Top Ties

Top Ties

Q. It seems ridiculous to spend $100 or even $40 on ties when I need 20 or more and I can find them at 2 for $20. Isn’t the money better spent on the rest of my business clothing?

A. I have always believed that buying – and wearing – quality ties is a wise way to spend your clothing dollars. The tie is the first thing one’s eye sees and usually the most noticeable and memorable element in your combination.

It would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of this smallest item in a man’s overall look. People may not particularly notice what else you are wearing (even if it is a very expensive suit or blazer), yet they often focus on and even associate you with your tie. That’s because the tie is usually the brightest in color of all the clothes you are wearing, and it is worn in a critical position close to your face. So, it follows: If your tie is the one item that people will remember, it should be a good one.

You probably do not really need twenty ties. The executive director of a men’s necktie association once told me that men who regularly wear ties to work usually have about 30 ties in their closets, but generally wear the same eight ties over and over again. I suggest you begin by buying five or six of the best looking and best quality ties you can afford and keep rotating them, especially on days when you have more contact. If you know you’re buried at your desk all day or want to keep one in an office drawer for a sudden need, that can be one of those more affordable choices.

In many ways, a quality tie is worth the extra cost. A good tie is designed to tie easily and make a good knot. Also, good ties are designed to last and continue to look good for many years. Quality necktie makers know how to construct a tie and insert the lining so the tie will knot well and hold up for years of wear. I doubt that any tie designed to sell for as little as $10 is going to meet the criteria to qualify as “a good tie.”

Fashion ties

The difference between an inexpensive tie and a top-of-the-line tie (besides cost) is the fabric the tie is made of, the beauty of the color and design, and the quality of the construction. My own personal rule is: never buy a polyester tie. No matter how small the price, a polyester tie is not worth the money. Even discount ties can usually be found in silk, just not the highest quality silk. Ties worth owning are made of natural fibers, primarily silk and less often wool or cotton or linen.

As to design: I always stress in my lectures that a well-dressed man’s neckties should all have “a name.” A tie’s design needs an actual name, such as a stripe, foulard, polka dot, paisley, or solid. It should not be a vague brownish orange tie with squiggles here and there, or a tie that has triangular designs in the middle.

Names almost always refer to a tie’s pattern. These are the most prominent ones, all acceptable for business and social wear:

· Solid colors. Can be made of fabrics ranging from the finest silks and linens, wool challis (a lightweight wool, pronounced shal’-ee), on through square-ended knit ties of wool or cotton.
· Foulards. Smooth silk ties with a small repeat pattern in harmonizing colors. These traditional and versatile ties are sometimes referred to as “neats.”
· Stripes. Most often made of repp, a ribbed or corded silk fabric. Some stripes are subtle, but most often they have bold regimental striped patterns (many dating back to British military regiments).
· Polka dots. The smallest, dressiest, and most elegant dots are called pindots. Medium size dots are also smart; but extra-large dots can be a clown-like questionable choice.
· Paisleys. An overall pattern of intertwined teardrop shapes. Less formal and more colorful than stripes or foulards, paisleys have an Indian flavor, and are about as vivid as serious business protocol allows.


All of this said, if your budget is limited, or for those starting their careers, there are ways to get a fine tie without paying a lot. If you are a savvy shopper, you might unearth a great find on sale in an upscale shop or department store, from a good catalog company such as Lands’ End, in a discount store, or a thrift shop. At this time of year, many stores are having end-of-the-season sales; if you know what you are looking for, you might get lucky.

I believe that people read volumes about you by glancing at your tie. Whether you are a conference speaker, an interviewee, or the President of the United States, the odds are 15 minutes after seeing you, the one piece of your clothing others will be able to describe is your tie. They’ll decide whether to give you time or brush you off, take you seriously or regard you as inconsequential, feel superior to your place in the social order or see you as one who belongs. All that in your tie.

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