Tying A Tie
Before we go any further, we just wanted to bring our thorough guide on how to tie a tie to your attention. If you’re looking for you’d like step-by-step instructions for how to tie a variety of tie knots, head there for some easy tutorials!
Necktie 101: Terminology, Wovens, & Prints
First, a few terms you’ll hear in the necktie world:
- Blade: The ends of a tie. Neckties have a narrow blade and a wide blade.
- Hand: A term used to describe how something feels. High-quality ties have a lustrous “hand,” for example.
- Four-in-hand: Synonym for “necktie.” Also, a basic but popular tie knot.
- Tipping: The material used to cover the backside of the bottom of each tie blade, similar to a lining. “Self-tipped” ties use the same material as the tie itself for tipping and are thus more expensive.
- Bias: A method of necktie manufacturing in which the silk and interlining are cut on a bias (a 45-degree angle) and held together by a slip stitch. Allows the tie to knot properly and retain their shape over time.
Woven neckwear is generally considered to be the final word in neckwear in terms of quality and brilliance. “Wovens” are so named because different strands of silk are strategically woven together to create detailed motifs. They are typically the dressiest, most expensive neckties.
You can see the individual strands of green thread in the woven floral tie below:
It’s easy to tell a woven tie: touch it. If it feels quite textured, it’s more than likely a woven.
Printed neckwear is the other dominant tie style. A younger tie-making method than weaving, printed ties weren’t really in the same class as woven ones until after the 1920s, and the printed neckwear explosion didn’t take hold until the 1960s. The method is simple: stamp a pattern onto raw or dyed silk as you see on the floral tie below:
As you might imagine, this is a less expensive way to make a necktie and as such prints are more prevalent in terms of raw sales numbers as a result. Printed neckwear can still be plenty dressy, though they lack the texture that woven neckties offer. Just like we can tell a woven necktie from touch, we can tell a printed one: it’s entirely smooth.
Styles & Patterns Of Neckties
In this part of our guide, we’ll be breaking down typical tie patterns that you can find. Of course, there are plenty of others out there, which include various weaves and designs.
Nevertheless, these are the most popular tie patterns in production:
You can scroll down to read about each one or jump ahead with the above links!
The mainstay of any man’s wardrobe, every guy should have at least a few solid ties in his closet. In fact, the capsule wardrobe calls for red, blue, and yellow solid neckties as the critical starting point for men.
Ancient Madder Ties
Ancient madder ties are silkscreen printed ties that are renowned for their ability to pair beautifully with tweed. The typical colours we see are dusty yellow, faded green, ruby red, indigo blue, and dark chocolate.
These colours are achieved through natural dyestuffs (which is the “madder” portion of the term) being silkscreen printed on a special gum-twill silk.
It was what’s called a “chalk hand,” meaning that it has a chalky feel to it. Its somewhat faded, powdery look is highly prized by the best-dressed among us, especially in the autumn.
Macclesfield ties get their name from the British town of Macclesfield, which is a silk weaving hub that still functions today. A tightly woven geometric pattern, it utilizes small geometric shapes such as circles, squares, and diamonds.
Worn by well-dressed British men in the 1920s, this style of tie was initially made in black, white, and grey. This gave the tie a silvery effect and was for a long time known as the “wedding tie” due to its inherent formality and ease of wear with morning dress.
Spitalfield ties feature another woven pattern, just like the Macclesfield. Another British invention, they were initially made in the town of Spitalfield, which is on the outskirts of London.
Spitalfield ties originally distinguished themselves from Macclesfield ties by having larger, fancier motifs in a broader range of colour combinations. However, both names today are often used interchangeably. They are now made all over the world and also qualify as a geometric pattern.
Repp & Regimental Stripe Ties
British regimental stripes tie, with stripes going downward from left to right
Repp stripe ties are easily the most popular type of patterned tie. A simple striped motif wherein the stripes are on the diagonal, they can be either woven or printed, and they look just as good at the office as they do on a dressy date. They also have a fascinating history in terms of their British origins and American reinvention.
They’re called regimental stripes because of their English military history. Different regiments of the British military had various colour schemes, most often seen on the mess jackets of those regiments’ officers. The rank-and-file also wore cravats with these striped motifs, and when the soldiers came home, they often would wear ties that indicated their old regiment.
American repp stripe tie, with stripes going down from right to left
In the early 1900s, Brooks Brothers introduced the tie to the American market. While this rubbed many a British veteran the wrong way (“How dare someone wear my regiment’s tie?!!?”), they sold and continue to sell like hotcakes in the States.
An important note here is the direction of the stripes. The British originals’ stripes descended on the diagonal from left to right. This follows aesthetic logic in that it syncs with the left-over-right buttoning mechanism of a man’s blazer.
Brooks’ ties, on the other hand, descend from right to left. This was not an accident and was intended to differentiate themselves from the originals out of respect.
The most playful tie pattern that a man can wear in the real world, dots are a type of “neat” pattern, which refers to a kind of print that’s repeated all over the entire tie (they’re also referred to as “all-over neats”).
Decades ago, dots were squarely in the domain of womenswear. Sir Thomas Lipton, a London businessman of Scottish descent who was active in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, is credited with making dots acceptable for men. He always wore a navy bow tie with white dots.
Dots can be as large as polka dots or as small as pin dots. There’s an adage often used in the UK that you should never mix spots and stripes. However, we wholeheartedly disagree and would instead argue that both complement each other nicely by offering a hint of contrast.
Paisley is, in our opinion, the most interesting of all the tie patterns. Its origins date back to ancient Babylonia, and they have a particular association with English taste. Freud thought the pattern symbolized virility due to its resemblance to sperm.
A fun tie just shy of “novelty” status, paisley has a particular Ivy League aesthetic similar to the critters that we see on the GTH (meaning “go to hell,” or loudly patterned) pants often worn by this set. They’re available in a wide range of colour schemes and scales, making paisley a versatile pattern indeed.
Plaid & Tartan Ties
Plaid ties can be either printed or woven and were initially made of wool as a nod to their relation to Scottish kilts.
Authentic Highland plaids were gentrified in silk for city wear and continue to enjoy popularity to this day. While silk is more appropriate for town, you can also wear tartan and plaid ties made from wool!
Essentially a series of boxes, plaid ties are chock full of right angles. As such, they pair quite well with striped shirts and suits.
Club & Sports Ties
Unsurprisingly, club ties are British in origin. The name “club tie” is pretty self-explanatory in that wearing one symbolized membership in a private, often elite social club. Similar to regimental ties, the colours of these ties offer insight into the wearer’s membership in a club.
However, they can often be worn to show affiliation with any group, including academic institutions and sports clubs.
A sports tie is a style of all-over tie that has sporting motifs on it. This usually looks like sailboats, golfers, polo players, and so on. Yet, they may instead feature the sports club’s crest.
Nowadays, a “club” tie can be used to describe a tie that has a series of symbols on it, regardless of their meaning or lack thereof.
Like the ugly Christmas sweater, a lot of guys keep a novelty tie or two in the rotation. Sometimes they light up, sometimes they make noise, and sometimes they are just insane. Occasionally, they may be quite tasteful. Indeed, Brooks Brothers retail a variety of elegant novelty ties!
Sometimes they’re just what the doctor ordered -think boozy holiday parties, being the fun teacher that every kid loves and learns a lot from- and sometimes they’re just terrible-looking.
Use your best judgement when looking at novelty ties. If you don’t have good judgement, ask a friend or spouse with sound judgement for input.
Classic Tie Fabrics
While it’s always been the most popular cloth, ties aren’t just made of silk. Below we’ll outline the most common tie fabrics:
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to read them all!
As we said, silk is hands down the most common material to use in neckties. It has a beautiful hand, a handsome sheen, and lasts a long time when properly cared for. One thing that needs addressing, however, is the ubiquitousness of the claim “100% silk” on so many neckties.
The outer portion of silk neckties are indeed 100% silk. Yet, the lion’s share of ties have filler or interlining, which is very rarely silk. The materials used for this may vary, but silk they are not.
Authentic 100% silk ties are often seven-fold ties, meaning that they’re made from a massive piece of silk that has been folded over itself in such a way that it has the heft and thickness required to prepare for an excellent necktie. As you might imagine, such ties are often quite expensive, and few makers bother making ties this way.
Raw silk contains sericin, a gummy substance that protects silk during processing and is typically removed at the final stage of tie production by boiling the silk in soap and water. Ties that skip this last step are referred to as raw silk ties.
These have a more casual élan as they have a nubby texture, which contrasts significantly from fully-processed silk’s smooth, lustrous hand.
Shantung is a type of material that originates from the province of Shandong in China (the word “shantung” is itself a corruption of Shandong).
Similar to raw silk in its nubbiness and irregularity, its an intentionally coarse silk that’s often used for bridal gowns but occasionally makes its way into men’s neckwear. Indeed, Shantung has a cloudy, shrouded finish, which ages well can have a particular vintage aesthetic.
Wool ties actually come in two aesthetic styles: one is the relatively inexpensive English country wool tie, the other is the more tailored, thinner, cashmere tie.
The former is great for odd jackets and trouser combinations in the autumn, as its scratchiness and heft pair well with such garments. Their knots tend to be larger, and the overall presentation more informal.
The latter is phenomenal for suiting in cold weather, as it tends to tie a smaller knot and more resembles the dressiness of silk than pure lambswool.
If you live in a place that gets cold throughout the year, you need at least a few wool ties in your rotation.
Cotton ties are a perfect neckwear solution for warm weather. Typically lightweight and smooth, they make for a relatively dressy option for wear with khaki and seersucker suits.
They take very well to prints, especially floral ones.
Linen ties, though somewhat uncommon, are also ideal for warm weather but are generally a bit more casual than their cotton counterparts. This is because linen is highly textured and a bit rough to the touch.
Linen’s weight makes is an excellent neckwear option, and any guy who lives in a warm climate could use a few in his wardrobe.
How To Choose The Tie Width & For Your Body Type & Face Shape
The rule of thumb dictates that tie width should roughly sync with the width of your lapel. While this is fair, it’s only part of the picture.
The widths of ties (and jacket lapels) change with the winds of fashion. In the 1930s, we had wide, short ties. In the 1960s, we had slim ties. The 1970s saw four-inch-wide bib ties, and the 2010s have seen a return to super skinny ties.
Should you wear a skinny tie or a wide tie? What’s a good middle ground?
Acceptable tie widths range anywhere from 2.75″ on the narrow end of the spectrum and 3.5″ on the wide end. The only exception we’ll make to this is for knit ties with flat blades, which tend to be 2″ wide.
Your ties’ widths should sync with your body type, first and foremost. If you’re a big guy, a wider tie will make more sense on your frame while overpowering a small guy. Conversely, men of slight build would do well to stick to somewhat narrower ties, while these will simply amplify a large man’s size.
With all of that being said, it is essential to know that the length of a tie should always sit at the same spot regardless of the man wearing the tie. To learn more about how long a tie should visit our comprehensive tie length guide.
Now that you have read our full introduction to neckties, peruse more of our related content: