Ties for the Holidays

For some reason, the man who has everything gets more neckties. Perhaps it's because it's a one-size-fits-all garment (except that you can have them customized to height) that people like to give ties at the holidays. It's not like you can't always use more (especially as the casual-office-attire trend sinks into oblivion). The problem is Aunt Gertrude who gives you one with reindeers on it, or your chum Chet who thinks you need another polyester school tie to remember the old days. At best, they're worn once and then banished to a place of dishonor in your closet.

Why not a preemptive strike this year with the subtle (or hammering) tips that will put them onto the right cravat for you?

First, silk, quality silk, is the only material for neckwear, even woven. Nothing else will make a proper knot or drape properly. Wool bulks up at the knot and stretches oddly. Synthetic fabric won't lose its shape and so won't take the sensuous, long dimple that creates a focal point at the chest. Silk also best accepts the vivid dye colors common to neckwear. Some even think silk is its own best lining, seven-fold ties that use yards of it instead having a backing.

Second, ties are the spice of a wardrobe, not a replacement item. If you already have a fleet of red ones or your fill of striped cravats, you probably don't need more. Experiment with new colors and patterns that will make your whole closet seem more varied. Great patterns, like paisleys, are hot, but more important is surface interest, which gives a three dimensionality to a tie. Woven ties do that well. Anthony T. Kirby creates neckwear with a subtle ribbing that adds interest even in one-color ties. Stefano Ricci's Pleated Tie has a ruffled look that will have women pawing your sartorial masculine extension. Zegna's Cesello tie (purple- and beige-striped in photo) employs a unique treatment using dyes that confer a subtle, almost metallic luster on its silk-screened patterns.

Third, have fun. That doesn't mean that because golf is your idea of a good tie, you should get a tie with three-woods all over it. Jack Simpson (orange, beige and red ties pictured) recalls the risqué novelty ties of the 1940s in his new line. Robert Talbott (plaid-patterned in photo) found it had the scraps of so much premium silk lying around the workrooms that it could create this whole line of ties by sewing the pieces together.

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