How to Wear Ties Informally

Jamie Ferguson, formerly of Drake's, London. Shantung silk tie over button-down oxford shirt.

Men typically struggle to bridge the gap between formal clothing (in this instance we’ll take that to mean a suit and tie in professional environments) and informal clothing or smart-casual. The challenge is in finding a sweet spot between a suit and tie, and pants and a open shirt for times when you’d either prefer to be slightly more dressed up, or, if your personal style and taste lends itself more towards dressing with more detail.

Ties which are worn in professional environments are typically unable to bridge the gap between the two styles and the reason for this is texture (which I know I go on about but it’s among the most under-considered elements of style).

At Camps de Luca, Paris. Levi’s, knitted shirt, knitted tie.
At Drake’s factory in London a few years ago. Silk knit over fine merino knitwear
Grey silk knit over sky blue shirt.

Most ties found in office environments are made from silk, are crisp, smooth and, as a result, formal. Trying to wear that style of tie with textures found in less formal clothing creates a disparity between competing textures. The answer, then, is to find parity between the texture of a tie and the other things you’re wearing.

Knitted ties are as informal as ties get, but within this there are levels of formality. A fine gauge silk knitted tie is at the less casual end of the spectrum, whilst a heavier gauge cashmere is the worn-in jeans of the tie world.

From an image taken at Nino Corvato’s in NY

Aside from knits, with their typically squared off tips, you then have the option of changing the material of a standard tie to achieve a more informal look. For the colder seasons, this means cashmere or wool ties with their extra body, light absorbing properties and often mottled appearance. Exact same width, length and tips as a regular work tie, but the change in fabric and, therefore, texture entirely changes the end product. In summer, change to cotton and linen or a high-twist lightweight wool and the same reduction in formality is achieved.

Drake’s bespoke cashmere tie, hand-rolled tips (see below)

Jamie Ferguson, formerly of Drake’s, London. Shantung silk tie over button-down oxford shirt.

Finally, hand-rolled tips should be the norm for men’s ties. They’re still a rarity (less so in Italy), which is a shame, because such a small detail has such a huge effect on how a tie feels and looks. Hand-rolled tips are more elegant, relaxed and enjoyable to wear than the typically self tipped ties which are the norm in the UK and elsewhere in the world. Even on a work tie, hand rolled tips are still formal, but so much more elegant and, on a casual tie, they make the tie appear much more relaxed and light.

When no tie feels like too little and a work tie too much, look to cashmere, linen and knitted ties to give texture and balance to a less formal outfit.

Trying on my finished bespoke Cleverley Double Monk’s
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