Tied up in knots over knit ties

Tied up in knots over knit ties

Q. You’ve written about knit ties, but it seems like their time is over? I haven’t seen them around; is this a 2010s trend that has died?

A. I don’t know why anyone has the idea that knit ties are “over.” They are one of the classic types of ties that well-dressed, necktie-wearing men own and wear. If you are grown-up enough to be shopping for a tie at all, then the store you are shopping in should have knit ties among their available options.

Knit ties are interesting in that they are both somewhat fashion-forward, being a pebbly knitted texture rather than smoothly woven fabric, and also somewhat traditional, having no or little pattern and generally muted colors. These allow them to work particularly well with any of the patterned shirts that men should not be (or have difficulty) wearing layered over another pattern.

A knit tie is a basic all-American type of tie. It comes in various fabrics: silk, wool, and cotton. The most elegant and versatile version is the silk knit; it goes with almost everything: It’s slight shine dresses up any collared business shirt you pair it with; the knitted fabric adds texture and subtle style to what might otherwise be an ordinary outfit; and it is perfect with the preppy sweater-shirt-and-no-jacket look. I once read that a man could stock his closet with three silk knit ties and never need any more neckwear, so long as the three ties were solid in color and they were no wider than 2 ½ inches. I agree. While non-knit ties are a bit wider, knit ties are known for being rather narrow (but not too skinny) as well as for having a squared (not pointed) front end.

Though these are the most typical requirements for knit ties, a few variations are acceptable. They are not always solid color. Some have a simple knitted dot or horizontal stripe pattern. And while they are usually found in dark colors (most often black, navy and burgundy), you will occasionally come across a nice bright yellow or light blue knit.

Other variations are knit ties made of wool (for cold weather) and cotton (for warm weather). A step less dressy than the silks, these are the ones most often worn with a sweater and shirt, either with or without a jacket. A knit tie worn under a sweater adds a bit of dash without looking too loud or too formal and brings a unique twist to the traditional uniform.

Pair a knit tie with a sports jacket to spruce up a semi-casual combination. Many men reserve their knit ties mainly for wear with shirts that have too much pattern to go with a patterned tie. Some natty dressers who like to wear unconventional, subtly-patterned trousers use a knit tie to tone down the look-at-me effect. A nice play on the traditional tie, the knit tie is a perfect fall and winter accessory.

No matter where you’re headed, the knit tie’s versatility can pull together any look . . . well, almost any look. Knit ties are too casual for all versions of formal wear as well as for that most dressy item of daytime wear, the dark pinstriped suit. Whether you’re at the office, out with friends, or traveling, the knit tie adds a note of stylish detail to any outfit and will elevate your style. Unlike other ties, knit ties are crease-resistant and travel ready. They are perfect accessories when you’re on-the-go. They won’t wrinkle and when you arrive at your destination, you’ll look ready for work or play.

Because knit ties tend to come in slimmer widths and more nubby fabrics, they do not work with all the same knots as a standard tie. You might want to use the smaller, simpler four-in-hand knot or the half-Windsor rather than the more formal, bulky Windsor. This won’t leave your knot looking too large for the width of the tie. For the same reasons, knit ties seem to work better with more casual Ivy League button-down collar shirts and straight point collars than with more formal English wide-spread styles.

Men sometimes think that wearing a tie can make them feel overdressed — especially if they’re the only one wearing one. But the rough woven texture and pliant material of the knit tie makes it an easy-going piece. You can count on it to look just a bit more put-together, rather than too rigid. The fabric’s texture adds the right amount of detail and rarity to any outfit. Knit styles are not only eye-catching, they are also guaranteed to make a statement.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL: Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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