To suggest that the dwindling popularity of the tie will lead to the end of days is a tad excessive, of course. But
it is true to say that to remove the tie from a man’s sartorial arsenal does deprive him of one of the most powerful
weapons at his aesthetic disposal.
As Chensvold wrote in one of his earliest pieces of published writing, a 1994 letter to the editor of the San
Francisco Chronicle that he recently posted to his website Ivy-Style.com, “the gradual disappearance of the necktie
… follows the loss of the tuxedo on Saturday night dates, the waistcoat, braces, fedora, handkerchief, walking
stick, watch chain, and every other accessory that used to make a man look like a man.”
Chensvold pondered, what’s next to be swept away in “the deluge of contemporary slovenliness”? Which of the remaining
accouterments of masculine elegance are we to willingly surrender as a sacrifice to the almighty god of
It could be argued that the move toward easy practicality and the elimination of menswear’s fancy inessentials in
fact began with the great dandy George ‘Beau’ Brummell (whose famously fastidious approach to neckwear gives
Chensvold’s aforementioned volume its title, coincidentally).
In a story for The Rake some years ago, G. Bruce Boyer wrote of an early 19th-century phenomenon fashion
historians call the ‘Great Renunciation’: “a movement away from gorgeousness and towards simplicity. Men gave up
silks and satins and brocaded coats, powdered wigs and silver buckled shoes in favour of woolen fabrics and
simplicity of cut and colour. In other words, men went from what we might call court dress to the modern suit.”
Boyer explained that having championed anti-court style during the English Regency, “Beau Brummell stands as a
synecdoche for this pervasive shift, and much credit has been given to him for advancing the standard outfit for men
of the business class ever since: plain coat and trousers, cravat and fine linen.” The great men’s style commentator
continued, “if we have indeed forgone the gorgeousness of embroidered silk and buckled shoes (the bridle-bit loafer
excepted), enjoyed still by women, can’t we find a bit of individuality and colour somewhere in the tailored
The answer is a resounding yes, reader. The answer is the tie! Hold tight to this potent sartorial armament. Insist,
like the iconoclastic stylistic libertarian that you are, you’ll only give up this last blast of pointless but
gorgeous flamboyance when it’s pried from your cold, dead hands.
To continue with the weaponry analogy, like a firearm, a tie is powerful — dangerously so — and must be handled with
care and expertise. You cannot go wrong with the simple combination of navy suit, plain navy tie and white shirt.
When a blend of colours, patterns and textures get involved, however, things start to get trickier.
Successfully combining patterns requires balance: the large and the small, the loud and the soft-spoken. Try mixing
three different patterns and a solid — a plain pale blue shirt, navy windowpane check suit, regimental stripe tie
and paisley ancient madder pocket square, for instance. Or three of a kind: pair a repp striped tie with a Bengal
stripe shirt and widely spaced, fine pinstripe suit. (Alternatively, a graphic or heraldic tie could complement this
No matter what, patterns must be of different scales, lest they blend into one another — it’s important to delineate
each garment in an ensemble. Look to have shades of particular colours echo through the outfit — for example, a red
tie playing off a burgundy accented pocket square; a black tie with a black/white fine gingham shirt and dark grey
suit; the green stripe in a regimental tie matched to a sock or cufflink.
When it comes to colour, certainly, keep the tie darker than the shirt or risk straying into Guido territory. Follow
the colour wheel and picks hues that complement or are analogous to one another. Be conscious of texture, too.
Extremely silky-smooth ties of the sort favoured by Trump should only be worn with sleek, high threadcount shirts
and fine ‘Super-numbered’ wool suits. Cotton, cashmere or woolen ties work best with slightly rougher shirt cloths,
such as chambray, flannel or oxford cotton. Silk knit ties, meanwhile, are the wonderfully wanton strumpet of the
neckwear world and go with anything.
Avoid cartoon characters, piano keys and other novelties. Steer clear of the extremes of width (per our story, three inches is often all you need).
Approach the Windsor knot with caution — remember: there’s a reason none of the actual Windsors use it. And you’ll
surely find that despite their dip in popularity, ties remain one of the most potent means of sartorial
self-expression at a man’s disposal. To paraphrase Monty Python, neckwear’s “Knot dead yet!” Not by a long