Ties are a wonderfully accessible means to both expand and experiment with one's wardrobe. One of the great joys of simply shopping for ties is that there is always something new to explore; whether it be the tie's shape, colour, weave, pattern, printing, lining, length - the list goes on. Given that I've been starting to think about expanding my rather limited spring and summer wardrobe over the past few weeks, with almost no money to do so, I thought it might be nice to talk about some of the experimentations I've been making with ties.
The premise to this discussion requires a brief caveat on seasonality and colour, a subject which I come back to time and again with the turn of the seasons themselves. Keen readers will remember my view that deeper, richer colours and depth of texture and pattern are my preferred choices come autumn and winter - the depth of colour that deep purples, navies, burned oranges, maroon, chocolate and magenta exude somehow connects them with those traits which the human psyche associates with winter; darkness, depth, solemnity, earthiness and so forth. However, mixing these colours in bold patterns and using rich colour variations also defies the darkness of winter and gives winter clothing a vibrancy which seems to challenge the misery of midwinter.
In summer, when the natural world is at its most vibrant soft, muted and cool pastel colours come into play, as the ever enduring influence of 'Gatsby' tailoring takes hold. Yet this poses a problem for the transition from spring into summer - something which I've only really started to think about this year as my commitment to tailoring becomes ever more staunch. I have decided that the solution - borne of much observation of the current menswear collections out there - is a gradual lightening and softening of colour tone in spring, which falls short of building a wardrobe based around the dusty pastels of summer. Essentially, the solution (in my view) are pops of candy colours and simple patterns which employ a maximum of two colours, allowing for solid blocks of fun spring shades to shine through. This application of colour is something that I've been enjoying experimenting with in my ties. There's something distinctly sunny and spring-like in employing bright candy colours in bold, simple patterns and two-tone striped designs. The spring ensembles below hopefully demonstrate the point.
A new and rather lovely French blue 9oz Loro Piana plainweave wool Chester Barrie blazer and a pair of Marks & Spencer Supima cotton trousers serve as apposite spring separates here. The first ensemble breaks-up the classic blue and white with a deep yellow and ochre paisley pocket handkerchief which compliments a light weight 30oz apricot and white silk candy-stripe tie by Gieves & Hawkes.
To put this tie into context, nowadays one can comfortably expect a good quality tie to feature a fairly thick wool interlining, and be made from folding the cloth multiple times to add some body to the blade of the tie; six or seven fold ties being de rigeur. This produces winter-weight ties of around 50oz in weight. This Gieves tie features fewer folds and a slightly lighter interlining, the result is that it feels lighter when worn. Its cut in a raw silk cloth with a coarse handle and a rough texture - it almost feels like seersucker which adds an interesting texture to the mix. You might not think that the folds, weight or interlining of a tie makes a huge amount of difference when its worn, but actually in hotter weather, lighter or less chunky ties are less clinging around the neck, sit more lightly and produce smaller tie-knots. In essence, they become more comfortable and less noticeable around the neck in warmer climes.
The second ensemble introduces the classic combination of pink and blue, between blazer and shirt, but the pink poplin shirt by Hawes & Curtis is of the palest rose pink, lending a note of softness to the ensemble and complimenting the more overt statement made by the vibrant apple green art-deco patterned tie, also by Chester Barrie. This tie is in a fairly solid silk twill, weighing in a little heavier than the Gieves tie, but it is also cut half a centimetre slimmer (measuring 7.5cms in width as opposed to the conventional 8cms of the Gieves tie) to give the tie an ever so slightly slimmer line and keep it feeling light and simple for spring.
The final combination I've gone for draws once more on the classic combination of blue and pink, but presents a slightly different approach to the complimentary combination. This vintage tie by Herbie Frogg presents an interesting and subtle take on the classic club-striped tie. Cut in a glossy woven silk with a contrasting ivory stripe and tonal pink stripe, the broad bands and blocks of colour keep the tie looking bold yet simple, without over-complicating the pattern. Classic repp stripes such as these are perfect for simple, relaxed and easy to wear spring formalwear. Set against a classic crisp white shirt, a silver collar-bar (once more from Chester Barrie) adds a touch of interest.
This is my guide for fun spring colour combinations, easily and instantly achievable with the purchase of a tie or two. I hope these ensembles emphasise the importance of considering not just what a tie looks like, but also how its shape and construction can be very important in ensuring that your look is seasonal and comfortable in warmer weather. All of the ties featured here have been cut from a pure silk, but this of course is not the only cloth that one might expect a tie to be cut from; wool, linen, silk and cotton are often woven in an endless variety of different combinations for spring and summer, but I'm going to save a discussion of such things for later in the season.