Wearing a tie with confidence truly separates a well-dressed man from the crowd. Below we've set out everything you need to be aware of when choosing patterns, proportions and colours of your tie. In this post we'll cover:
- Ensuring the correct proportions of a jacket and a tie
- The benefits of solid ties
- How to style textures and patterns
- Matching your tie colour to your shirt and jacket
- Which tie to wear for every occasion
- The best seasonal ties
Although ties are not the compulsory part of the modern dress code that they once were, there is no doubt they can transform a good outfit into a great one. After all, in menswear, they are one of the few options to add a dash of colour in a world where navy and grey is the norm. Read on for our guide to always look stylish.
Let's Start With the Collar
Often an overlooked aspect, it really does all start with your collar. If your tie is uncomfortable, it's almost always because your collar is too small for you.
You don't need a bespoke shirt for it to fit you well, you simply have to choose the right collar size. A well-fitted shirt and a tie will never be unpleasant to wear. As a rule of thumb, you should comfortably be able to fit one figure between your neck and collar once the top button is fastened.
Face shape also has a part to play when choosing a collar. People with square and full faces benefit from choosing narrow point collars, while if you have a slim face, a spread collar is the best choice as it will make your face look wider.
If you are likely to wear the shirt for more informal occasions a button down collar is the obvious choice. This collar was originally created for polo players, where they would button the collar down while playing and then leave them unbuttoned when off the playing field.
Respect the Proportions When Pairing a Jacket and Tie
Outfits are a little like recipes, initially proportions should be respected until you build a bit of confidence l, then you can start to be more adventurous and develop a certain sprezzatura. More on this below.
Generally speaking, your tie should reach your waistband. The one exception to this is if you are wearing high-waisted trousers, where your tie should still fall to your waist (or where your belt would be on a standard pair of trousers), rather than the top of the trousers. This will make you look taller, by increasing the length of your torso.
For a more casual look, you can choose to wear the back blade longer than the front, a look often termed sprezzatura, which means giving off a casual air, as if you just threw on your outfit without a care to how you looked (but in most cases actually took great care!)
For a more traditional look, keep the length to your waistband and then experiment in more casual settings, it truly is a case of just wearing it with confidence.
Ties come in different widths, generally from 6 cm to 10 cm, but for most people the an 8 cm tie is the right choice. It's seen as the width which will fit all body types, and will look good on both shorter and taller men, but the key element is to ensure the width of your tie is proportional to the rest of your outfit.
The main point of reference is your lapels. As you may imagine, a skinny tie will not look aesthetically pleasing with generous lapels. These will instead call for a wider tie, around 9cm. Midsize lapels, which most modern jackets have, will be complemented by an 8 cm wide tie.
After lapels, the next proportion to pay attention to is your collar. A wide spread collar will look unbalanced with a narrow tie. If you keep you tie width, lapels and collar width in proportion, you will always look well turned out.
Once you have a chosen a tie width that complements your lapels, the next element to pay attention to is the tie knot which, again, is all about proportions. A narrow tie needs a smaller knot such a four and hand. A typical tie with a standard width of 8cm is more versatile so looks good with knots such as a four in hand or the slightly wider Half-Windsor. A wide tie will generally need a wider knot so a Half-Windsor, or its large cousin the Full-Windsor is the way to go.
So once you add the knot and put all four of these elements together you should have a nice balance between your tie width, lapels, collar width and tie knot.
Why you should wear solid ties
Solid-coloured ties are the ties you will find everywhere, no matter where you are in the world, they are the safe option of the tie world. They most definitely have their place, and are appropriate for more formal occasions. A classic choice is to go for a more muted version of a primary colour, so burgundy rather than a vibrant red, forest green rather than green etc.
For the most part, if you stick to this rule of thumb it's unlikely your tie will clash with another colour in your outfit. However, one way to add a bit of interest to your plain tie is to go for something with a bit of texture.
A textured fabric, like wool or grenadine silk work well for most business and smart casual environments (wool being slightly more formal, grenadine a more relaxed option). They bring a plain outfit to the next level and add some more visual interest. If you are wearing a jacket with a bold pattern, or a patterned shirt, or layering and introducing a few different colours. In these cases a solid tie is essential to provide balance to the overall tone of the outfit.
How to wear textured and patterned ties
There are myriad different tie designs which gives you huge scope to add a different look and feel to your jackets, simply by changing your tie. One could say that a tie reflects the character of the person wearing it, but each occasion will call for a different tie, so below we've set out some simple rules of thumb.
PATTERNED TIES ARE A STRONG ADDITION TO YOUR WARDROBE
A plain charcoal or navy suit effectively acts as a blank canvas for you to add some interesting accents into the mix. With a solid coloured suit or jacket, you are free to choose most colours and patterns; stripes, paisleys or repeating patterns will all look good.
When wearing a blazer or suit with a pattern, such as houndstooth or Prince of Wales, the simplest option is to choose a plain shirt - light blue and white are the most classic. You can also wear a patterned shirt, narrow vertical stripes that are not too bold and will provide some more visual interest without competing with the jacket pattern.
Often it pays to limit patterns to two, so if you want to add a patterned tie, go for a plain shirt. But if you are so bold to add multiple patterns, keep it to three, and choose patterns of different sizes and widths so they complement each other rather than competing with each other.
One of the more interesting fabrics in term of textures are Shantung ties. They are made of raw silk, and have irregularities and slubs, which make them more casual. Shantung ties are a more visually interesting fabric and they do tend to mark out the wearer and having a true attention to detail. Classic Shantung ties tend to have stripes, which does make them quite versatile.
Different tie patterns
There are thousands of different tie patterns available, but they can usually be grouped into the categories below.
Perhaps the most classic pattern is striped. It is also considered as the most versatile design, and is therefore a staple of classic menswear. With their origins in clubs, organisations and the military, stripe ties are called 'club ties' in England, or repp ties in the US, as men used to wear them to show they belonged to a club or organisation.
Striped ties are a key component of the Ivy look, with loafers, beige chinos and a navy double-breasted blazer, but they are a good choice to have in any wardrobe. Depending on the colours of the stripes and their sizes, they can be worn with most suits and shirts. They are more sober than other patterns, and therefore can be dressed up, but paired with a casual blazer and some chinos, give off a more casual look.
Larger stripes will give you more versatility, as they will tend not to clash with other patterns (of the shirt and suit), which will often be smaller.
Macclesfield, a town in England, has been known for centuries for producing some of the finest silk in the entire world. Now, only two factories are left, and they still maintain their reputation, being some of the only manufacturers able to do ancient madder. They are still known for the quality of their printed and woven silk, and most luxury brands use silk coming from these very factories.
Apart from being a town, Macclesfield has also given its name to patterns. The most iconic is a black and white houndstooth, sometimes called a wedding tie, as explained by Alan Flusser. More generally, small geometric patterns are often referenced as Macclesfield patterns as well.
Small patterns with some type of little flowers are sometimes known as Macclesfield neats. Bigger patterns, called Medallion, are also representative of Macclesfield patterns. However, it does not always mean that they have been printed in Macclesfield, and sometimes they are simply referenced as geometric patterns. They are typical of madder ties but can also be found on screen-printed or digitally printed ties, and even woollen ones.
These patterns can be worn with plain suits and shirts, but depending on their sizes, can also be worn with patterned clothes. Once again, the key is to mix patterns of different sizes, for instance, Medallion ties will look great on a thin-striped shirt, whereas Macclesfield neats will tend to look better on shirts with wider stripes.
The paisley pattern is also representative of Madder ties. They found their origins in Persia, but the name originates from a small town in Scotland, called Paisley. Called cachemire in French, this pattern is a kind of teardrop. It has been printed on clothes for centuries, on shawls, but also on bedclothes.
Ties with paisley patterns are not very formal, they are generally for more relaxed occasions, or for weddings and other parties. They often come in different colours, some brighter than others. But with a strong pattern like this, it's always better to go for Madder ties, which have more faded colours, and are therefore more subtle.
PRINCE OF WALES
Dating from the 19th century, this pattern was named after Edward VII, once the Prince of Wales. It's a check, made up of different sized stripes, creating a crossed pattern.
This pattern is mostly typical of suits, but can also be found on ties. Even when it's made of thinner lines, it tends to look better on plain shirts, and worn with plain suits. Prince of Wales ties are often worn with morning coats, for that typical English look, such as our Charcoal Prince of Wales Tie below.
Hermes and other brands have popularised smaller patterns with animals or other original forms. These ties are often brightly-coloured, orange, navy, or red for instance. Depending on the brand, the colours and patterns can be quite formal, but it's hard to judge if they can be adapted for a business situation or not. The Hermes ties are often seen on bankers, but some companies have a strict hierarchy, where younger people and those further down the hierarchy are not supposed to wear these ties, which are reserved for those ‘higher up’.
However, not everybody works in banking, and no two companies are the same. Therefore, only you can judge if a tie like this will be adapted to your boardroom or not. One thing is sure though, a patterned tie with elephants makes a statement. Paired with simpler and plainer clothes, it will just be enough to show that you care about how you dress without being ‘too much’.
Matching your tie colour to your shirt and suit
The colour of the tie has to complement the colour of the suit. For instance, navy suits will look out of this world with an orange tie, especially if it has small blue geometric patterns on it. But navy still allows for other colours such as green or brown. It is the best background for any tie.
Charcoal suits are also a staple of the man's wardrobe. It is a colour more adapted to winter, especially with flannels, but charcoal suits can be worn all year long, as long as the fabric is light enough for warmer months. Grey is a very versatile colour and allows you to be quite adventurous with your tie. Perhaps the best choice with a charcoal suit is madder ties. Their faded colour complements darker colours very well and they can be considered as the best combination for winter and autumn outfits. Either a nice purple or rust madder tie would be ideal.
Another way to avoid a grey suit feeling monotonous is to wear a brighter coloured tie, such as a gold or nice red one. For some reason, patterns on ties tend to make a grey suit livelier, compared to solid coloured ties, so go for it. Choose a pocket square with colours that complement the colours in the tie and you are certain to have a solid outfit. The key is to choose an eye-catching tie, to avoid a plain and boring outfit.
Which tie to wear for every occasion
The same way you are not going to wear pyjamas to the boardroom, wearing the most casual tie you own to a meeting with your CEO may not be the best idea. However, dress codes are changing, and in some companies, any tie will already be too dressed up, but it's still important to have an idea of how formal your tie is.
Traditionally, darker colours are smarter and brighter colours are more casual. You may want to stick to navy, grey and brown ties for business occasions. But depending on the company, other colours such as orange can look great. However always try to wear darker shades, choose that burnt orange tie over that bright orange one.
As much interest as texture can bring to an outfit, it can be seen as more casual, especially grenadine silk. But textured wool, usually in darker colours, can still look formal.
Possibly the main thing which makes a tie formal or casual is the pattern. Bigger patterns are more casual, and so are fancier patterns such as elephants or other animals. Smaller, more geometrical patterns tend to be more formal.
However, it's important to keep in mind that ties which tend to be more casual can be seen as quite formal depending on the environment, therefore sometimes you can be free to wear any tie you want. It's all a question of balance.
Which ties to wear in summer and in winter
Seasons have an impact on what suits you are wearing, but also on your choice of tie. Temperatures lead to a different choice of fabrics and colours.
As much as your love your grey flannel suit, it's not suitable for a hot summer’s day and neither is a flannel or a wool tie. Instead, a blend of cotton and linen (the cotton helps to avoid creases after a few hours of wear) will be light enough to wear when it's 30 degrees outside. Hand-rolled ties will tend to be lighter as well and they can be a strong choice to stay dapper even during the warmer months.
Silk ties can usually be worn all year round, but spring and summer call for brighter colours: orange and light blue, for example.
That said, some wool ties can still be worn in the summer. For instance, a wool knit tie would be light enough, but obviously flannel and other woollen ties will be too warm and may even look out of place.
Though, rest assured that if you live in England, you'll still be able to wear flannel ties all year long, but not if you live in Rome…
During the winter, ties keep your neck warm. Tweed ties, woollen ties, flannels, all of these will be the perfect choice for any cold day. Heavier weight ties are often darker in colour, such as dark grey or dark navy. Shinier silk is more summery while darker, more faded colours are better adapted to autumn and winter.
It's easy to go wrong with heavier fabrics. Cheaper ties will have a heavy interlining and combined with the heavy fabric of the shell, the knot will look too big. A great quality tie will have a thin interlining so that the knot is not too big. However, with those fabrics, always go for a four-in-hand, because it will be thick no matter what, and only this knot will give a nice result. 3-fold ties are also preferred to heavy fabrics, as more folds mean more fabric, which leads to a thicker knot.
Autumn and winter are the perfect months to take your Madder ties out of your wardrobe and give them the spotlight they deserve. Madder ties are a solid choice, this fabric has an amazing history and it comes with many different patterns, like paisleys and geometric patterns. These are perfect for that Ivy look with a navy blazer and grey chinos, but will also complement your best tweed suit.
How to travel with your ties
For someone who travels quite often, carrying ties can be a real problem. They are often an expensive accessory and need to be looked after, because the last thing you want is to arrive in your hotel room, only to realise that the tie is completely wrinkled and you can't wear it the same day.
The best way to travel with ties is to invest in a tie case. They can often fit 2 to 4 ties, which is usually enough for most business trips. A tie case will keep your ties protected and well organised. They often have small pockets built-in, which can be very handy to carry your cufflinks.
Not everybody has a tie case, however, and an easy way to travel with ties is to roll them and put them between two shirts. Roll them tightly, and they will look great even after a long flight. As soon as you arrive at your destination, unroll it and hang it, the weight of the tie will remove any wrinkles that may have occurred.
If your tie is really wrinkled however, all is not lost. The main thing is to never press a tie because you would flatten it, and then take the risk of it never going back to its normal shape.
Instead, put it on a hanger, and steam away the wrinkles. A steamer is the best choice, but an iron will do the trick if you do not own a steamer, or if you are in a hotel room.
Wearing a tie can be a tricky job to get right, however once you get the right basis, it will become easier over time. Some people prefer getting bespoke ties, as they are able to choose the perfect width as well as the correct length for them. It's the best way to make sure a tie would look great. You can find more information about our bespoke ties here.
A great Ready To Wear tie with a width of 8cm and made with a quality fabric would be a great start to make sure it looks great with plenty of outfits. Have a look at our full tie collection here.