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Cufflinks, Ties and Pocket Squares as Part of Pop Culture

Cufflinks and Ties

The renaissance of the dapper look is one of this year’s biggest trends in men’s fashion. On the city streets, you may have noticed young, contemporary chaps who are not only suited and booted, but are also adorned with accessories that haven’t been à la mode for decades. As is often the case, the younger demographic are turning to popular culture for their style inspiration. An increase of retro-inspired shows, dashing celebrity style icons and the resurgence of heritage brands have all played a part in this polished trend.

Today pocket squares are adorning the breast pockets of all types of men, from city slickers to creative chaps. Originally they grew out of necessity and were used as handkerchiefs. According to British shirt maker Hawes & Curtis, who has been dressing discerning gentlemen since 1913, pocket squares were extremely popular a century ago. Recently pocket squares have redeveloped into a must-have accessory for fashionable, modern men.

Ties and Cufflinks

A tie is a classic accessory that will pull the whole tailored look together. Please note that you should avoid matching your tie to your pocket square as it will look overly calculated. As a general rule, ensure your tie is proportionate to your suit – narrow ties are currently in vogue because gentlemen are opting for slim cut suits.

Cufflinks have been around since the 18th century but have recently seen a rise in popularity thanks to evolving designs which have helped to keep this accessory fresh and on-trend. There has been a move away from the traditional ball and chain cufflinks to more unusual, eye-catching and sometimes tongue-in-cheek designs.

The Butterfly Effect

OUTSOURCING

Although the recently deceased Nobel-Prize winning economist Paul Samuelson never won a medal for his attire, his bow tie here is one for the record books.  While such neckwear has often been described as resembling a butterfly, Samuelson, probably through carelessness, somehow managed to make it look like it was about to flutter off his chest.

How, one might wonder, could a self-respecting economist justify wearing a self-tie bow tie, which takes so much more effort to don than the pre-fabricated variety? To quote the prodigious professor, “Every good cause is worth some inefficiency.”

I Am the Walrus

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Any gentleman with whiskers, great bulk, and a taste for oysters should appreciate this vintage tie from Chipp, the long-gone prep habedasher.  In Izzy’s fertile imagination, the walrus represents a Rubenesque version of Matisse’s Pink Nude.

Glambassador

mutassim-qaddafi-in-shiny-suit

In his memorable essay “The Secret Vice,” Tom Wolfe writes:

one day in December, 1960 . . . Lyndon Johnson, the salt of the good earth of Austin, Texas, turned up on Savile Row in London, England, and walked into the firm of Carr, Son & Woor. He said he wanted six suits, and the instructions he gave were: “I want to look like a British diplomat.” Lyndon Johnson! Like a British diplomat! You can look it up.

Note well: Never ask your tailor to make you look like a Libyan diplomat, or else you’ll get the shiniest suit known to man.  Apparently, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas, sartorially speaking.

But at least Libya’s National Security Advisor, Mutassim Qaddafi (son of Muammar Qaddafi), is carrying on the family tradition of eccentric flamboyance.

Back Pak

munib-nawaz-pakistan-jacket

Pakistani designer Munib Nawaz shows his national pride by placing an outline of his homeland on the back of a tailcoat.  

The only major brand Izzy can think of that puts a country’s map on its products is the British label Hackett, which every now and then stamps the outline of the United Kingdom across a shirt or and tie.  Izzy himself has been known to don such a shirt—he likes to wear his anglophilia on his sleeve.

Not the Old College Tie

vineyard-vines-columbia-tievineyard-vines-texas-longhorn-tie

Vineyard Vines, purveyor of all things ultra-preppie, is now offering a line of atypical college ties, featuring a silk-screen of the university’s symbol.  Obviously, this works better for schools with especially pleasant insignia, such as the Columbia University crown and University of Texas longhorn.  Izzy’s personal favorite is the necktie for the University of Virgnia’s Fighting Sabres, which possesses the visual dynamism of an art deco print.

vineyard-vines-university-of-virginia-tie

21 Goes Bust

21club-newyork

Izzy somehow missed it, but a few weeks ago The New York Times reported that the economic downturn has led to a true casual-ty: 21, the famed Manhattan restaurant, is no longer requiring that male diners wear ties, as it had for the prior 79 years:

The power-dining oasis, where Manhattan’s surviving masters of the universe daily attempt critical mass, announced last Thursday that the restaurant, virtually the last in town with a neckwear rule, had abandoned its tie requirement at dinner in its two dining rooms, the Bar Room and Upstairs at 21.

Ties are “preferred,” it said — indeed, “greatly appreciated.” And mind you, gentlemen, your jackets must stay on.

Actually, “21” instituted the policy “after Labor Day, a soft opening if you will,” said Bryan McGuire, the manager for the last, yes, 21 years. “We wanted to be on a more level playing field with our competitors,” he said, adding, “We didn’t think it was that big a deal.” Especially since, during lunch, the tie policy was ixnayed in 1996, he said.

The restaurant’s publicist, Diana Biederman, said she issued the release so people could “know about the policy in these challenging times.”

Mr. McGuire, though, insisted that the decision was not recession-driven.

But he allowed that the policy “could help the restaurant greatly in a time of difficulty.” Revenue, $18.5 million last year, is off by “double digits,” he said.

The restaurant has made other concessions to the economy, including free parking for all dinner patrons.

(For the record, he noted, ties are required in the 20-seat private dining room, the Wine Cellar.)

The Zagat 2009 New York City Restaurant guide has starred the Rainbow Room (which offers dinner on “selected” Friday and Saturday nights even as its landlord seeks to terminate its lease for nonpayment of rent) as the only other public restaurant requiring a tie among 13 that demand jackets.

“It is the final victory of Los Angeles,” Tim Zagat said.

As Woody Allen said of that city in Annie Hall, “I don’t want to live in a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.”

The ultra-formal should know that there are still a few New York holdouts when it comes to the ties-required rule.  You’ll just need to know someone who can get you into the likes of the Harvard Club.

His House, His Rules

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The new president has, it would seem, brought a new sartorial informality to the White House:

The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

Thus did an ironclad rule of the George W. Bush administration — coat and tie in the Oval Office at all times . . . .

In cranking up the heat and ditching his jacket, Obama is showing himself to be anything but Jimmy Carter in a malaise-colored cardigan sweater, which he wore in an intentionally cold but more energy efficient White House.

Obama has explicitly changed the rules from the prior administration:

Over the weekend, Mr. Obama’s first in office, his aides did not quite know how to dress. Some showed up in the West Wing in jeans (another no-no under Mr. Bush), some in coats and ties.

So the president issued an informal edict for “business casual” on weekends — and set his own example. He showed up Saturday for a briefing with his chief economic adviser, Lawrence H. Summers, dressed in slacks and a gray sweater over a white buttoned-down shirt. Workers from the Bush White House are shocked.

“I’ll never forget going to work on a Saturday morning, getting called down to the Oval Office because there was something he was mad about,” said Dan Bartlett, who was counselor to Mr. Bush. “I had on khakis and a buttoned-down shirt, and I had to stand by the door and get chewed out for about 15 minutes. He wouldn’t even let me cross the threshold.”

Izzy finds it amusing that the Bush was such a stickler for decorum, when he otherwise tried to represent himself as an ordinary Joe. Indeed, were his official portrait hung in the Oval Office, it would appear to violate his own office dress code.

The Beard that Would Be King

prince-william-with-beard

Now sporting a full beard, darker than his blond locks, Britian’s Prince William is looking excedeedingly kingly—and it also happens to emphasize his eyes (royal blue?). But will he continue the bold style when he takes the crown? As far as Izzy can tell, the last leonine King of Britain was George V, who ruled from 1910 to 1936.

Chemical Brothers

chipp-chemistry-tie

Izzy recently acquired this unusual vintage necktie made by Chipp, the old-school haberdasher, headquartered in New Haven, that sadly closed shop years ago. Izzy was able to determine that half of the chemical formula stands for urea, the other for acetic acid. In other words, the tie is delightfully full of piss and vinegar.

No, Minister

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Wearing a patterned suit and a shirt with contrasting collar, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is attired far differently than most American politicians. It itself, that is not such a bad thing. But Aso’s necktie is knotted lamely, and the acutely angled collar, which appears to be curved, is unflattering, especially when paired with his low and relatively substantial lapels.

The Nap of the Bow Tie

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A serious danger in wearing a bow tie is to come off as a fuddy-duddy or even a sartorial prig. If that’s not the impression you’re going for, the trick  is to choose a bow tie with an interesting texture. As Izzy previously noted, raw silk works wonderfully, but so too does velvet, like this gunmetal number from Band of Outsiders. Its small size, seen in action here, also helps makes it anything but stodgy. Other excellent textilian (Izzy’s coinage) choices include pinwale corduroy and wool.

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