Basic men’s informal attire: Ties, pocket squares, and lapel accessories

When someone first gazes upon your manly visage, they see the following aspects in this order: face, shoes (or teeth, depending on culture), pants, belt, cuffs (and cuff links, if applicable), jacket, shirt, tie, pocket square, and lapel ornament. If you remain unconvinced, follow someone’s eyes when you first meet them. Repeat as necessary until you accept this hidden fashion truth.

The latter three items (tie, handkerchief, and lapel accessories) function like highlights to the main course of your suit (shoes, pants, and jacket). Think of the big pieces as selling you and while the details seal the deal. After all, the first impression (your appearance, before you say anything too stupid) works to market you to every person you meet.

Forgetting these little things equates to spending $10k on the first floor of your house, yet skimping on the $200 for the floor trim. Avoid presenting yourself as that guy. In this article, we help you understand how to gear yourself towards the type of detail-oriented person who gains the notice of both bosses and broads without breaking your billfold.

Ties

Horrific examples of (blue) tie knots against a black shirt.
How not to tie a tie, colour match poorly, and create discord with shirt collars. Courtesy of Wikipedia slobs.

We have a lot of ground to cover here. First, the width of your tie matches your jacket’s lapel. Thin ties go with narrow lapels and wide ties with broad lapels. Do not screw up this simple rule, and avoid looking like a boob.

How does one decide on the wideness of your tie, which must match the lapel? Your girth mitigates this issue. When looking at you from the front, the tie consumes about a third of your waistline. Simple, right?

A skinny tie on a fat dude makes it look like someone painted a toothpick on his shirt and he looks even porkier for it. Conversely, a wide tie on a thin guy gives off a clownish, cartoony image. For the most part, store-bought ties suffice although you might consider bespoke ties in the case of your extraordinary proportions. In summary:

Girth/tie/lapel coordination
Your girth Tie width Suit jacket lapel width
Slim/manlet Skinny Consider the shawl lapel here, although these can look abominable in some cases.
Fit/average Normal Standard
Chad nationalist/husky Wide Wide
Obese Bespoke Bespoke, as with the entire suit.

Construction

You don’t need to buy all silk ties. Some microfibre ones appear nice too, and polyester ties can weigh lighter on your purse strings. Most people these days lack the attention to detail to discern the difference between a high-quality, lower-cost microfibre tie and an expensive silk one. As with any part of your wardrobe, variety speaks volumes.

The materials which comprise the tie help to determine how the knot terminates with respect to thickness and size. Whether the manufacturer wove the item from microfibre, silk, polyester, or something else, the number of layers influences the width of the knot as well. Microfibre and polyester ties tend towards fatter while some, but not all, silk ties trend towards finer. Obviously, thinner ties make smaller/narrower knots and thicker ties result in bigger/broader knots.

Knots

As discussed in the Basic men’s informal attire: Shirts post, the spread of your collar determines which knot to wear. If you mismatch the knot size and collar width, people notice the sides of your tie, which gives off an air of sloppiness. Let’s examine some common knots and their associated shirt collars.

Shirt collar and tie coordination examples
Collar spread Tie thickness Tie width Tie knot
Wide Normal Normal Full Windsor
Wide Normal Normal Pratt
Wide Normal Normal Eldridge
Wide Thin Wide Full Windsor
Medium Normal Normal True love
Medium Thick Wide Half Windsor
Narrow Normal Normal Trinity
Narrow Normal Normal Four-in-hand
Narrow Thin Wide Half Windsor

If you commit the grave error of combining a medium or narrow collar spread with a thick silk tie in a Full Windsor knot, you create what United Shitlords call the “nigger knot” a.k.a. the footballer knot in the UK. Anytime a room temperature IQ negro speaks on an English sportsball interview, you see them wearing this eyesore which looks like a noose hanging from their necks (something genetic here, perhaps). Also, note how rich rappers like Diddy and Jay Z do the same, confusing bigger with better.

For overall length, you want the bottom of the tie to hit anywhere between the top of the belt buckle and just to the bottom of it. If it comes too short, retie it. If it hangs too long, it blocks sight of your trouser snake and obscures the view of your belt buckle. Vary it or settle on a fixed length  as your style dictates.

Despite his unrepentant shitlibbery, Alex Krasney produces the best videos on how to tie a tie. Check out his YouTube channel for countless examples. Don’t hesitate about calling him a cuck for supporting Black Lives Matter either.

Colours and patterns

Matching tie colours to shirts requires no great skill. A shortcut involves using complementary colours (two colours which form brown when mixed together in equal quantities). You can check the Colour Scheme Designer against your entire outfit. When you gain comfort in using complementary colours, test some tie colour variants one click offset, for example: purple shirt and orange tie instead of a yellow tie.

With patterns, the only caveat accounts for clashing patterns and too much movement. For example a striped shirt and striped tie makes you look like some moving picture sideshow. Plaid and stripe clash a bit at times, too. Use your best judgement here and, before throwing them on, lay the tie on the shirt to test whether or not the combination works.

Colour coordination examples, extended further
Shoes Socks Slacks Belt Shirt Tie
Brown Grey-and-purple-striped Brown Light brown Purple pinstripes, narrow collar Solid gold tie, normal thickness and width, Trinity knot
Brown Tan Navy blue Light brown Purple, wide collar Yellow and gold hatch silk by Stacy Adams, thick and wide, half Windsor knot
Brown Blue Grey Light brown Blue, wide collar Orange striped Paisley, normal thickness, wide width, full Windsor knot
Black Black and white argyle Charcoal Black Salmon bird’s eye, normal collar spread Solid teal green, normal thickness, normal width, half Windsor knot
Black Charcoal White Black Mantis Red silk with small logos by Chanel, thin and wide, full Windsor knot

Tie bars

Noobs believe you require a tie bar to “keep your tie in place”. This stems from their lack of jacket discipline. Put quite succinctly, when you stand up you button your jacket which locks your tie in the middle, when you sit down you unbutton it and the tie hangs in place like normal, and your jacket stays on nearly the whole day. We delve into this further in the next article, so just accept it as truth for now.

Tie bars break the visual flow of your outfit and divert peoples’ eyes from more pertinent parts of the suit, such as the tie pattern, pocket square, and lapel ornament. They project an uptight, OCD-style approach to life as if an accidental 15° skew one way or the other ends your professional career. Additionally, do you want one more article to maintain and coordinate with everything else in your outfit? Throw these in the bin or avoid wasting your money on them initially.

The military invoke the one exception to this rule. Some forces’ official dress involves a pin in the centre of the tie a little below the knot. We overlook this given the small size of the item plus the requirement from higher command.

Pocket square

Also known as the pocket handkerchief, this article of clothing sits as the cherry atop the monumental success that you coordinated your wardrobe that day. Omit the pocket square only rarely, to provide some spontaneity. Otherwise, others note your attention to detail and respect you for it. That inspires them to the same level of refinement.

One of the big questions posed about pocket squares regards whether or not they match the tie or not. For beginners, we suggest matching with the tie (ex. you bought a tie/hanky combo) until you get comfortable coordinating the entirety of your outfit. Then, move onto different configurations, as we prefer not to coincide with the tie. PROTIP: flat-folded white handkerchiefs with ½ cm height go with nearly anything (aside from white jackets, obviously).

As GQ Magazine noted, we call it the pocket square, not the pocket volcano. In your professional life, from time to time, you encounter guys with the pocket handkerchief riding halfway to their shoulder. They look like enormous tools. Avoid that, please.

Although, at times, the pocket square may take the appearance of a small hydra living in your chest. If the occurrence happens only seldom and you shine brightly while wearing it, we find no problem there. Remember the first rule in the Basic men’s informal attire: Introduction: beautiful people can do anything.

When the time arrives to pick a fold, at least four options comprise your rotation: the Pesko, the triangle (and its variations: dual, triple, quadruple peaks), the flower, and just stuffing it into your pocket. Falling into a routine occurs naturally when you attain a level of comfort with putting together a suit, so don’t forget to mix it up once in a while.

Lapel ornaments

Pop quiz, shitlords. Name the function of that slot in your left suit jacket lapel. Who answered “lapel pins”? Those people submitted an incorrect response.

Gentlemen, the rest of the world know that as the flower holder. On lower quality suits, you find it sewn shut although you can reopen the hole using a razor blade or ask a tailor to help you with it. If you fold over the lapel, higher value suits sport a thin string about 3 cm below the flower holder which keeps the flower stem in place, meaning you do not employ the services of a safety pin nor any other pin on the lapel to secure the flower’s position. Doing so breaks the visual flow of your gear, as described in the introduction to this article, and averts attention from the actual important parts of your outfit.

Think flowers go on girls only? Tell that to the Godfather and prepare for a fitting with cement sneakers. Forget limiting their usage to special events like weddings, too—they work as long as they remain available. If you garden, what more perfect an application for your flowerbeds than a source of nice-smelling, efflorescent beauty to complement your well-assembled suit?

We leave it to the reader to research the meanings of individual flowers and varieties thereof. Further discussion of what types qualify as appropriate for specific events lies outside the scope of this document as well. United Shitlords advocate for a return of the lapel flower as an expression of the most refined of meme warrior.

Of course, feel free to utilise that “pin holder” for lapel pins. Wear some country flags, the black star, Celtic cross, or whatever suits your fancy. If you elect to keep the slot closed, pins poke through it with a bit of force. Make their usage occasional or daily, depending on your style.

Procurement

Accessorising needs not cost you a limb. When the men’s stores run their seasonal sales, they discount additional items like ties and pocket squares at a lower rate, so take advantage of the bargains while there for the suits. Additionally, some business drop the overall bill further if you buy a high quantity of items.

For ties, some men’s stores advertise deals like four (4) ties of a particular series for $20 together. Usually, you can count on these as sales for normal width, polyester ties; however, you might get great deal on some silk ones. Sometimes, you find silk ties for $10 each and from a reputable brand!

On the pocket square front, Dockers sell white, cotton pocket handkerchiefs in 6-13 packs for $8-13 a set. Pick up a box of these, as a slim profile flat fold combines with nearly all your outfits. Some silk ties of reasonable quality come with pocket squares too, so consider the matching set and enjoy the two-for-one deal there. Some commission bespoke hankies with their initial embroidered on them, which leave a lasting impression.

Finally, lapel ornaments. If your jacket lacks the flower holder on the back, ask your tailor to affix one or DIY. You must cut flowers fresh the same morning of their wear. Any later and they wilt and look deathly, and ensure you fix a small tube of water to the bottom of the stem to keep the flower fresh all day.

Some manufacturers sell suits with lapel pins on them. Five and dime stores, vending machines outside pharmacies and grocery stores, gun shows, and many other strange places offer great deals on lapel pins. Always keep an eye peeled for them, since they show up randomly in the least anticipated of locations.

Care

Under normal conditions, take your ties to the drycleaner about once or twice a year. Unless you live in a city with bad air, spill fluids on them, or drop food on the ties, they retain their new look and shape when ironed properly weekly. Wipe any filth off them immediately with a damp cloth and that keeps contaminants from ingratiating into the fabric without requiring a cycle through the washer and dryer.

Same for pocket squares, although the white ones forgive stains much less than coloured or patterned ties. A good pressing every week keeps their form and removes any wrinkles from whatever crazy fold you gave them the previous week. Very rarely do they require dry cleaning and, if required, think about procuring new ones since the cost about equals that of the laundering service.

For lapel accessories, obviously, you change the flowers every day. Pins, depending on the metals used, stay fresh-looking for quite a long time. However, soak them in plain, white vinegar for a couple hours to remove any tarnish that forms on them.

In conclusion

Your (sometimes) humble authors wish that this series continues to entertain and inform. We approach its end in the next article. Remember to follow the blog and receive instant updates when new articles get published. Next stop:  suit jackets.

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