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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