Roman legionaries in the first century did wear swatches of cloth loosely resembling neckties to keep warm. And Croatian military officers fancied decorative silk cloths during the Thirty Years’ War in the 17th century as rank identification. But the modern tie shout-out goes to Jesse Langsdorf.
A banker in New York, Langsdorf developed a style of cutting fabric on an angle to wear as a new-styled tie. It was 1924 and in the near-century since, the men’s (and women’s) necktie has remained much the same.
But there’s one massive caveat: Changes to neckwear never stop. Wider ties? Thinner ties? What of length and choice of material and color? Monochromatic or contrasting stripes or geometric patterns—does paisley still work? And there’s the ongoing great fashion debate of redundancy: What’s the proper way to tie a tie among the hundreds of conventional and bizarre options?
Striped With a nod to the British military, a striped tie is simultaneously as traditional and cool as it gets. A British regimental striped tie is the quintessential piece of neckwear. The stripes extend from the wearer’s left shoulder to right waist. The American Regimental Stripe, Universal Stripe, Repp Stripe and Skinny Stripes are all variations of a classy theme. $148-$185 mondouomo.com
Patterns Diane Keaton may have rekindled women’s fashion ties in the 1977 film Annie Hall, but the trend remains nearly 45 years later. Classic business options mirror men’s styles and vice versa. The wide white polka-dot navy tie Keaton wore after her tennis match with Woody
Allen still works. And so does any tie by Salvatore Ferragamo. The silk Beetle, Elephant and Seal prints are available in multiple colors and widths. The patterns all pop. $180 ferragamo.com
Monochromatic A classic monochromatic silk tie? Canali of Italy dates to the 1930s and is known for its impeccable craftsmanship. Navy blue is the go-to color and maybe the most versatile. But Canali offers many colors, including single colors with microdots or geometric patterns. $160 nordstrom.com
Carolynn Grimes, president at Transform Media & Image in Palm Beach Gardens, has helped people dress for their broadcast careers, business meetings and weddings in Florida and nationally. When proper attire is required in any situation, she doesn’t talk subtly well. “I want clients to be in style but not overly trendy,” the former television broadcaster says. “It’s to look the part but without going too far [so] that they are a distraction. We want them in ties, but we don’t want statement ties.”
Not everyone agrees. Billy Maus, of the longstanding retail business Maus and Hoffman in Naples, believes ties are passe. He doesn’t like it, but it’s the way it is. “Trending is no ties,” Maus says. “Trending is open collars and pocket squares. As far as tie patterns, it’s all over the place. As far as tie knots, people tie tight ones, people tie loose ones. You have the full Windsor, but there’s not enough tie to tie a full Windsor anymore.”
Grimes understands, but she believes ties still represent proper attire in business and social occasions. A contrasting tie and shirt work best for television anchors. A shirt and tie of the same color work well on other occasions.
Thin men can wear thinner ties. Heavier men look best in wider ties. The tip of the widest front section should extend to the top of a belt buckle, and it should always be longer than the back half of a tie.
Dozens of tie knots are available, with the Shelby or Pratt better choices than a half-Windsor for a more triangular look and versatility with a button-down, spread or semi-spread collar. And, of course, coordinating the proper suit, shirt, tie and knot can be challenging. These four ties are fine choices that make the task easier for men and women.