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How to Buy a Tie | A Comprehensive Guide To Buying The Perfect Necktie

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So you're ready to rock that suit like Charles Barkley. Heck, you're ready to rock it like Shaquille O' Neal. With that exquisitely proportioned jacket and skinny, flat front pants, the only thing missing is the perfect necktie. So how do you go about choosing the ultimate men's accessory so that you can dress more like James Bond, Dwayne Wade or Russell Westbrook, and less like a pre-game reporter? Yes, I included James Bond and D-Wade in the same sentence. Moving on!

Choosing the right necktie involves paying attention to not just one matter, but many. From the type of occasion we are dressing for, the quality of the tie, how we are going to mix and match it vis a vis the colors and patterns in in our ensemble, all the way to seasonal considerations, there are a whole range of factors we must carefully evaluate so as to pick out that perfect statement piece. 

Additionally, considerations such as the knot and the pattern and width of the tie all work to minimize (or enhance) the formality of the tie -- making this accessory appropriate for all events and activities. 

That said, let’s dive in:

What’s the Occasion?

If you are in the market for a new tie, chances are that you already have an event or situation that you plan to attend which requires one.  The type of event is a vital component to the tie buying process. 

In some situations, your necktie could be the only thing that sets you apart and accentuates your personality – are you the power broker with the big swinging corporate red tie?  Are you a less outspoken individual and hence wearing a grey or regular blue tie?  Are you flamboyant and willing to wear pink to really make a statement?  Or are you just affable with a penchant for flair, and hence have opted for lilac?  Choose carefully, style and color says a lot.

Professional Presentations/Interviews

Subtle patterns and colors are the best option for professional situations.  Not too loud, or proud. 

Wearing the wrong tie to the wrong event can leave the wrong type of impression.  Considering animal print for a big sales presentation?  Forget it.  A loud tie can be very distracting in professional environments.  Opt for something classic, like a regimental stripeSolid colored tiesplaids, and simple stripes are a safe way to avoid too much formality and focus on your tie. Though some knit ties could be appropriate, we advise sticking to grenadines in professional settings

Please feel free to view The Dark Knot's range of Work, Presentation and Interview Ties!

Casual Dates/Weddings

Blue and Red Printed Silk Tie

Sartorialist @dapper.one showing off his best casual date night look with The Dark Knot’s Nantucket fish tie via Instagram.

Looking to recycle and wear your regimental stripe tie again to a beach wedding?  Don’t.  You are going to peg yourself as boring before you even leave the house.  In this case, that animal print that you were considering before is a great idea.  This is a good tip to keep in mind if you are heading on a date in the future, too.

Black Tie Events

Were you invited to a traditional black tie event?  In this case you must wear a black tuxedo with a crisp, white shirt and black bow tie – no exceptions. 

Business Casual

Navy Knit Tie Business Casual

Carl (@newenglandstyleconsulting) does an amazing job layering.  He keeps it business, he keeps it casual.

Business casual seems to draw confusion.  It really is not that complicated – a tie is never required.  A great idea for business casual dressing is to dress in layers.  Opt for a pair of khaki pants, a crisp collared shirt, and a sweater over layer (weather permitting) – tucking an interesting tie in between the layers so that only the knot shows.  This is also a good time to wear your knit ties, which pair well with both sweaters and jeans.

Appropriately Matching your Suiting

Maybe you only have one suit, maybe you have twelve – either way, you are going to need to choose the most appropriate for the given situation and take that into consideration when choosing accessories.

The very first thing to consider is to make sure that if your shirt is a medium to light color, opt for a tie that is a shade darker so that it does not get lost in the ensemble.

Now let’s choose a tie.

Using the Color Wheel

If you are a complete beginner, it may be best to start with the color wheel.  You can use this tool to determine which colors work together based on their relation on the wheel.  Do you want striking opposites or calming complements? 

 

(Color wheel diagram courtesy of ClosetomyHeart.com)

Complimentary colors are directly across from each other in the color wheel, such as violet and yellow.  Violet and yellow can be a great combination when looking at pattern contrast within various necktie designs. 

Triadic Color Scheme

Notice how style blogger, Effortless Gent used a triadic color scheme to create this polished, professional look.

Triadic colors are evenly spaced on the color wheel.  Think, “a triangle”. This would be a combination like yellow, blue, and red.  The key using this scheme is to vary the intensity of the colors throughout your outfit. 

Analogous color schemes are groups of colors next to each other on the color wheel.  These colors work well if you want to go for something a little bolder than a monochromatic look but not contrast too heavily.  It is a good rule of thumb to choose one color as your dominant and use the other two shades throughout the rest of the look to enhance the dominant color.

Split complementary colors are similar to complementary except this time when you are looking at the complement of your chosen color, you choose the two colors surrounding it (making a triangle on the color wheel). A split-complementary scheme allows you to contrast without such a bold statement.  So instead of pairing blue with orange, you could pair a blue shirt with a yellow-orange or red-orange tie.

Tetradic color schemes coming to life (left).  (Image courtesy of therakeonline.com)

Tetradic color schemes use two sets of complimentary color pairs to create a rectangle on the color wheel.  Say your two color choices are violet and red, to complete the tetradic color scheme you would also choose yellow and green.  This look may come to life by wearing an olive suit with a violet and burgundy patterned tie, topped off with a pale yellow pocket square.

Choosing the Right Pattern

Wearing similar patterns can provide both congruency and an element of contrast.  For example, narrow striped shirts are well complemented by wider striped ties, and windowpane shirts can be accessorized with smaller check ties.  

The Dark Knot’s founder, Rishi Chullani, showcasing multiple prints with plaid suiting.

Luckily our founder, Rishi Chullani, is an expert at pattern matching.  Here are some tips that he has provided:

Two different patterns can work wonders provided that there is an element of contrast with regard to proportions.  A small animal motif with a tiny-checkered shirt will most likely not work, but a wider striped tie on a narrow pinstriped suit and a smaller checkered shirt could produce an incredible textured effect.  The best suggestion for pairing two patterns together is to scale up the size of the pattern e.g, thin striped shirt with a wider spaced abstract tie, or a small checkered shirt with a wider spaced abstract or striped tie.  If the shirt design is widely spaced, an intricate tie design such as animal motif prints or closely constructed abstract design can work well too.

Mixing and matching three patterns requires a discerning eye.  If pulled off correctly, you’ve created a head turner.  Done wrong, however, and you’ll have heads being scratched.  With three different patterns, you need to maintain proportions and effect so that you don’t overdo congruency and you don’t exaggerate differences.  There has to be a fine line, and it takes fine-tuning to get there.  If this is your first time, stick to the basics.

Body Type Considerations

Everyone is built just a little differently, just like ties.  The knot, length and pattern of a tie can directly impact how your body is perceived to others.  In most cases, heftier men want to dress to look slim and shorter men want to look taller – a trick that the right tie can perform!

To Appear Taller/Slimmer

To appear thinner, try black.  Black is a particularly slimming color, and solid colors in general help slim a silhouette. Opt for simple, small patterns to avoid accentuating curves.  Vertical stripes can reduce horizontal lines and highlight vertical lines, making you appear both taller and slimmer. 

Blue Foulard Silk Tie

A foulard, repeating pattern silk tie, such as The Dark Knot’s Brienno Foulard Abstract Silk Tie, can have a slimming effect!

Horizontal patterns, on the other hand, could have you looking more stocky and force the observer’s attention from left to right as opposed to top to bottom.  If you are shorter and heavy, avoid wearing a skinny tie. That will accentuate weight!  A bowtie or puffed pocket square can help make things more interesting and take eyes away from the width of your frame.

To Add Weight

A thinner man looks much better in a skinny tie. A wide tie will make him look even thinner in comparison, while a skinny tie will not over power his body stature.  Horizontal stripes and plaids are also great for slimmer men, as these patterns tend to add weight.

Striped Knit Tie

A striped knit tie can add perceived width to the wearer's frame! Courtesy of blog.trashness.com

Appropriate Tie Lengths

A tie should be tied so that it ends near the middle of your belt buckle.  A tie that has been tied too short will look down right ridiculous. 

If you are a taller man standing at over 6’1 or 6’2, you will be better off purchasing longer length ties that will enable you to tie a half or full Windsor knot without the skinny end of your tie hanging loose and awkwardly.

To view The Dark Knot’s range of Extra Long Length Ties, please click here.

Keep in mind that the more extravagant the knot, the longer that the tie should be. 

Judging the Overall Quality of a Tie

A well-constructed tie will have the following pieces in place:

  • Woolen Interlining– Luxury necktie manufacturers generally use a wool fabric in between the actual fabric layers to give it shape and body.  This is called interlining.  Sub par manufacturers will try to cut costs (and lower quality) by using polyester.

Necktie Woolen Interlining

Higher quality manufacturers will use woolen interlining.

  • Slip Stitching– Quality manufacturers will incorporate slip stitching on the underside of the fabric.  This slip stitching affords flexibility of the material shifting as you are tying and untying the tie, ultimately prolonging the life of your investment.

Necktie slip stitch

  • Bar Tack– Almost all quality neckties will have a stitch joining the two sides on the back of the wide end, this is called a bar tack. A bar tack keeps both sides of the tie firmly in place and allows for a nicer drape over time.

Reinforced Tie Bar Tack Stitching

The Dark Knot uses reinforced bar tack stitching on all of its ties.

  • Keeper – The keeper is the loop behind the wide end that the narrow end of the tie slips through. Look for substantial stitching to ensure a durable keeper. Sub par quality ties often have keepers or label loops that are not appropriately stitched on.

  • Pieced Shell – The outer shell, or body, of a well-made tie should consist of three pieces: a large end (blade), a small end (tail) and a gusset (the neck piece) – all of which should be cut on the bias.
  • There are two ways to test if your new tie was cut on the bias, reassurance that it will keep its original shape through time:
  1. Lay the tie on a flat surface and put one palm over the widest part and the other about where the knot will be, move your palms apart. The tie should stretch slightly and go back to its original shape when you let go.
  2. Hold the tie up by its small end, or hang it over your arm. If it twists, it was not cut on the bias.
  • Tipping – Quality tie makers will tip their ties on the underside of the tie with silk, yielding an even more elegant feel and touch for the tie.

Fabric Choice

Silk is the top choice of fabric for luxury neckwear manufacturers for the following reasons: 

  1. Silk is one of the most durable fabrics in the world. Despite silk being soft, its tensile strength is very high. 
  2. Silk fabrics retain their shape and have a moderate resistance to wrinkling
  3. Silk fabrics drape excellently.
  4. Silk does not attract dirt because of its smooth finish.

Why would you choose anything other than silk?  Sure, wool is nice too, but it is quite inferior and less versatile than silk.

Knit vs. Grenadine

While a knit tie has been formed through knitting, a grenadine tie is manufactured through a loom. While knit ties are best worn in more informal settings, a grenadine tie can be worn for both semi-formal and formal occasions.

A knitted tie, as its name implies, is a tie that has been knitted rather than woven. Knitted Ties are characterized by an open weave, a narrow blade (typically around 2 to 2.5 inches) and square ends (versus triangular, pointed ends that you typically see with a jacquard woven or printed silk twill weave ties). It is these characteristics that make a knitted tie ideal for casual wear. 

To view The Dark Knot's range of Silk Knit Ties, please click here.

Knit Tie

Knit Ties pair perfectly with casual settings. Courtesy of www.pinterest.com

Knitted ties are generally coarser than woven woolen ties, due to their coarse texture and limited weaving patterns.  Made from lightweight yarn that is either wool, cashmere, or a blend- knitted ties drape exceptionally well.  However, because they are soft and somewhat stretchy, knitted ties no not have the fullness and hence level of formality that woven wool ties provide. 

A grenadine tie is a textured, woven silk tie that looks incredibly elegant. While it looks similar to a knitted tie, a grenadine tie is one that is made from Italian silk.  A grenadine weave is an open weave, involving two warp yarns twisted around the weft in order to provide a strong, sheer fabric. 

Navy Grenadine Tie

A Grenadine Tie can instantly elevate any ensemble! Courtesy of www.stylegirlfriend.com    

Grenadine ties are an ideal choice for formal settings, given the rich, textured look of the tie.  Though, this rich texture makes it highly versatile for all occasions.

Seasonal Appropriateness

Fall / Winter

Fall and winter tend to lend to darker, earth tones such as browns, olive greens and mustard yellows.  With less sunshine, more foliage and colder conditions, these ‘darker’ colors lend well to the colder months of the year and actually add a very discernable level of sophistication to your ensemble.  Winter is also associated with heavier fabrics, making it an optimal time to pull out your wool and knit tie collection.

Some colors are more appropriate at certain times of the year than others. For example, pastels are usually associated with the summer, while warmer hues like olive and burgundy are more associated with cooler weather.  Wearing inappropriate schemes and textures can sometimes look out of place and awkward.

 Woolen Tie

Woolen Ties can add textural sophistication during Winter Months. Courtesy of www.soletopia.com

Spring/Summer

With spring brings colorful change.  As blossom outgrows foliage and colors turn brighter, spring and summer months are about reintroducing pastels into our wardrobes.  Grab those lighter and brighter shades.  Warmer weather also brings sweat and clamminess, making thicker fabrics tougher to wear.  Always choose a silk for warmer weather, not only does it look nicer with thinner fabrics, it is also moisture wicking.

Printed Silk Ties

Printed Silk Ties are an ideal look during Spring / Summer Months! Courtesy of  The Dark Knot

Though cooler colors (blue, green, indigo) are usually associated with calmness and foliage, balancing out one warm color with two cool colors or the other way around is a great way to create harmony year-round.

Accessories for Your Accessories

 Tie Bar

Instagram’s @runnineverlong polishing off an incredible look with accessories for his accessory.

Of course now that you have chosen your tie, it is time to think about accessories.  If you are going for a polished, tailored look, do not forget your tie bar.  A tie bar not only provides a pop of metal, but also keeps your tie in place throughout the day.  Tie bars are essential for weddings and dates, nothing worse than dipping your tie into the buffet.

Looking to add that extra dash of flair?  A pocket square, perfect for any occasion, both casual and formal – can pack a powerful punch to your overall look.  Careful though, be sure that you have the correct fold for your occasion

Buying a tie is less complicated and tedious than it sounds.  At the end of the day, preference prevails.  Use this guide every time that you need that extra opinion.  After all, we are here to help you dress better.

 And that's a wrap for this one! I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it!

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