Nothing finishes off a snazzy outfit like a good silk tie. What goes into quality neckwear? Thick, lustrous silk hand-folded and hand-stitched neckties are at the top end of the line. Here's how to tell what you're getting, and how to take care of it properly.
Of Bias and Blankets
It's generally agreed in fashion circles that silk is the best material for neckties. While polyester and rayon may seem attractive due to stain resistance and durability, the fact is that nothing quite matches the look and feel of silk.
Just getting that fabric isn't always enough. Silk comes in many different varieties, both in texture and thickness. "100% silk" may be thin, cheap fabric with many defects in the weave. Even the thicker varieties may not have been cut and sewn properly. There are many ways that manufacturers cut corners - sometimes literally - to give the appearance of quality without actually putting in the effort. When you're looking for a good quality thick silk tie, be aware of the following :
- Cut on the Bias: Take a look at how the threads of the tie fabric run. Are they diagonal? If so, it means the silk fabric was "cut on the bias" and will tend to hang better and flow more smoothly. Silk is notoriously difficult to sew and bias cuts use up more fabric, which makes the tie more expensive depending on the thickness and quality of the weave.
- Folds vs. Blankets: A good silk tie has a structure to it, a heaviness that other fabrics won't match. In some cases this is created by an interlining swatch of fabric called the "blanket" inside of the layers of silk. Better ties are folded layer by layer so that the thickness is entirely due to the fabric. The best have seven folds of high-quality silk. It may seem like a small thing, but it is what makes ties like the "hand-folded" Hermes brand in Paris go for $165 or more.
- Pulling the Pocket: On the back of the tie, the folds that form the diamond shape at the tip are called the "blades" and the fabric used to cover that area (usually a different, softer grade of silk) is the "pocket". Pulling up the top part and looking inside the tie, you shouldn't be able to see inside very far, and certainly not as far as the blanket.
- Stitching: Because silk is such delicate fabric, the best ties are hand-stitched carefully. Examine the seams on the back of the tie, looking for slight irregularities that don't show up in machine-stitching.
Finding Good Quality Silk Neckwear
If Hermes is a bit too much for your wallet, there are many other places on the web to find good ties. One possibility is eBay, where you can find ties such as Canali or other Italian silk neckties for about half what they cost in other stores. TieDeals also has a wide variety of designer sevenfold ties in thick silk and other materials. However, you can't really tell the quality of the fabric online.
One of the best places to find good ties cheaply is at clothing resale shops. Using the guidelines above, you can check every tie and often find great deals. Pinch a section of the fabric between your thumb and forefinger and rub it together. The more smooth it feels in motion, the tighter the weave of the silk. Don't necessarily dismiss the rougher, thicker silk. "Raw silk" is more durable than the polished and smooth variety, and you may prefer that style.
Caring for Thick Silk Ties
One of the worst things that can happen with silk neckties is spilling something on it. The fabric is notoriously susceptible to stains, but one of the advantages of thicker silk ties is that they may not soak all the way through. The last thing you want to do is apply some kind of stain remover, because with all types of silk it will just makes things worse. Follow the steps on websites such as Bows-n-Ties which have better strategies for taking care of those "oops" moments.
The finer heavy silk ties also will have a tendency to wrinkle after wearing. You should store the tie by wrapping it loosely around your hand and letting it sit overnight. By morning, the wrinkles will settle out of the fabric. Never store thick silk neckties with any knot still in them, and when you take it off, untie it properly. That means following the steps you took to tie the knot in reverse, as opposed to just taking it off the neck and pulling the knot free.
A Timeless and Classic Look
The necktie is one of the oldest styles for men in existence, according to Willy Spat of Flatrock.org. It may seem a bit much to pay close to $200 for a thick silk tie, but as the saying goes, "buy quality and you never regret it." Take the time to get the right tie and you will have a piece of clothing that speaks of elegance, sophistication, and class.