All Ties Are Not Created Equally

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Grab a tie from your closet. Well, hopefully it’s there, hung neatly on a tie rack or draped over a wood hanger. Or, you might roll your ties and store them in a dresser drawer. Regardless your preference, grab one and place it face down on a table so you’re looking at the backside (the side with the tags).

Study it. There’s a story in your tie. At least in how it was constructed. Commercially-made neckwear — perhaps most you own — is fashioned from large bolts of fabric cut and stitched by machine. While perfectly functional, these ties are made for durability. Compare them to ties made or finished by hand and you’ll immediately see and feel a marked difference. Consider: tomatoes sold at grocery stores are grown for durability, not taste. The tomato you pick up at Sunday’s farmers market could be a different species entirely when compared to the flavor and texture of its commercial cousin. Sure, they look alike, but the similarities end there.

Keith Magna, a 1701 Bespoke clothier, explains these comparisons (about ties, not tomatoes) with precision, not to mention a steady and thorough hand, fingering fabric as if it’s a sartorial talisman. Indeed, according to Keith, not all ties are created equally. And he should know, having immersed himself in the fine craft of hand finishing the limited edition, handmade ties sold in our Midtown loft.

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Now, back to that tie of yours.  

If yours was handmade, the fabric was cut on a 45-degree angle (bias). In this way the warp (vertical) and weft (horizontal) threads can then give the finished piece “a nice stretch,” says Keith, helping the fabric keep its shape. When ties are cut at a greater angle, like those commercially made, that subtle stretch is absent. Know, too, that this outer shell of the tie may encase a lining — such as lightweight wool — to give the tie added body.

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A tie’s longevity rests not only with fabric, but also with stitching. Commercially-made ties will feature a slip stich, “but we prefer a saddle stitch,” says Keith, explaining how it provides a decorative viewpoint. “We can even finish the tie with a contrasting color [to the outer shell] … [this stylistic touch] lets the wearer’s personality show.” One other bit of personality — and functionality — comes from a loop of thread, to which the saddle stitch is connected (and located at the tie’s tip just beneath where the fabric folds meet). This adds some “give” to the fabric and helps unlined ties stretch naturally.

Consider, too, making a one-off tie that much more special with a contrasting lining. While Keith says 1701 ties are generally unlined “to give them an airier feel,” and put the craftsmanship on display, the shop’s clothiers will suggest a lining in a different pattern.

Beyond fabric, Keith educates clients about a tie’s width. Your closet, for example, might be full of ties you don’t wear because they’re too wide or too narrow. A good rule of thumb: ties should measure between three and three-and-a-quarter inches wide (although Keith’s co-worker Nelson Sanders, Jr., prefers ties three-and-a-half inches wide). So grab a ruler. If you have a tie that’s wider, and it’s that one tie you wear most often — we all that tie — don’t fret. Keith says, “We can always make [a tie] narrower.”

A tie’s finish is also seen in the rolled edges. At 1701, we hand roll ours. Well, Keith does, spending up to one hour on each. #committedtohiscraft

Why even contemplate a handmade tie? “The idea is appreciate something of quality, something special. Ties and accessories should match the caliber of your wardrobe,” says Keith.

Finally, a caveat before reaching for your tie pin or clip. A pin will pierce the fabric and the hole, while miniscule, is permanent. Rather than risk damaging the tie, Keith says a tie bar is fine. Ideally, though, he prefers letting the back of the tie show, ergo the lining or saddle stitch can make an appearance.

And if juice from that vine-ripened heirloom tomato dribbles onto your tie, please don’t reach for cold water or club soda. Better to take it immediately to a trusted dry cleaner.

The story continues