Much has been written in the past decade about the demise of the neck-tie. Dress-down Fridays, internet start-ups and a general relaxation of dress codes have certainly eroded the role of the tie as essential kit for the successful man. Personally, I’ve never stopped wearing ties and now I detect a small but discernible revival of interest from a young, cool demographic with a very specific taste in tie style. Gone are the lustrous silken numbers, the witty motifs and neat knots. In their place is an innovative approach to materials, weaves and textures and a certain nonchalance in the way ties are worn.
E Tautz’s gutsy ties are consistently impressive, with their glorious textures, interesting tonal patterns and organic, ruddy or rich hues. Owner/creative director Patrick Grant works with two of the finest British mills, Vanners and Stephen Walters. “The more we work together the better we are at visualising the way that the various colours and textures will interact. Most of their ties are woven on a silk warp [length] with either wool, a wool/silk or cotton/linen/silk-mix on the weft [width]. Printed-silk ties feel a bit “1980s office”, so we rarely do an all‑silk one. They also feel flat; even woven silk doesn’t have the same heft and depth. But once silk is mixed with more robust fabrics, it is somehow more masculine and modern, with hints of old-school or military ties.” Standout examples at E Tautz’s new 2,000sq ft shop on London’s Duke Street are large-houndstooth wool/silk ties in navy/green (£119) or purple/black (£119), blurred checks and club stripes in silk mixes (£119), and bold checks in wool (£119), while solid colours with cable-knitted stripes in navy or grey (£119) are simple yet debonair.
Drake’s is another great source of excellent ties. Its slubby Tussah raw-silk tie (£115) looks like shantung, but is more matte (for the rarely seen real thing, there’s a hand-rolled shantung untipped club-stripe tie, £115). Drake’s continues to experiment with old techniques at its factory in east London. “We decided to try to weave Donegal silk on antique shuttle looms from the 1920s, which is very slow by modern standards, but the results [£115] are definitely worthwhile”, says co-owner/director Michael Hill.
“Our customers appreciate the authenticity of our production techniques, but our choice of fabrics also means our ties have a more casual air,” Hill explains, “which appeals to guys who wear less formal shirts, such as our washed button‑down collars – younger men who don’t have to wear ties, but choose to. Department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys may be decreasing the space they devote to ties, but our factory is fully booked with orders and we are planning to recruit and train apprentices to meet demand.”
This season, Drake’s delivers its fans a series of ties with a retro feel: unlined wool/silk basketweaves with club stripes in gorgeous colours (£115) and interestingly textured silk/mohair/wool grenadines (£115).
Jermyn Street’s Emma Willis continues to make her excellent, thick, fluffy cashmere ties with a faint white slub (£140). She also has a new collection of dark silk grenadines (£95) and hand-sewn polka dots (£120) that are slightly more conservative. Over in Paris, the venerable shirtmakers Charvet is also experimenting with the materials it uses for its ties. Proprietor Jean-Claude Colban tells me that his work with finer-gauge grenadine has produced a line of gauzy ties in sophisticated colours from the 1920s and 1930s – chocolate browns, burnt bronzes, gunmetal greys and deep sapphire blues (€150).
Italian brands Pal Zileri and Bigi Cravatte-Milano are also working on interesting new tie fabrications and constructions. Pal Zileri’s Canapino wool ties (£99) feature a very discreet lining – allowing for double or even triple knots – and give the appearance of a foulard with many thin pleats at the knot. Also crisply cool are the label’s plain flannel ties (£99). Bigi Cravatte-Milano is run by two third‑generation siblings, Stefano and Paola Bigi. The Etichetta Azzura design (from €90) is slim, deconstructed and suitably casual. Look for the hand-rolled shantung grenadine in wine and black stripe (£100), plain cashmere twill (£100), special cashmere basketweaves (£110) and loose-weave, mini grenadine seven folds (£125).
This new tie aesthetic works well with textured or patterned shirts with button-down collars. For extra nonchalance, leave the buttons undone, or knot the tie with the narrow back blade partially visible, and/or longer than the wide blade.