Any man worth his sartorial salt knows that the secret to true style lies within the finer details of his outfit. Whether it’s the expertly matched leather watch strap and shoes, the tell-tale line of his selvedge jeans, or merely the absence of a belt – these are the subtle style specifics that are key to taking a look from great to god-like.
However, when it comes to formalwear, there’s significantly less of room for manoeuvre flair-wise, which is why a selection of knock-out ties is an absolute must in any man’s wardrobe arsenal.
What Is A Tie?
Chances are you probably already have a rough idea of what a tie is. But just in case you’ve somehow lived your entire life up to this point without having come across one, allow us to unravel the mystery.
Though their popularity has dwindled in recent decades as a result of relaxing dress codes — give it a few years, you’ll be invited to an ‘athleisure wedding’ — the tie remains a standard part of formalwear and office attire in many parts of the world and also as a part of the uniform for many people, including the military.
History Of The Tie
Okay, so they look smart. But why did we start wearing bits of fabric around our necks in the first place? Well, it turns out it wasn’t just a random consequence of fashion. Neckties, much like work boots and safari jackets, once served a practical purpose.
It’s generally agreed that the starting point for the necktie explosion was in 17th-century France when King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries to fight in war. These soldiers wore lengths of cloth around their necks as part of their uniforms and to hold their jackets closed at the top.
This new accessory spawned a fashion craze across Europe (because who wouldn’t want to look like a Croatian mercenary, right?) and soon both men and women were tying bits of decorative cloth around their necks in a frenzied attempt to keep up with the trend.
But it wasn’t just a fleeting fad. The necktie wormed its way into our ancestor’s wardrobes deeper and deeper, and even gave birth to several variations, including bow ties, bolo ties, Ascot ties and cravats.
Why Wear A Tie?
These days formal neckwear is seldom for practical purposes (unless you count proving a judge of your innocence), so why are we still wearing ties nearly 400 years on? It all boils down to style and presentation.
Ties offer men a chance to show some flair in otherwise drab attire, and the addition of one can quite literally tie a look together. Of course, they’re not just for formalwear. Wearing a tie can instantly upgrade a more relaxed outfit too, indicating that you’re a man knows how to truss himself up even when the dress code doesn’t require a lounge suit.
“Men still love raising the game sartorially, and British men take much more pleasure in the smart-casual look,” says Jermyn Street master shirt and tie maker Emma Willis. “This often includes less structured, plain, textured ties that de-formalise silk with blends of linen or cashmere.”
A tie is also a great way to subtly change up your look day-to-day, particularly if your job requires you to wear a suit. “I always imagine I have a heads up on the day’s current affairs choosing BBC newsreader Huw Edwards’ tie with him depending on the headline story,” adds Willis.
The Best Brands For Ties
This humble piece of neckwear may seem like a relatively simple concept but wearing the right tie relies on a host of factors including the size, colour, fabric, the tie knot used, and the shirt collar it’s worn with.
Since 1977, Drake’s has been helping the world’s best-dressed men add a dash of personality to their wardrobes with its unique eye for colour and pattern. With factories in both London and Somerset, all the label’s ties are carefully made in England, ensuring a certain level of quality and prestige. Expect classic, British elegance that always manages to come off more stylish than stuffy.
Marks & Spencer
When it comes to shopping on the high street, few names carry as much significance as longtime staple Marks & Spencer. The well-known retail chain is one of the most reliable spots around when it comes to quality and value for money. And when it comes to ties — be they classic silk options or modern knitted numbers — these guys really know what they’re doing.
It would be virtually impossible to pull off the Ivy League look without a striped tie fastened beneath the collar of an Oxford button-down. And for that sort of thing, no brand is quite as well suited as New York’s very own J.Crew. The preppy label has made easy-to-wear, smart but relaxed clothing its calling card, and the ties on offer are no different.
Established in 1898, T.M. Lewin is one of the oldest names on Jermyn Street. And unlike many of its neighbours on the historic London street, the prices here won’t leave you scrounging for crumbs to eat. Don’t let the bargain price points put you off, mind, the reason the label has been able to thrive for so long is that it does its job properly, be that well fitting shirts or ties to suit any occasion.
Turnbull & Asser
If your aim is to look like James Bond, where better to buy your clobber from than the label that has been sorting him out with shirts and ties for more than 50 years? As well as dressing everyone from Prince Charles to Picasso, London’s Turnbull & Asser has created designs specifically for 007 including the cocktail cuff shirt which, presumably, is best accessories with a martini.
Just because it’s knotted at the neck, a tie doesn’t have to be a noose on your style. Among Topman’s line-up of block-colour neckwear is a sprawling selection of printed styles that will allow you to smarten up while injecting some much-welcomed personality into your formal looks. The fact that you can also pick up modern slim, skinny and muscle-fit shirts and suit jackets while you’re at it is simply a bonus.
Founded in 2010, London’s Marwood is a relative newcomer to the tie party, but what this made-in-England brand lacks in history, it more than compensates for in character. The people behind the label saw that classic ties had been done in and done out, and so decided to carve out a niche crafting artistic options with lots of character; a USP that has seen it snapped up by the likes of Mr Porter, Liberty and Dover Street Market.
Sitting in pride of place on Jermyn Street – the shirtmaking equivalent of Savile Row – Emma Willis is a name synonymous with crafting some of the finest bespoke button-ups known to man. But the master seamstress also turns out an impressive selection of ties with the same exacting standards. Handmade in England from silk and pure plain cashmere, they’ve graced the necks of everyone from Henry Cavill to Samuel L Jackson.
Nothing short of a style institution, Charvet came into being when Joseph-Christophe Charvet opened the world’s first shirt shop in Paris in 1838. With a heritage most can only dream of, the label is well known to kings, princes, heads of state and countless celebrities. And when you look at its selection of ties, it’s not hard to see why.
If heritage is a deciding factor when on the hunt for wardrobe additions, you can’t do much better than Brooks Brothers. The classic all-American outfitter is the country’s oldest clothing retailer, having spent over two centuries kitting out presidents, movie stars and just regular stylish blokes. And if the brand’s line-up of natty textured ties is good enough for them, then it’s certainly good enough for us.