I get quite a few questions from guys that want to wear ties to the office, but are concerned that sporting a sport coat will draw too much attention. My go to recommendation for these scenarios is to suggest wearing a tie with a shawl collar sweater. In the recent weeks I have had several emails asking me this exact question which made me think that re-posting my “Shawl Collar Sweater with a Tie” post is a good idea. Without further ado, here it is (with a few additional images added at the end).
Shawl Collar with a Tie
I have been wearing a tie and jacket to work twice a week for over two years. When I began I was asked all the usual questions about meetings, job interviews, yada yada yada (Inspired by my trad-ish friend George Costanza). Those days are now in the distant past and my tie wearing ways now go unnoticed. During the course of the last two years I have tried quite a few different combinations and I have found that wearing a tie with a shawl collar sweater may be the easiest way to wear a tie in a business casual office.
What do I mean by easy? What I mean is that it will not elicit as many unwanted comments about why you are wearing a tie (at least it did not in my experience). This is probably because a sweater is much more informal than a blazer or sport coat, but also because the tie is mostly covered with a sweater so that it does not garner the same amount of attention that it would when worn with a jacket. Instead only a glimpse of the tie is given which is the perfect opportunity to wear an interesting emblematic ties such these: Ivy League Humor.
Not only does it make wearing a tie easy, but it looks good too. In general, I am not a fan of the sweater and tie look. I don’t love ties with a crewneck, because there is rarely any tie exposure and the knot usually makes the neck lay funny. A V-neck Shetland can look good, but the shawl collar’s strength is that it provides a background for the tie that is similar to the lapel of a jacket.
In preparation for this post I wore this look twice last week. The first time I wore it with cords and a wool-silk emblematic tie with ducks. I was very comfortable in this look. In my second example I went for a more urbane look. I wore grey wool pants and an old silk Brooksgate neat tie. Overall I found the sweater to be versatile.
The shawl collar is a good option for when you want to wear a tie in a business-casual setting such as an office or a nicer restaurant, but not a jacket. So, If you were contemplating wearing a shawl collar sweater and a tie I say go for it. If you want to wear a tie to your office, but are put off by the fuss it will receive try sneaking one in under a shawl collar sweater. If you want some cover for your Chipp FU tie it could be for you as well!
The leaves are turning, the temps are dropping, and you can order a pumpkin flavored anything. Fall is finally here and everyone is excited. For us trads, it is not so much the previous mentioned items as it is the return of layering, Shetland sweaters, and tweeds to mention a few. One item that I am especially excited for are foulard ties.
A Foulard (also called a neat) is a symmetrical pattern that consists of small-scale repeating shapes such as diamonds, dots, medallions, pines, and of course flowers. A foulard is technically a kind of light weight silk, but today the term is used interchangeably with neat.
Foulards are not strictly for fall/winter items. However, I find them to be a better fit for myself with a tweed than in the summer with a blazer and chinos. I do break them out if I am wearing grey wool trousers and blazer. If I had a chance to wear suits this would be another occasion to break out the foulards. Until then I will just enjoy them when the weather turn cool bringing out the tweeds and cords.
A Few More Foulard Ties
I wear a navy blazer a lot. I would say that I have been wearing a navy blazer at least once a week for the last 3 years. I have learned a few things in that time. One of those things is that red ties work really well with them.
In hindsight it seems like this should be a no-brainer. Contrast is one of the most important elements in putting together a rig. However, my knowledge of color theory is non-existent so I learn what colors work by two methods. Learning from others is my most effective. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel. The other is trial and error which is why I recommend the first.
in the end, red ties just work with navy blazers. When I say red I also mean burgundy ( I told you that I have no background in color theory). These are the ties that I reach for most often. If you are new to the navy blazer or have trouble pairing a tie with them give a red or burgundy repp tie a shot. It is usually a hit.
I have been holding this secret in for a while now. From time to time I have thought about writing about it, but feared that it was beyond forgiveness. Two things made me change my mind. First, commenter Hollywood Argyle asked me how I make a four-in-hand knot work being 5’8″. The second was a comment made by Paul Winston of Winston Tailors and Chipp Neckwear fame.
Hollywood Argyle is correct in that when I tie a four-in-hand knot at the correct length (example of the correct length above) that it will often result in the tail hanging far beyond the blade. My shameful secret is that I have addressed this issue on countless occasions by simply taking a pair of scissors, cutting the tail to a length that works, and crudely sewing it back together. I wanted to share this technique as I am sure that others have had the same problem, but I held my tongue.
Last week there was a thread about shortening ties in which Mr. Winston said that he offered to shorten his customers ties for free with a blunt cut. As soon as I read that phrase I had a feeling that he was referring to the same technique that I described above. A message from him confirmed this to be true.
Blunt cut is exactly what you are doing. I cut it straight across and then bind the end. If one wants me to re-cut the end to a point, there is a $15 charge – it takes about 1/2 hour to re-cut and fold the edges and tipping under and finish the “point”. Almost all my customers who request shortening choose the “free blunt” – when you feed the narrow end through the label and pin it to your shirt no one can see how it is finished. You can tell your followers they need not worry about the “clothing police” if they do what you do.”
There you have it. The blunt cut is a quick and easy way to shorten a tie. It is also free when done at home (or if you are a lucky enough to be a customer of Paul Winston’s!). You can also re-cut the end to a point as Mr. Winston noted. It feels good to get this one off my chest.
I couldn’t do a post on ties with help from Paul Winston without highlighting his wonderful selection of ties that won’t break the bank (everything’s under $60) over at Chipp Neckwear. He makes a great product at fantastic price point. They are also my preferred width of 3.25″. I have been thinking about this Teal & French Blue Shantung tie one for the summer.
I have often been described as consistent, dependable, and reliable. I am proud of these traits as they are a big part of who I am, but…yes, there is a but. Often these characteristics translate as predictable. While I myself am a big fan of predictable I also aim to please. Cue the tie.
I purchased the tie above over a year ago and it has hung on my tie rack ever since waiting for the day it gets to see some action. When I first saw the tie I was enamored with the playful pattern presented in a deep rich red made of wool challis. I knew that it was a little outside of my comfort zone, but I was drawn to it and it cost me around $10 on the second hand market if I remember correctly.
Last month I woke up with the intent of wearing it. I just wasn’t sure how. I tried a solid blue OCBD first. Something didn’t look quite right. I thought that a white OCBD would work, but I have an aversion to white shirts outside of formal settings where they are required. My trusty blue university striped OCBD was just right. It provided the right mix of pattern and color to serve as a backdrop for this bold tie.
I learned a few things about this tie during its first outing. The first is that it is a beautiful tie. I admired it all day long. I also learned that it would look best with my navy blazer and grey flannels. There is something about it that is a little too something for chinos. I also thought that if I had that camel hair sport coat (or any tan colored sport coat) that I have been lusting after that they would look terrific together.
The moral of this story is to not be afraid to wear something that you would not normally wear. You could surprise yourself and find a new look to add to your repertoire. At the same time, remember that you are creating your look so look the way that you want to look. I am often known for wearing the same thing day in and day out. I am more than okay with that. I know that it is one of my strengths.