25 February 2008, 16:56
[Guest post by Audrey.]
You might remember I wrote recently about accessories, and the importance of putting in some effort with them. And while all accessories are important, no men’s accessory is more prolific and obvious than the tie. Not only is it a staple of the well-dressed gentleman’s outfit, it’s quite literally the Rubik’s Cube of the fashion industry: decidedly simple in its design and appearance, yet so goddamn complicated that most guys either do it half-heartedly, or give up and leave it at the bottom of their closet.
For the longest time, I avoided them at all costs. I kept my one school tie knotted in the one knot that I had my mother do, then I’d just loosen it and slip it over my head like a noose. And that’s what it was in my opinion: a noose. It was a symbol of death and darkness and all sorts of other horrors. Then, suddenly one year, something clicked. My wardrobe went from piles of oversized tees to some sharp, well cut shirts. I embraced my slim figure, and realised how good a button-down collared shirt can look on me. And hand in hand with a nice button down shirt goes a good tie –- the perfect icing on the cake.
While the wearing of the tie used to be a very formal affair, it was easy to stick to the rules of the season or event attended to make sure your choice of tie and knot was modest and appropriate. With the change in attitudes towards ties though, today’s gentleman is faced with a plethora of options. Plus, to make matters worse, skinny ties have made a definite resurgence in the mainstream fashion world. Yes sir, things just got more interesting.
The tie itself
The staple of the mods, the rockers, the indie hipsters and now the masses, skinny ties are quite frankly the white whale of the tie world for many men: a trend they’d love to try, but are too scared or intimidated to attack with confidence.
The first point of call is to actually select the tie. Before we get too crazy on the width of your new accessory, we need to cover colour and pattern. There are some simple rules and tips to follow, but keep in mind some rules can be broken if you have the style and charisma to pull it off.
A patterned shirt normally requires a plain tie. If you have a nice patterned tie, break it up with a plain shirt. Colours are all dependant on the rest of your outfit, and are mostly a personal choice. Try and pick something that compliments your skin tone (see Gala’s Fashion Help For Recovering Goths piece to determine your colours). Experiment! That’s my biggest piece of advice. See what suits you, what brings out your eyes, what plays on your best features. And if you don’t know what your best features are, ask your close personal female friends. I’m sure they’ll make a fuss and let you know what they are. And above all, trust your gut feeling. If you think something looks terrible, you won’t be comfortable, and then that’ll let you down even if the outfit does look good.
Let’s get back to the skinny tie. The wearing of a skinny tie is sort of like a mathematical equation. All those angles and degrees of triangles and percentages and you learnt in math class in high school were actually useful after all!
The first rule you need to understand is ratio. Skinny ties are… well, SKINNY! So the second you put one on, everything else will look larger in contrast -– the width of your waist, the height of your torso, the width of your body, the size of your head. As all-inclusive as I’d like to be, it’s a fact of life — if you’re carrying some extra baggage in the stomach area, this isn’t going to be working in your favour.
The good news for the more husky gentleman readers out there is that with the rising popularity of the skinny tie, there are variations of it out there available for purchase. So while a skinny tie may not suit your frame, there are still a lot of different shapes of slim ties available for you to purchase. Instead of the three centimetre wide leather 80’s style vintage piece, pick up something that’s still slim but still has a little shape. I personally am not a fan of the thin, straight knitted ties which can be disastrous for those with a fuller figure. Instead, I favour a ‘narrow’ or ‘Cambridge’ tie – something with a little more shape to it like this.
Just that addition of a little shape could mean all the difference for you too.
You need to look at the shirts you’re planning to pair up with your new skinny friend. Just like the tie will make you look different, it’ll also mess around with the proportions of your shirt. Ergo, you’ll need to be certain your shirt fits you immaculately in relation to the tie. I’m planning a guide to shirts for a future article, but you’ll need to slim up the cut of your shirt for your tie. Personally, I swear by MARCS men’s shirts. Long but never baggy, these shirts are cut so incredibly well in great crisp fabrics, and have amazingly clean lines.
But shop around, and try some on before you make your final decision. This is important! I’ll always maintain that you get into a fitting room with some options before you whip out the credit car. Get measured up by a professional, and find something that’s going to sit well and set you up a nice base for your tie. Try and avoid large, wide collars as again, the proportion of this to the thinness of the tie will look abstract. The body of the shirt should be fitted without being so small and tight that it exposes your belly. Sleeves should be fitted and long, but consider turning them up to the elbow. Otherwise, make sure they’re ending at the end of your wrist, at the base of your thumb -– not halfway down your arm. The stitch line where the sleeves attach to the torso of your shirt should run in line with your shoulder. I promise more details on these points in a couple of weeks’ time!
The final thought for shirts you need to think about is what I call the ‘polish’ -– make sure it’s cleaned and freshly ironed before you put it on and head out the door.
The long and short of it
Okay, so that’s the horizontal axis covered –- now let’s attack the vertical. While I’m built slim, which lends itself perfectly to the skinny ties I love so much, I’m also incredibly tall (we measured me at work today, I’m spot on 199cm!), which can cause me problems finding ties that are actually long enough. While there are a huge variety of excellent skinny ties being manufactured today (I have some great H&M skinny ties in my collection), I’ll still always have a soft spot for the vintage ones –- they have some fabrics, prints and stripes that they just can’t reproduce as well today. And it seems guys back then must’ve been shorter than me, because they’re all just far too short. So keep this in mind when shopping for your skinny tie. If you’re tall like me, find a nice long one so you can still put it into a full- or half-Windsor knot without it ending at your bellybutton. Hint: a tie clip is a great way to hide the fact the ‘tail’ of your knot only goes midway down your chest!
I hope this helps you all in your quest with looking great in a slim tie. For once though, it seems us guys are lucky in the fact there is such a wide variety of them available to us now -– various thicknesses, different patterns, different lengths and fabrics. The world is your oyster, good sir. Be sure to let me know how you go.