In this section, we will briefly cover what we think of as the accessories to the shirt wardrobe ties, suits, cuff-links, other jewelry, belts, socks, shoes, suspenders and pocket squares.
Let’s start with the item that people will see as soon as they see your shirt the tie.
The well-made tie.
The color and pattern of the tie are the first things that attract you, but you have to be sure that the tie is constructed so that it will knot well, drape properly and return to its original shape between wearings.
The components of a tie are the outer fabric (or shell), interlining, stitching, and tipping. A well-made tie combines quality outer fabric, “resilient construction” and properly constructed and coordinated interlining.
The only fabric we recommend for the shells of the ties in your business wardrobe is 100% silk. It is a natural fiber which drapes well, wears well, takes color beautifully when yarn-dyed or skein-dyed, and has a good “hand” or feel. A good silk tie can be worn at any time of the year. The variety of silks used for the shells are seemingly endless. There are woven silks (heavier than the light printed silks), twills,
crepe de chine, ancient madder and grenadine, to name but a few. They all have in common, however, that indefinable feel and luster that is the salient characteristic of silk.
The firmness is what will give body to the all-important knot, and that firmness is dependent on the lining of the tie. Choose a tie that is lined to the tip, so that it stays firm and keeps its shape.
The “hand” of the finished tie is also affected by the weight of the lining (muslin) in relation to the shell or outer fabric. Lightweight outer materials may require heavier interlining to achieve the necessary hand, drape, and recover-ability.
“Resilient construction” is a method of manufacture in which outer fabrics and interlining are cut on the bias (an approximately 45° angle). They are held together by a resilient slip-stitch, so that the finished tie can “breathe” or “give”, when tied and untied and recover from knotting.
The outer fabric may be cut into two or three pieces so the pattern always runs in the same direction on the tie, and it is then sewn together so that the seams are located in the neckband area under the shirt collar.
After the outer fabrics have been stitched together, the ends are hemmed. Facing or tipping — an extra piece of silk, nylon, rayon or polyester fabric — is added to the back of the ends of the tie. After the seams and tips are pressed into shape, the interlining is slip-stitched to the outer shell with resilient nylon thread. Slip stitching allows the tie to move and “breathe” and still return to its original shape. You may see some excess thread with a tiny knot at the end which will get longer or shorter as the slip stitching tightens and loosens. This is a sign of a well-made tie — do not cut it off!
A bar tack stitch is often added as a finishing touch to the tie, adding a dash of color and neatly fastening the ends of the seams together.
The last manufacturing step is pressing the tie on the reverse side, with care being taken to assure that the edges have a proper roll and are not pressed flat.
A loop label, or sometimes a separate loop in addition to the label, is sewn on the back to allow the small end to be slipped through after tying.
The finished tie should measure 56" to 57" in length. If you are very tall or have a large neck, you might need an extra long tie which measures from 60" to 62".
Neck wear has taken on a wider profile and is designed in a tapered manner, making it possible to tie a smaller knot. The width of most ties will be in the range of 31/2" to 41/4".
“Ties are the lipstick of a man’s wardrobe.”
Choosing Color and Patterns in Ties
The necktie is a personal form of advertising. It communicates your attitude and position. You should choose the pat-terns of the tie as carefully as you would choose your business card.
Currently, we are experiencing one of the most fascinating periods in the history of men’s neck wear. In recent years, the industry has exploded with an unprecedented variety of styles, patterns and textures — adding veritable art to the wardrobe, and expanding choice for the consumer.
The old rules of solid tie on patterned shirt and solid shirt with patterned suit are gone — pattern-on-pattern is definitely in. But with this new freedom comes confusion. Which patterns should you wear with what? Here are some suggestions.
The simplest pattern for a tie is, of course, no pattern, i.e., the solid tie. Though at one time considered the staple of any wardrobe, the assortment available today has made it an unnecessary item. If you insist on one or two, make sure the silk has a pattern that at least makes the fabric interesting. A woven grenadine is the most elegant of these solid patterns.
Solid ties are not necessary when wearing even the bold-est of stripes. Just make sure that there is spacing between the pattern, allowing the background color of the tie to show. You will see that it will not fight the stripe. The small disconnected “Hèrmes” type patterns are hard to wear with bold stripes.
The paisleys, as well as the fashion-forward geometric and florals, which have interconnecting patterns, work well with striped shirts. Because the patterns never end, the eye is not confused when looking at the tie on the shirt. These styles will complement the shirts and add interest and variety to your wardrobe.
Your pattern can also make your outfit more or less formal. Polka dots, especially the small ones, are very formal. The club ties are best worn with sport coats. The paisley is more casual and the small geometric more formal.
The most popular of the striped ties is the “Regimental”. This tie is of English ancestry. Originally, these ties dis-played the colors of the British regiments or clubs of which the wearer was a member. In England the stripes run from high left to low right, but in America it’s the opposite. These ties look best on solid shirts or shirts which are perceived as solid, such as very narrow or widely spaced stripes or muted checks. Be careful of these if you are wearing a bold or multi-colored stripe.
Color in ties today has become explosive. It’s no longer necessary to wear conservative ties with neat patterns. Geometrics and bright colors in the pattern of the ties lead in fashion. The expanded selection helps you create a new and fresher look for that special shirt.
One guideline to keep in mind when choosing color is to make the tie brighter or deeper in color than the shirt.
A deep rich background color always looks dressier. A deep burgundy is far more elegant than fire engine red, and forest green more elegant than kelly. If you match the back-ground color of the tie to the suit, it becomes a much dressier and conservative ensemble. With a dark suit and a dark tie the light-colored or white shirt is best.
To liven up your outfit, look for vivid color in the pattern of the dark tie. Pure white or bright yellow can add that dash to a dark suit and solid shirt. The strange colors, however, should always be in the pattern — not the background —of the tie.
Try to choose a color which picks up a color of the shirt in the pattern of the tie and have the background of the tie complement the shirt color. For example, on a bright yellow and medium blue striped shirt, a navy tie with bright yellow highlights would be a perfect match.
If the tie does not match the shirt in color, it can be a color that is complementary. For example, on a pink (striped or solid ) shirt, a tie with burgundy or helio in the pattern on a navy background would look great. Or the burgundy or helio could be the background color with the pattern bringing in shades of blues and grays.
“A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.”
When you wear a white shirt or a colored shirt with a contrasting white collar, try to make sure that your tie has at least a speck of white in it. You will be surprised how much better the outfit will look.
Tying the perfect knot.
With the changing styles in men’s collars, came a change in the way most men tie a necktie.
Back in the days of the Duke of Windsor and Cary Grant, the Windsor (also called the Full Windsor), knot was very common. Most collar styles, whether straight, button-down or spread, had wide space at the top of the collar. The large Windsor knot filled this tie space nicely.
The Windsor is now seen mostly on the older generation. In fact, many of these men who were taught to tie in their teens never learned how to tie the newer, smaller knots.
The Half-Windsor, which is not as full a knot as the Windsor, is useful for the widespread collars. It forms an inverted triangle at the throat, filling some of the space designed into the spread collar.
Today’s collar styles have less space between the collar points. A tie space of 1/4" or less is common, regardless of the spread of the collar.
For this reason, the most popular knot these days is the four-in-hand. This smaller knot looks better in the narrow tie space of today’s collars.
The new ties are designed in a tapered manner, i.e., narrower in the knotting area, making it possible to tie the smaller knot. Some manufacturers have also switched to lighter-weight linings to keep the knots from getting too bulky.
The following are directions for making the two most common knots tied today, The Four-in-Hand and the Half Windsor.
Tighten both knots by holding the narrow end and slid-ing the knot up tight to the collar. When knotted, the tie should meet, but not overlap your belt buckle. The tip should be just where your navel is.
How many ties are enough?
You should have at least two ties per shirt. For the typical business wardrobe, that means about two dozen ties. More would be better, because it would enable you to stretch your shirt and suit collection. But, if you’re like most men, you’ll probably keep wearing a small number of your favorites. You should, however, try not to wear the same tie more than once per week.
In most cases, each tie should go with more than one shirt. Each tie will look different with each shirt and each shirt will look different with each tie and each combination will make the suit look different and on and on and on.
THE BOW TIE
The black silk bow tie, shaped in either the butterfly or batwing (straight) style, was and is the premier tie for the formal occasion. Other colors are used, usually with a matching cummerbund, but nothing has replaced the black silk beauty. Incidentally, this is the only time a pre-tied bow tie is acceptable.
The selection of other bow ties is as varied as the color combinations and patterns of the standard ties, and they seem to be gaining in popularity. They look great with the classic collar or the button-down, and serve as a real show case for the shirt.
Knowing how to tie a bow tie will add to your wardrobe options. Let’s teach you how.
HOW TO TIE A BOW TIE
Tying a bow tie is not as hard as it looks. In fact, it’s as sim-ple as tying your shoelace.
A few secrets:
- Don’t look in the mirror when you’re tying, because the mirror reverses the reflection and can confuse you.
- If your bow tie is the type that can be set for size, set it at least 1" above your neck size to allow room for your collar.
- Pull the knot tight — if you let it hang loose, the tie will droop.
- When forming the bow, keep the fold close to the knot or you won’t get it tight enough.
- Pull the bow tight.
- Use the mirror to straighten the tie and arrange the ends and loops neatly.
Helpful Tie Hints:
Q: How should I take care of my neckties?
- A silk tie should always be untied properly. If you pull at the knot, you may damage the silk or tear the lining. Never loosen the tie and take it off over your head. Untie it gently and let the creases hang out overnight.
- Never leave your tie knotted when it is not being worn.
- Have enough of a tie selection so that you don’t have to wear the same tie two days running.
- To get rid of creases, hang your tie in the bathroom while showering.
- If you must press your tie, do not touch the tie with an iron; instead, put a cloth over the tie and simply steam gently.
- Don’t keep touching the knot during the day. If you do, eventually it will look darker than the rest of the tie.
If you need to have a tie cleaned, send it to a tie cleaning expert, not just a dry cleaner. (Many dry cleaners do, however, serve as collection points for specialty tie-cleaning and repair services. Of these services, Tie crafters in New York the service we use for customers of The Shirt Store is one of the very best.)
THE BUSINESS SUIT
Fashion may come and go but the basic styling, fabric and construction of a good suit varies little from year to year. That’s a good thing, since the suit is probably the most expensive item in most men’s wardrobes. Even with the trend to more casual dressing, for most men the suit is the basic uniform of the business world.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
A good business suit is always made of wool. Like the cotton in your shirt, it has the ability to absorb moisture, keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Wool is easy to press, wears well, tailors best and resists wrinkling.
Cloth is described by weight per running yard. Spring and summer weight is usually plain weave cloth of seven to nine ounces. Fall and winter weights range from 10 to 13 ounces. Spring, summer and fall cloths tend to have a clear cut surface with no nap. Winter cloths are usually milled slightly to give a lofty, hairier surface to the cloth.
For year-round business wear, you should choose the moderate or light-weighted cloths (from nine to ten ounces). The fabric weight you choose should also depend upon your size, the number of suits you have and how often you wear them. The tougher you are on your clothing, the heavier the fabric should be.
Feel the cloth you are considering — you will quickly develop a sense of how smooth a finish you want your suiting cloths to have.
Color and Pattern
Color is the most important choice you make in a suit. Mistakes in pattern and styling might not be noticed if the color is right, for color is what is always seen first. The suit is just a backdrop for the shirt and the tie. It gives you a background on which you paint your own landscape.
The two basic suits every man needs in his business wardrobe are the solid navy (fashion colors ranging from dark blue to midnight blue can also suffice) and solid gray suit. If you have room in your budget, add a muted pattern or stripe in the same basic colors. The fourth color to add is tan — not brown. (For some reason, accessorizing brown suits is still not understood by most men. It's not a good choice for the basic wardrobe.)
In the U.S., suitability of color varies by region. Generally speaking, the farther north and east you go, the darker the colors and the more conservative the styles. Color and pattern get lighter and more relaxed as you travel south and west.
When you are selecting pattern, try to choose a muted one that works well with many different shirts. The bolder the pattern in your suit the more restricted you will be in selecting patterns in your shirts and ties. The pinstripe suit or the muted plaid are perfect choices. They are treated like solid suits when coordinating your shirts and ties.
They are simply interesting fabrics. You can pick up the colors in the pattern and try to match your shirts and ties to bring these colors out.
Unlike the wide range of styles in women’s clothing, men’s choice in styles is relatively simple. A suit is, basically, either single-breasted or double-breasted.
The single-breasted suit is the cut worn by most businessmen. The natural shoulder has been the standard for years.
Of late, the double breasted suit has been making a comeback. “Everyone, no matter what their size, looks good in it. Even a big man can look 20 lbs. thinner in a well fitted double-breasted suit,” says Sonny Catania, a custom tailor in New York.
"Helpful Hint. When you get your suits tailored, ask for swatches of the fabrics. Put them in your wallet and bring them out when you are buying your shirts and ties. It will take some of the guesswork out of shopping."
He goes on to say, “A suit should have expression. Expression is a quality that is indefinable, just as a beautiful woman is indefinable. You know that a suit has expression when you see it. It’s a simplicity of style, quality of construction, of fabric and fit which combine to give a suit a look which makes it uniquely yours. You are not covered, you are dressed.
“It looks good on you …it fits well…it looks like you…it has Expression!”
There are basically three types of tailoring available in suits: custom-tailored, made-to-measure or off-the-rack. Usually your choice is determined by your wallet and your patience.
Because a custom-made suit is hand-made in its entirety, it is the most expensive suit you can buy. The garment is literally constructed on your body. There are many fitting sessions and there are as many hand-sewing operations as the tailor deems necessary. The final result is a garment of matchless quality and fit.
In contrast to the custom suit, a made-to-measure suit has less hand labor and more machine sewing. There are fewer fittings and alterations, but the resulting garment is still of excellent quality — at a more affordable cost.
The stock suit has the broadest range in quality of con-struction and fabric. Consequently, it also has the broadest range of cost. A stock suit can cost as little as $100, or as much as $2,000.
They are called stock suits because they are cut for the “average” man. For example, all size 44’s will have 44" chests, 38" waists and 46" hips. These same proportions will hold true for all 42’s, 40’s, 38’s, etc. This conformity of proportion gives continuity to the manufacturing process,
resulting in lower costs. The cost of a stock suit rises when more expensive fabrics are used and when features are added that require hand labor.
Buttons should be sewn on firmly. Look for buttons that are cross-stitched—they will hold better.
Pockets — Outer pockets come in two varieties: patch or inset. Patch means that the entire pocket is attached to the suit, and all sides are visible. The inset pocket is hidden except for the pocket opening or flap. More formal business suits should always have inset pockets.
There should be at least one or two inside breast pockets. Some suits have more. Look for the number that makes you comfortable.
Linings should be made from a smooth, silky material so that the jacket slides easily over the shirt. The tighter the stitching in the lining, the better.
When making a suit jacket, the tailor should measure up from the break of the wrist, depending on how much cuff the wearer wants to show out of his suit jacket. For example, if you want to show 1/2" of cuff, the jacket should end 1/2" above the break of the wrist.
It is proper to show at least 1/2" of cuff at the wrist. Caution: some tailors use the thumb as a guide for the length of the suit jacket — they start at the tip of the thumb
and measure up five inches. However, thumbs come in all sizes and shapes. You will get a nicer finish if you forget the thumb and stick to the break of the wrist and up!
Vents are the only detail acceptable on a suit back. They are, however, not a necessity. Sometimes no vent or a center vent provides a longer elegant line. The center vent, however, is not a good detail for the man with the large seat. Side vents are more desirable for a man who has a habit of keeping his hands in his pockets.
At one time, cuffs on trousers were considered casual. They originated in England when a “gentleman” turned up the bottoms of his trousers for walks in the country, so his pant legs would not get muddy. In town, the “gentleman” always rode in a carriage, so the turned up cuffs were not necessary.
Today’s rules of cuffs or no cuffs are not absolute. It really is up to the individual. Pleated pants usually are styled with cuffs to add weight and drape to the fabric. Trousers styled without pleats tend to be styled without cuffs.
Trouser length should extend past the shoe line. In fact, the trouser should cover half of the shoe in front and drop a little below the top of the shoe in the back. Your socks should never show unless you are seated.
How Many Suits Are Enough?
If you wear a suit every business day, three suits is the minimum you should have. That will give them time to
“hang out” and regain their shape between wearings. No suit should be worn day after day if you want to look your best. Five suits, or more, would of course be better. And it’s a good idea to have at least two suits in your favorite basic color.
Helpful Suit Hints:
Q: How should I take care of my suits?
- Be sure to hang up your suit after each wearing. Use a wooden suit hanger to help bring it back into shape. Air it out before putting it into the confines of your closet.
- Don’t leave the pockets full — empty them after each use.
Do not clean your suit unless it is dirty. If it needs pressing, just have it pressed. Cleaning will reduce the life of the garment.
When the modern cuff emerged in the middle of the 19th century, and starch became popular to make the cuffs more formal, it became too difficult to get buttons through the stiff material. So cuff links, as we know them today, were born. They were used by men and women alike, and almost everyone wore them until the 1920’s, when shirts became more casual and cuffs were no longer starched. The advent of the sport shirt brought the decline of the cuff link, but it remained in use for formal business and evening wear.
Today, more and more men are wearing cuff links to the office as well as in the evenings, and manufacturers are constantly introducing new designs. In fact, cuff links are growing in popularity among collectors.
In the January 1994 issue of its quarterly publication, “The Link”, the National Cuff Link Society answered the question, “Why do people wear cuff links?” and pointed out that the need to be “in vogue” was, interestingly, not one of the reasons. Here, based on numerous polls, are the main reasons cited for wearing cuff links:
- Cuff links allow me to distinguish myself from the crowd.
- They show that I care about my appearance.
- Various styles, colors and sizes of cuff links allow me to express my mood.
- Cuff links allow me to show my success on my sleeve.
- Wearing them allows me to display my collection.
- They provide the formal look that I prefer in business.
- Cuff links complement my taste in clothing and accessories.
Analyzing the above findings, Mr. Eugene Klompus, president of the National Cuff Link Society, determined that “the composite cuff link wearer is discriminating, proud, and expressive. Perhaps the most common characteristic of all the respondents was an almost palpable self-confidence.” Susan Jonas and Marilyn Nissenson, in their book “Cuff
Links”, published by Harry N. Abrams, point out:
”Cuff links are utilitarian objects, so the options for design are finite. They have to fit through a hole of a relatively certain size. They can’t bang into things when the wearer is moving around. They have to slide into the jacket sleeve, so they can’t protrude too far. And yet people are endlessly inventive.” There have been cuff links made of all kinds of metals, set with gems, inlaid, painted — in all sorts of shapes and even cuff links made of human hair.
Modern cuff links can be found in almost all men’s stores, and a look in any antique shop will turn up several examples of Victorian cuff links. As Ms. Nissenson says, “in their own small way [cuff links] are a piece of social and sartorial history.”
The newest trend in cufflinks is the knotted silk links. They are seen in the most conservative settings and they are great to throw in your suitcase for the last-minute business trip. They come in a wide assortment of colors and can be matched to the colors of the tie, shirt or suit. They are inexpensive so most wardrobes can afford to have a wide assortment. (They are very difficult to get in while you are wearing the shirt. It’s easiest if you put them on before you put on the shirt they are elasticized and will stretch enough for your hand to go through.)
Other than cuff links, the only jewelry that is acceptable is the collar pin or bar, the tie pin or bar, your watch and, of course, your wedding ring!
Good leather is the rule for the business belt. Plain black is the one belt everyone needs. A neat, simple metal buckle is best. Belts should be no wider than 11/4" for a business suit. As your suit wardrobe grows, add more belts. The belt should blend with the suit. It should not be a focal point. It is used to hold up your trousers, not to make a fashion statement. If your belt is noticed, it is too flashy or too worn.
If you are starting your wardrobe, buy black socks which fit over-the-calf, preferably cotton or cotton blend. Cotton socks are cooler and are easily washed. As your wardrobe grows, so should your colors: brown, blue, gray, navy, maroon, etc. but always dark.
Men’s shoe styles do not change much from year to year, so it pays to invest in a well-made, long-lasting shoe that will offer years of comfort and pleasure.
Because of its versatility, the plain-toe oxford in black is the one indispensable shoe for every business wardrobe. Whether it is a power breakfast, business lunch or formal dinner, the black, plain-toed oxford is correct footwear. Though more limited in use, a wing-tip oxford is also an essential component to the business wardrobe.
Though frowned upon by the older, more conservative, lace-up generation, slipons are now acceptable for business, and for formal and casual occasions. Every man should have at least one pair of loafers, be they tassel loafers from Gucci or penny loafers from Land’s End.
For the start-up business wardrobe you need a minimum of two pairs of good black shoes, one of which must be a plain-toed oxford. The second pair could be a wing-tip oxford or a business-like plain slip on. The third shoe should be a loafer, brown or cordovan in color.
As your wardrobe expands, so should your choice of shoes. This will enable you to rotate the shoes you wear, prolonging their life and giving you a different look. Most important, always wear newly polished shoes, and never wear a shoe that looks run-down.
Suspenders (“braces” in England) are strips of material, usually silk or elastic, worn over the shoulders and attached to the front and back of the trousers.
They are available with clips or with buttons. The proper finish for the business suit is buttons.
It’s nice to wear a suspender that complements the tie. It should not match in exact pattern, like a cummerbund and bow tie set. It should just be complementing patterns and colors.
If you wear suspenders, you should not wear a belt.
One, not both, is proper.
The pocket square is not a necessary item in a man’s wardrobe. It is, however, one of the most dashing accessories that the well-dressed man can add. This small splash of color worn in the suit breast pocket can be the finishing touch to an outfit.
Pocket squares can be of white cotton, linen or silk. The silks can be colored solids or patterns. White silk is usually worn for formal occasions, while white
“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”
cotton, white linen, or colored silks are acceptable in both casual and dress situations. The pattern or color should complement the tie, but does not have to match. We encourage the mixing of pattern and color to add interest to the wardrobe.
Placement in the pocket should be a fluid motion. The fabric should not be folded and pressed, but, rather, placed ends down or up to show the natural edges or fullness of the square.
Simply pick up the square from the very center, letting the points hang down. Put it in your pocket with the points facing either up or down, for two different looks. Adjust the silk slightly, if you wish, but the casual, haphazard look is a good one.
Less popular, and far more conservative, is the formal multi-pointed fold. This fold works better with cotton or linen handkerchiefs. It is more complicated than the others and, in our opinion, lacks the dash and style of the other two looks. There is a diagram on the next page for those who wish to try: