The First Thought
"IT'S NOT UNCOMMON for me to spend an hour with my clients in front of a mirror, helping them perfect a half-Windsor or nail down the best collar and tie styles," says ROBIN WALKER, a personal style consultant who dresses her prominent clients for international presentations and CNN appearances. The president of My WARDROBE COMPANION, Walker spends this sort of time on the perfect knot, because she cares about appearances, and knows that a fine tie is crucial to completing an outfit.
Completing The Outfit
Too many men underestimate the purpose of the tie, which is to enhance the body, complementing the face and directing attention upward," she says. "It's not an afterthought, it should be the first thought." Walker notes that most men learn how to tie ties from their father or brother, and may use one knot their entire lives. Not an appropriate strategy for all events, or when tie widths, fabrications and collar styles shift. And it's not easy: even she gets frustrated with fashion's fickle nature."
GARY CAHN, president of PRIVATE STOCK NECKWEAR, a manufacturer of better ties, notes that there is a great deal of style and power embedded in the necktie (which started off as a military flourish in Croatia, leading to the term "cravat"). "It seems today that more men are wearing ties again to separate themselves from others in the company," he says. "Everything from that first interview to getting ahead is important, and by dressing up, they earn that extra yard." It's helped that ties are also enjoying a resurgence in popular culture.
The Gold Standard
Musicians like JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE and KANYE ,WEST regularly sport ties, even with jeans. Cool Kids are wearing them to nightclubs, and ties have even made a comeback as a fashion statement on the slowly dying Casual Friday "More men are sporting neckties and pocket squares to distinguish themselves," says Walker. "They're tired of blending in and watching the other guy get the sale, the contract, the girl. In short, adding a tie to the mix adds depth of character and finishes the outfit."
Making it all work involves understanding a few rules about buying neckwear. There is a huge range of quality out there (the linings and interiors of the tie are just as important as the silk on the outside), and you generally get what you pay for: a cheap tie won't drape well, it won't knot well, and it won't dimple well. And it all shows. In addition, the best tie in the world won't tie itself. You've got to take the time to really learn your knots (like back in your Boy Scout days), and learn about yourself.
Buy what looks good and is made well. Quality is indeed number one. A nice tie will dress up a cheaper suit, while a badly made tie will destroy the best outfit.
"The tie should make a nice dimple on the first attempt." says Cahn. Practice, Practice, Practice. Be able to make more then one knot (ask us how). and develop a signature to really stand out.
To Be Shared
Making It All Work
If you're discovering the slimmer suits (or for a casual look), a narrower tie (3 inches or under) will work. Otherwise, feel free to stick with what's gotten this far up the corporate ladder.
Finally, pocket squares are incredible accessories, but they should complement the tie, not match it exactly. (Don't be afraid to ask for guidance!)
"Treat your ties like gold, and roll them to store them" says Walker. "It kills me to see a two hundred dollar tie mistreated."
Take the time to understand what widths, pattern scales and colors for your body and face, and stick with them. Again, ask us for help.