take pride in using the finest materials, like Fox Brothers and Scabal fabrics, and pay great attention to detail. You’ll find that all our ties are either self-tipped or handrolled, and always handmade in England. We believe the tie you're wearing is as important as your suit, and that it shouldn't be left to chance.
Click here to view our full range of handmade ties