Saturday, October 15, 2011

BACK TO BASICS. Choosing the Perfect Tie

For the traditionals, a guide to hassle-free tie picking.

Alright, you’re clueless. You would probably snatch the first tie you see off the rack and run straight to the counter to spare yourself the agony of rifling through hundreds of ties – the most you have perhaps seen in your life. Pace yourself. Here’s a guide in purchasing a quality necktie.


  1. First, check the width. The keyword here is balance. The width of the tie should in proportion to the length of the shirt collar and, if you’re wearing a jacket, the width of the jacket lapel and the shape of the jacket opening.
At present, there are two different sizes commonly available in the market. If you’re more conventional, you can choose the Business cut that uses the most popular and normally accepted width of 3.5’ to 3.75’ at the widest part of the tip. Odds-on, it wouldn’t go out of style.

If you’re a bit trendier, purchase the progressive sizes that vary from the slimmer cut of ~ 2¾’ to the narrower cut of ~ 1½’ called ‘the little black tie’, the counterpart of ‘the little black dress.’

  1. Next, check the length. The length of a standard tie ranges from 52’ to 58’. Since the proper way to wear a tie is to let the tip hang to reach the waistband of the trousers or the belt buckle, taller men or those in the habit of using Windsor knots may need to specially order ties that are longer. Ideally, the ends of the tie should hang equal in length or with the narrower end a bit shorter.

  1. Pick a shape. Bet you didn’t know that ties come in three typical shapes: the full bottle shape and the half bottle shape, which are both more expensive because the cut leaves the remaining silk to waste, and the less expensive straight cut.


  1. Consider the Lining. Most people assess the value of the tie by its thickness. This holds true when ties were cut from a single piece of square silk folded seven times to make it rich and thick. Logically, this way, a thicker tie has more silk and therefore more expensive. However, the expense of mass-producing ties prevents such indulgence in manufacturing. Instead, an additional lining is inserted to provide body and fullness to the tie.
The finest ties are those generally made in Europe using pure virgin wool. Virgin wool is more resilient and holds the shape of the tie better. You can check the wool content of a tie if it’s not indicated in the label by checking a series of gold bars visible upon opening the back of the tie. The more bars the greater the wool content and the finer the tie. However, at present, wool is being successfully replaced by cotton-poly lining that is cheaper and fairly durable.

  1. Feel the texture. Silk is always the best material for ties but be wary. If the silk material feels coarse, then it is of substandard quality like hair that’s been damaged – brittle and frays easily. It’s also important that you inspect the weave for puckers.

  1. Test the cut. Let it hang in your hand to see if it twirls in the air. If it does, then it was probably not cut on the bias of the fabric like all fine ties should. Cutting across the fabric allows them to fall straight after being tied in a knot several times without twisting.

  1. Count the pieces. American tie manufacturer Jesse Langsdorf thought of having three pieces of fabric sewn together to make the tie conform easily to the neck when worn. He also invented the slipstitch.

The Nitty-gritty Details

1.     Pull the stitch. The slipstitch was invented to add more resilience to the necktie allowing it to be worn repeatedly. It is the loose black thread found far back if you peek inside tie from behind. The tie moves along this thread when worn around the neck to keep it from ripping and allows it to return to its original form afterwards. It is a quality handmade tie, if the tie gathers when you pull the slipstitch.

2.     Look for the Bar tack. It is the thick stitch used in quality ties that helps maintain its form by keeping together the two back flaps forming an inverted V.

3.     Tuck in the Loop. It’s a better deal to have fabric loops located at the back of the tie to tuck the tail in than behind those unmanageable labels.

4.     Tip More. A self tipped tie, one that has the silk used on the front similar to that used on the tip of the tie at the back, is more likely to be of better quality.

See? It’s not really as hard as you thought. Just take the time to inspect to see if you’re buying a quality tie. If you follow these simple instructions then you’ll have no trouble finding ties that will last a long time. But remember, finding a quality tie is one thing, matching it with your wardrobe is another. Hahaha.

We know that it’s not the fault of men to be born in a gender profile with limited fashion vocabulary or derisory comprehension on things feminine. That is why we are helping you break in that seemingly elusive world by running a series that will lay down the ground work to serve as your guide to almost everything – from shopping and grooming to cooking, et c. – the works.

** This is the first article I've written for my column, Back to Basics, in the i-section of the Manila Bulletin, which was printed on 26 July 2006.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

The Agony and the Ecstacy

Oh, for a beach in the back of beyond!

** This was my very first article for 'i' in the lifestyle section of the Manila Bulletin. It was printed on May 5, 2006.

How far will you go to escape the stress of work? These days, when most people’s notion of vacation has attenuated to what is expedient and convenient, there are still those who would seek a more adventurous expedition. We, being workaholics with the sadistic habit of mixing pleasure with work, found a perfect destination that will quench your thirst for adventure – Northern Aurora.
Early morning trip. With designer Kenneth Chua and Brazilian model Tatiana
We left Manila early in the morning to dodge the morning traffic. With the impending lengthy travel it will also allow us to maximize daylight to appreciate better the view on the way. We made special arrangements to get picked up in Cabanatuan by an experienced driver to navigate the road.
The trip is definitely not for the impatient and weak-hearted for it took us approximately 10 to 12 hours from Cabanatuan to reach the place, minus the stopovers we had to take to stretch a bit, take a leak, and loose up ourselves from the unnerving ride. For hours we braved the rough and sharply angulated zigzagging dirt roads that were so narrow you can see beyond the precipice. Riding the bumpy and uneven terrain resembled a roller coaster ride.
One of the 15 streams we had to cross.
Of course, our arduous travel didn’t remain unrewarded. As we excurse the 470-kilometer distance away from our dear metropolis, we were able to view the picturesque landscape of the countryside and experience the magnificent virgin forests to the Sierra Madre mountain range with its enormous trees and rich undergrowth. It was like the typical Indiana Jones adventure as we went further, crossing streams that flow from the crevices of the mountain. It was honestly great at first, but after hours traversing about 13 mountains, crossing more than 15 streams and seeing nothing but vegetation and rock formations the trip can become quite tedious.

with shan plameras
However, upon reflection, the travel resembles a ritual that gradually detaches you from the mundane world of the city life. The more you become anxious of the trip, the more you get frustrated until you finally release yourself from all your concerns and simply enjoy being carried away by the hypnotizing stretches of coconut plantations and the mesmerizing idyllic charms of the rural communities. Towards the latter part of the journey, we were slowly aroused by the glimpse of white sand beaches that remind us of the exciting discoveries that await us.
Late that night, we reached the quiet town of Casiguran, the biggest and most central of the three municipalities in Northern Aurora and will provide better access to the two other towns of Dinalungan and Dilasag.
There we stayed in Bulo, a 2.8-hectare compound owned by the clan of former mayor Estevez, located in Brgy. Calangcuasan. It has four rooms that can accommodate two to three persons at the rate of P350 per night and a bigger room that can accommodate four to five persons at the rate of P500 per night. The compound is five to 10 minutes away from the center of the town where you can purchase your supplies. The staff can make special arrangements to have someone pick you up in Cabanatuan and guide you to the different places in Northern Aurora. In fact, they even made arrangements to secure our safety during our stay.
The following morning, despite the jarring long journey, we dragged our languid bodies right after breakfast to the van that will carry us to our first stop. On our way, we were slowly revitalized by the essence of the natural environment around us. The lush green trees rose high above the ground with their branches interlocking like arms that let in a minimal amount of sunlight, producing a dramatic effect that sends chills down our spines. The red earth boundaries of the dirt road were interspersed with all colors of vegetation. By the time we reached our stop we were completely recharged and looking forward to what was in store for us.
We got off the van and walked a few meters until we reached a clearing and were awestruck by the sight before us as we strode the white sands of Casapsapan Beach. The pristine beach stretches kilometers away with it clear pacific waters glistening under the sun. The white sand beaches lie bare and unspoiled, still exhibiting the ripples of the waves undulating above it on a high tide. We were left astonished by the miraculous confluence of the lake and the ocean and the refreshing sea breeze that cools the heat of the benign sun.

The pristine beach stretches kilometers away with it clear pacific waters glistening under the sun.
Can you see the ripple marks?
The beach outing was furthered by the sumptuous lunch of red juicy lobster and crabs provided by our hosts, Michael and Cathy. Aurora is well known for the fresh seafoods they harvest daily. (A kilo of lobster only costs P150.) By end of the day, as we returned to Bulo, we all realized that for the beach alone the trip was worth it.

with my editor, Joyce Fernandez

Brazilian model, Tiago
There are other places to visit in the town of Casiguran. There are the unadulterated beaches of Ontoc, Dilipot and Sto. Nino point, with gigantic waves that will surely delight the surfers and, like Casapsapan Beach, they are also ideal for snorkeling and diving. There is the Maiinit Spring where live red prawns dwell and the San Ildefonso Falls that can be reached an hour by motorboat from the port of Brgy Estevez also in Casiguran. The town is also well known as a pilgrimage site during the Lenten Season for the miraculous shrine of the Nuestra Senora dela Ermita located in a chapel in the mountains.
The town of Casiguran alone has a huge tourism potential if only enough funds will be channeled for the development of the necessary infrastructure that will make it more accessible. Its development will certainly boost the country’s tourism, as it will definitely be an irresistible attraction with global appeal. By June, Dinadiawan in Casigurasan will be constructing a tower that will make the area WiFi like the neighboring region of central Aurora. Next year, there’s a plan to construct a small airport that will answer the problem of transportation. Hopefully, the development of the province will carry on and lead to the potential benefits it augurs.