Tie-ing one on

I must confess that I am a bit of an anomaly in writing for Urbanicity. As the oldest author to be regularly published, new trends occasionally have me saying, “Here we go again.” Fashion, particularly men’s fashion is often cyclical. Today’s slimmer narrower suits, fitted shirts, and skinny ties are slightly different from, but very similar to, the styles that preceded the “mod” looks of the late 60’s.

One of the secrets of fashion is that even though there is a rhythm to style is it usually different enough from previous iterations that vintage pieces somehow don’t look quite right. This time – not so much. Men’s wear from the 1960’s is very similar to today’s most avant-garde styles. In fact, I still have the first “expensive” ties I ever owned – over 50 years old, made in Italy by Brioni, pure silk ties less than 2 inches wide. I wore one the other day and the skinny ties worked well with newer tailored clothing’s slimmer silhouettes and narrower lapels.

Men’s fashion tends to be “evolutionary” rather than “revolutionary.” The slimmer ties of the early 60’s were replaced with ties that grew wider and wider through the 60’s until the 41/2” belly warmers of the “Mod” era – peaking around 1970. As time passed, tie widths narrowed and stabilised at more or less 3” for about 30 years. Many shops still offer this width, but the most forward fashion shops are showing 2” widths.

But, won’t ties disappear? Does the current, far more relaxed, more casual, egalitarian dress code mean ties as an essential part of a man’s wardrobe are passé? I think not. Unless you are lucky enough to work for Google, a suit, shirt, and tie are still integral to a business or dress wardrobe.

Four in Hand

If you have the tie but aren’t sure how to tie it, you are not alone. The good news is you only need to learn two knots. (Well three if you want to wear a bow tie.) The easiest is called the four in hand knot. You use this knot with button down shirts and with “regular” collared shirts – anything other than a “spread’ collar.

tying-a-tie-instructionsThe illustration shows how simple this one is.

Half Windsor

The second knot you need is the half Windsor. (The full Windsor knot is similar but harder to tie well.) While the four in hand knot is tubular in appearance, a properly tied Half Windsor knot will have a “V” shape filling out the space in a spread or Windsor-collared shirt.

A dimple just under the knot makes the tie look better. Just form the dimple as you tighten the knot. Practice a couple of times – you’ll get it.

Bow Tie

We all have prejudices. One of mine is against pre-tied ties and especially against pre-tied bow ties. Bow ties are tricky to tie at first, but once you get the knack…well, I think they look sharp; and I love to wear them. You can wear bow ties with button downs, wing collars (usually found on formal shirts) or the “regular” collared shirts.

While bow ties are de rigeur with tuxedoes, they lend a more relaxed, friendly, artistic attitude to the wearer. If you want to stand out, a bow tie should be your choice.

One warning – there are hints of tab and pin collared shirts returning. Only a four in hand knot is suitable for those styles.

What about patterns? The fashion gurus are calling for solid colours, muted paisleys, and neat small geometric patterns. Forget about it! If there is any excuse for a tie it is as an expression of the wearer’s taste and personality. (Although, in my case it also serves as a record of what I’ve been eating.) I believe anything goes. I encourage you to wear what you like. Well, except for pre-tied and polyester belly warmers.

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