Woven silk remains the classic choice for businesswear. On one point, the Italian workshops and the English
haberdashers agree: the best solid and printed silks come from the home of British silk making, Macclesfield. In the
handful of surviving mills, heavy silk is still screen-printed by hand to produce crisp designs. The classics are
small repeating patterns such as florals or crests (called ‘neats’ in the trade) and repeating stripes (whose
history lies in old English clubs, regiments, and school colours). These designs have been used by English makers
for generations, and for the same reason are prized by American anglophiles like Ralph Lauren, French purveyors of
le style anglais, Japanese ivy enthusiasts and Neapolitan craftsmen such as Marinella and Cappelli.
The classic woven silk—grenadine—hails from Lombardy, where it’s still made on traditional looms. Grenadines come in
a range of weaves, from the denseGarza Piccolo (literally, ‘small gauze’) all the way up to the airy
Garza Grossa (‘large gauze’). From a distance, grenadines have a matte appearance. Up-close they are a fine
mesh of tiny knots. Sean Conney’s James Bond popularized the navy grenadine in Britain, and it remains an
unimpeachable choice for any formal occasion, but don’t overlook grenadines with stripes or hand-embroidered
For more informal occasions, texture is key. One summery option is shantung, made from unboiled (‘raw’) silk. It has
a rough, slubby surface that’s closer to linen, but without the tendency to crumple within minutes. In winter, ties
follow the lead of tailoring: look to brushed wool flannel and thick cashmere.
The king of casual ties is the silk knit. Made famous by Miles Davis, the knit is the perfect choice for any
ties-optional situation. Italian makers have successfully experimented with soft cotton and wool knits, diagonal or
striped knot patterns, but the absolute classic remains the crunchy silk model with a square end, offered from
Rubinacci to the Row. Navy and black go with everything, but also try olive, burgundy, and gold with odd jackets and
Glossy or matte, decorative or plain, sober or bright? These are questions of personal expression, character, dare I
say soul. So is your choice of knot. You can go for even or uneven, large or small. Half- and Full-Windsor are the
classic symmetrical knots. The single- and double Four-in-Hand are asymmetrical equivalents. Double knots provide
more size, and tend to suit wider collars, but they also make longer ties wearable for shorter men.
Beyond these serious, even theological questions of style, we can all agree on a few things: neats work brilliantly
with suits (as you’ll see any weekday in Rome). Repeating stripes are natural partners to tweed jackets and blazers.
Strong colours are best in rich textures, while glossier silks deserve more reserved tones. A good navy tie and blue
shirt can ground the loudest Neapolitan jacket, while a gold grenadine or pink cashmere can bring life to the most
reserved English suit. As in tailoring, England and Italy dominate, but some of the best innovators, like Kenji
Kaga, are Japanese. When travelling, a navy grenadine and a chocolate silk knit will take you anywhere.
Finally, if you long for an open collar in the summer but miss the lure of silk, consider the cravat: a wider,
unstructured ancestor to the modern tie. Prized by men of serious presence from Oscar Wilde to Edward Fox in The
Day of the Jackal, it’s an intrinsically casual choice that flirts with excess. British shirtmaker Budd makes a
classic cravat in bright silk; or for a subtler alternative, look to Anderson and Sheppard’s tonal
Neckwear is one of those rare spaces in the classic male wardrobe for unfettered expression. It’s also a chance to
experiment a bit: if you’re a sober character, allow yourself a tie that catches some eyes—a vivid cashmere number,
or luminous yet dusty ancient madder. If you’re a habitual modernist, try neckwear made from a heritage cloth like
Shetland tweed or Irish poplin. And whenever you want instant gravitas, it’s hard to go wrong with a grey suit,
white shirt, and seven folds of solid navy. How do you decide what’s best? You’ll know it as you tie the knot.