Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Knowledge: Striped Tie Styles

Diagonally-striped ties, also known as rep ties, are among the most classic tie patterns. They're excellent to wear in basically any situation except weddings (with traditionally call for a Macclesfield tie, which we'll discuss another day) or funerals (for which a solid black tie is the best choice). Rep ties originated in England in the late-19th century. Many Americans are shocked to learn this, but in England, many color combinations for rep ties signify membership in given club, and the British are offended by someone who wears a tie that signifies membership to a club to which the wearer doesn't belong. This isn't an issue in the U.S., but it's something to be aware of when traveling abroad. One rule-of-thumb is that membership ties traditionally have stripes that run from the wearer's left shoulder to his right side. There are two basic types of stripes: ribbon (with narrow stripes on a background) and block (with equal width stripes, meaning there's no background color). Generally, a tie is dressier the fewer colors it has, so two-color reps are the dressiest (there are one-color, tone-on-tone reps, but I regard those as solids). The two-color block stripe is probably the most classic; this style in red and navy is arguably the most classic of all:

Block stripes can also have more than two colors: The simplest ribbon stripe is one with a repeating pattern of single stripes of one color, with navy and red (this time, since there's a background color, either red stripes on navy or vice-versa) again being probably the most classic: Ribbon stripes can also be in different colors: Ribbon stripes also come in many other variations, including -- but not limited to -- double stripes of the same color; different-colored stripes of varying widths; or widely-spaced stripes, where the background color is more prominent: In my opinion, the only rep tie that's inappropriate (for anything, other than looking like an idiot) is what I'd call the Amjack Stripe (we'll discuss the Amjack look another day). This stripe is unfortunately popular today, and is typical of the kind of ugly ties usually seen in department stores now. The Dr. Wilson character on House is fond of this style: I guess it's hard to articulate exactly what's wrong with a tie like this. But it's not a traditional tie style (which go back more than 100 years); the colors are usually "off" somehow, as with this one, or in combinations that don't go well together; and the number and size of the stripes are almost dizzying and make the tie look too "busy." Avoid ties like this at all costs.

Moving on, stripes don't always have to be diagonal, of course. Other than rep ties, one may find ties with either horizontal or vertical stripes. Horizontals are fine, although they're unusual enough that they may attract attention to you. I've rarely seen a vertically-striped tie. I don't know that I'd wear one, and anyone who does better be a man who's really into clothes because such a tie would require some very sophisticated pattern mixing.

Rep ties are the foundation of a classic tie wardrobe, and any man would do well to add as many of them as possible to his collection.

All photos courtesy of The Tie Bar.

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