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All You Need to Know About Ties: Part 1 - Types of Ties

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man with black bow tie and hat

The modern necktie or simply tie, has been a staple of men’s fashion since the early 20th century. In many professions, a tie was a mandatory part of the dress code. In the realm of business, it certainly instills an air of authority and professionalism. However, as rules of dress are becoming more relaxed, ties are evolving from a custom to a statement of style. These days, wearing a tie means something. A man who chooses to wear a tie says “I put effort into my appearance, for you.”

A tie is a valuable opportunity to show some individuality and class. However, with so many different types of ties, it can be a bit mind-boggling. In this guide, we’ll show you everything you need to know to find the best tie for you. Part 1 will show you the different types of ties and patterns, and whether you should wear that tie for work, business or play. Part 2 will guide you through the different tie materials and fabrics, and Part 3 will explain how to tie your tie. 

Types of Ties

The Necktie

navy polka dot necktie

This is what most of us have in mind when we think of a “tie”. You'll most likely find it in the office, but it’s appropriate for both work and play.

The Bow Tie

groom and groomsman wearing bow ties

The discerning man knows that a bow tie is one of the sharpest ways to make a lasting impression. They come in three types: self-tied, pre-tied and clip-on. If you’re going to wear a bow tie, which means you want to distinguish yourself as different, in a good way, then we suggest staying away from the last two types.

When to Wear a Bow Tie

Any occasion where a tie is appropriate, a bow tie is too. It’s an eye-catching alternative to the tie at weddings, cocktail parties and casual outings alike. For a carefree relaxed look, pair a bow tie with a button-up shirt and a vest. At formal events that call for a black tie dress code, the black bow tie is the pièce de résistance of the tuxedo suit.

Ascot and Cravat

Yellow paisley silk day cravat ascot tie

Cravat Club

The cravat is the forefather to the modern tie and bow tie. Indeed, the term can be applied to anything worn around the neck. The ascot is what most people refer to when they say “cravat’. Strictly speaking, the ascot is a formal necktie worn with a pin as part of morning dress. The more well-known type of ascot, sometimes called a day cravat, is a sort of scarf worn inside an open-shirt collar. It was once a stylish accessory to dress up a casual look for informal occasions. Nowadays they’re rarely seen. However, there’s no reason a brave man can’t sport an ascot. Worn casually and without affectation, the ascot adds that special touch to earn a man praise and admiration.

Types of Tie Patterns

Whether you need to wear a tie to work every day or like to wear a tie occasionally for special events, knowing the range of patterns out there is useful. With a simple change of pattern and colour, your tie can take you from the realm of work uniform to a dapper getup for casual events and celebrations. If you’re looking to build a collection, focus on the timeless styles that you can wear in a range of situations.

Solid Ties

solid colour ties

Though solid ties are the most simple and basic option, they’re not the most versatile of ties. They work best in formal occasions. Due to its simplicity, it’s crucial to match the colour of a solid tie with your suit, shirt and also your skin tone. It goes without saying that you should only wear a black tie, if someone is forcibly tying it around your neck.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

Sober, deeper shades such as navy, gray and burgundy are de rigueur if you work in a particularly traditional industry or are meeting with executives. Paired with a crisp white shirt, this is a very polished look that says you mean business. A muted, dark solid tie is also appropriate for formal events.

Business Casual

In relaxed business settings you can opt for more refreshing, though not too bright, coloured ties. Pastels such as blue, pink and lilac are particularly good choices that also serve to lighten a darker suit.

Casual

Since a solid tie is a full, unbroken swath of colour, it’s easy to go from subtle to provocative. It’s less harsh on the eye to wear lighter and muted colours, but if you want to make a splash, go for a bold and saturated colour like green, yellow and red.

Diagonal Striped Ties

diagonally striped ties

Men, meet the business classic, the diagonally striped tie. However, depending on the colours, the width of the stripes and how varied the pattern of repetition is, this tie can achieve many different looks and be worn in a wide range of situations. They’re also reasonably easy to match with a suit and shirt. As long as the suit and shirt don’t have any distinct patterns, you only need to think about coordinating the colours.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

It’s probably best to stick to solid ties for a business formal dress code or formal event. But if you insist, try a deep colour such as eggplant with single thin stripes in a lighter colour. Similarly, for the less strict business professional, dark colours are appropriate, but as long as the widths and variegation of the stripes look “standard” and not too fun, they’ll be good.

Business Casual

Basically any striped tie that’s not a garish colour and doesn’t have novelty figurines are perfectly acceptable in a business casual setting. Feel free to try various colours and widths.

Casual

For playful social events, bring out your brightest and most contrasting stripes!

Tartan, Check or Plaid Tie

tartan, check and plaid ties

Tartan, check and plaid are three distinct patterns. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll use the terms interchangeably and consider them all together as any pattern consisting of crossed horizontal and vertical lines. For an uncluttered look, only wear plaid ties with at least the suit or shirt of a solid colour.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

Check ties are not recommended for formal dress codes and events.

Business Casual

In a muted colour without overly contrasting stripes, check ties are well suited for business. The Prince of Wales check, also known as glen check or glen plaid, is timeless and makes for a smart look.

Casual

Don’t be afraid of wearing a check tie with other patterns. Just don’t be patterned all-over, and coordinate the colours well. For example, a navy pin-stripe suit with a solid white shirt and grey check tie is nonchalantly stylish.

Polka Dot Ties

polka dot ties for business and fun

Polka dots always have an air of fun around them. However, you’d be surprised to know that polka dot ties can also be quite the smooth operator.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

Maybe if the dots are so small you can’t see them. Otherwise, try another type of tie.

Business Casual

Business casual dress codes welcome polka dot ties! There are still guidelines you should know: the smaller the dot and more further apart they are, the more formal. This means big dots close together are not suitable for business. Go for polka dots on a dark or neutral background. To look even more dashing, match the colour of the dots with your shirt.

Casual

Any and all polka dot ties could be the star attraction of your outfit. In the reverse of the guideline above: the bigger the dot and closer together they are, the more casual. Alternating large and small dots are great for lighthearted occasions. Contrasting textures such as a matte background and more reflective (small) dots can be striking but not showy.

Geometric Pattern Ties

geometric micro-pattern foulard ties

Also known as micro-pattern or foulard ties, ties that come under this category have a repeating, small-scale symmetrical pattern on a regular grid. These include houndstooth ties and Macclesfield ties, which is just a fancy name to describe ties with repeating woven geometric patterns. Geometric pattern ties come in endless variations and as such are incredibly versatile.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

Choose a neutral or dark tie all in one colour but in different shades or tones. An elegant or inconspicuous pattern will help you fit effortlessly in.

Business Casual

Try bolder colours and more distinct patterns such as medallions, florals, open circles and contemporary geometric grids.

Casual

It’s stating the obvious to say that you could choose anything you like. But did you know that you could also have small icons or images such as pineapples or sailboats in a repeating pattern? On the small-scale, these ties can be charmingly elegant.

Paisley Ties

paisley ties

Paisley ties feature an ornamental design using a teardrop-shaped motif with curved ends. The teardrops have ancient Persian and Indian origins, and can be neat and orderly, or sprawlingly ornate. Surrounded by a sense of exoticism, paisley ties are for men who want to be noticed.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

The short answer: no.

Business Casual

Yes! However, think muted and subtle.

Casual

Go wild, but if you want to refrain from looking too gaudy, keep the colours in your paisley tie complementary to your suit and shirt.

Floral Ties

men's floral ties

Floral ties are trending, especially for weddings. However, they’re power ties for all other days of the year, during any season. Spring and summer call for bright and light colours, but let Autumn and Winter compel you to wear dark and moody floral ties.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

Unfortunately, floral ties are out of place here.

Business Casual

Floral ties bring an unexpected touch to the workplace. Dark colours without much contrast are the key to pulling this look off. To be extra suave, choose a background that matches your suit.

Casual

Graphic psychedelic floral patterns are in, and they’re cool. Keep the focus on the floral tie, by holding back on the rest of your outfit. Instead of competing with loud patterns, utilise colour contrast. Don’t be afraid to pair a navy floral tie with a pale pink shirt and cream jacket.

Novelty Ties

men's novelty ties

As their name implies, novelty ties are worn for your own amusement or to amuse others. Novelty ties are printed with anything that isn’t normally associated with menswear, for example puppies, kaleidoscopic squiggles and santa hats. They don’t necessarily have to be tacky, but they’re definitely not for business or formal wear. Reserve them for a themed party or holiday event.

Business Formal/Professional and Formal Events

Sorry folks, no can do.

Business Casual

See above.

Casual

The only time you should wear novelty ties is at casual, laid-back events where your reputation won’t be tarnished.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to looking good. Through your choice of tie pattern, you can look sleek and polished, or loose and ready to party. Nothing says smart-dressed like a handsome suit with a tie, carefully chosen to go hand-in-hand. Let Joe Button take care of the suit, and your job will be so much easier. Book a fitting today.

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