As the weather changes so does our wardrobe and many of us look forward to these transitions, but. “look forward to” may be an understatement when it comes to warm weather wear. Clothes horses everywhere begin salivating over madras, seersucker, and linen as Memorial Day (The official first day for these fabrics) draws near. However, there is one summer fabric that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the others. This fabric is Shantung Silk.
My one and only Shantung Tie.
What is Shantung?
Shantung ties get their name from, yep, you guessed it: The Shantung Province of China. Shantung silk is made from raw silk and was traditionally woven from uneven pieces of yarn. The result is a very textured slubby silk that is perfect for warm weather tie wear. Learn more over at Gentleman’s Gazette.
Who sells them?
Sometimes I think that I drop the same names again and again (J.Press, Brooks Brothers, O”Connell’s, etc) when I am guiding readers to products. This time I tried to switch it up a little bit (, just a little bit.).
The first Shantung ties that caught my eye are over at Ralph Lauren (above and here). While RL is no stranger to those interested in traditional American clothing they are often overlooked by the Trad crowd, because of their use of logos and their image as a bastion of all things preppy. However, I suggest keeping tabs on them. Especially for ties. Uncle Ralph’s Shantungs come in at 3” (A tad slim for some.) and they only offer 3 striped variations, but two of them were so well executed that they are definitely worth a look.
My Second recommendation for sourcing Shantung ties is Drake’s of London (above and here). Drake’s has an impressive number of attractive Shantung offerings such as regimentals, dots, and solids. These ties are 8cm (or 3.14962 inches) which a touch wider than the PRL ties, but they are also about $70 more expensive than the PRL ties. What I like most about their selection is the number of muted colors (like tie #1) that say summer without yelling it.
The next time you are stocking up on summer staples think about picking up a Shantung silk tie. These slubby ties pick up where your tweeds left off adding texture to your summer rigs. Whether you go with my suggestions above or hit up the usual suspects a Shantung tie is a great way to bring a piece of summer into the office without screaming GTH.
When it comes to getting dressed there are a few considerations that I always make such as “Where I am going?”, “What season is it?”, and “What is the weather like?”. If I am getting dressed for a special occasion or an event then I try to dress in a way that shows respect for the event, but more importantly to the host. Seldom do I find myself dressing in a way the expresses how I am feeling that day, but it does happen. This post is about one of those days.
Lately I have been feeling a little overwhelmed. Work has been crazy, dating is hard, and the winter weather is wearing on me as well (This year is in the top 10 for below zero temps for my area.). The stress was building and I could feel myself getting a little more frustrated day by day until I woke up one day and knew that I had to snap out of it.
When I was getting dressed I remembered the tie that I had received from my friend Worried Man (Thanks!). This tie features the Manneken Pis (Which literally translates to Little Pee Man.) a famous landmark in Brussels. The origin of the sculpture is surrounded by multiple legends, but I had given the tie my own Chippesque meaning by renaming it “Pissing in the wind.” I thought that this was perfect occasion to break out the tie.
Me Looking grumpy in a shawl collar.
As soon as I put the tie on I felt a little bit better. I threw a shawl collar cardigan on over top to provide some coverage for the little guy, but because of the historical significance of the tie I was not too worried about being reprimanded at work for it. Throughout the day my spirits were lifted by the tie and I smiled to myself quite a few times as I thought about the subversive meaning that I had attached to it.
Looking back I think that expressing my frustration with my wardrobe was much more constructive than keeping it all inside. Instead of declaring defeat I relied on humor for one of its most beneficial uses which is coping life’s challenges and had fun doing it.
I came home to find a package from Tom Nascone at Ivy Inspired waiting for me at my door. I eagerly opened the box to find three handsome bow ties. I had sent Tom three ties that were a bit too wide for me to convert into bow ties and I was excited to see how they came out. I was not disappointed!
This all came about by way of a bad purchase. During one of my many Saturday morning thrifts I found a vintage Brooks Brothers grey herringbone sport coat with all the trimmings. After a few failed attempts to convince myself that this jacket fit me I finally gave in and admitted that it was just too small. It was a great jacket and I wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it. I tried to think who it might fit. The answer was Tom. After a quick email exchange a deal was struck. Tom would get the jacket and in exchange he would convert a few ties to bow ties for me.
This was the perfect trade for me as I have accumulated quite a few ties that are in need of alterations. I rarely buy ties that are over 3.25 inches, but sometimes a tie is just too good to pass up. Due to this I have about 10 ties that are too wide and need to be narrowed (I had them all in box ready to go to Tiecrafters). I want to learn how to alter ties myself as this would be an invaluable skill to have, but I do not want to ruin these great ties learning. I picked three ties out of the box that I thought would make better bow ties than long ties, chose a different bow style for each, and sent them off to Tom.
I am not a bow tie guy. In fact, I have only worn a bow tie once in my life and I want to change that, but I also want to avoid being labeled the bow tie guy. My plan is to mix a bow tie into my rotation once a month. This should break the ice and get people used to seeing me in a bow tie, but not only a bow tie. Tom did a great job on this project and I would encourage anyone that is in need of a bow tie or pocket square to check out his Ivy Inspired store. They are an excellent deal offered by a fine young man.
Lately I have feeling more confident about the way that I dress. I have my New Year’s Resolution to thank for a lot of that. I have been wearing a jacket and tie twice a week for almost a year now. What used to be foreign to me is now very familiar. One of the biggest changes is my attitude towards emblematic, club, or critter ties… whatever you want to call them. You know, ties covered in heraldic shields, upland game, and favorite prep pastimes. I didn’t think that I would be able to pull off one of these ties until I was well into my 40’s, but now I just don’t give a duck. Not a single flying duck!
I have accumulated a few duck emblematic ties even though I am not sure quite why I am drawn to them. The only hunting that I have done is at the grocery store or at my most rugged the famers market, and never for duck. However, I have grown quite fond of them. My best guess is that I have read the OPH (Official Preppy Handbook) one too many times. In celebration of my new found confidence I thought that I should share my little collection of ties, but first I leave you with a few words from the OPH on this very subject.
Straight from the OPH – THE DUCK MOTIF
The duck is the most beloved of all totems. The duck suggests hunting, water, Maine – all the things worth thinking about. The basic duck is the mallard. The most common view of the duck is silhouette, although the duck in flight runs a close second. Three-dimensional decoys are nearly as popular and may appear as lamp bases, planters, doorstops, candlesticks, and paper weights. Ducks themselves – real ducks – may be of little interest. It is the representation of the duck that counts. And the less the object has to do with ducks, the more it cries out for duck adornment. Ducks are stenciled, engraved, embroidered. Embossed, debossed, appliqued, mounted, and otherwise emblazoned on wood, brass, fabric, leather. silver, glass, crystal – anything.