Starting a tie wardrobe in 2018 can be daunting; with the variety of options that are just one click away, it might be hard to determine whether a tie is going to get some use or will lie in a cedar box untouched for years.
This list was compiled following the directions of some Styleforum members who discussed pretty extensively the merits and versatility of the following ties on this thread.
A starting wardrobe of 12 ties might contain:
- Two navy solid ties (a grenadine and a repp, for instance)
- Two other solid ties (i.e. forest green grenadine, a chocolate brown repp)
- One glen plaid, guncheck, or shepherd’s check tie in black and white or navy and white
- One houndstooth tie
- Two pindot ties
- Two “neat” ties – small, evenly spaced designs
- Two repp stripe ties
See below for some great options that will help you complete your tie collection.
Navy solid ties
Solid ties in other colors
Glen plaid / Guncheck / Shepherd’s check ties
Repp stripe ties
I cherish my weekends. During the work week, my fiancée is gone early and returns late, and outside of our daily dog walks and once-weekly picnics (if you’re not picnicking once weekly with your significant other, reconsider your life), Saturday and – sometimes – Sunday are the only days we have to relax with a cup of coffee, our dogs, and a breakfast that isn’t a granola bar.
Every weekend, once I’ve had my coffee (decaf now, sadly) and am ready to start cooking, I invariably reach for the same garments: a comfy pair of shorts (or pants, if the morning is chilly), my Birkenstocks (say what you will), and a Big Shirt. And by Big Shirt I don’t mean an oversized gym tee. I mean a loose, oversized button-up shirt that I wear with the sleeves rolled halfway up my forearm. You may remember these from glorious 90’s moments such as this one:
Conversely, for a few years while I was in college, slim-fit shirts were the Holy Grail of menswear. At the same time that brands such as Band of Outsiders and Gitman Vintage were just getting popular on Styleforum, all my friends and I were constantly lamenting the unsightly ‘pooching’ effect you’d get around your middle when you tucked a ‘dress shirt’ from Express, or J Crew, or wherever into your ‘dress pants.’ Many things have changed since then, among them my own style, the relative tightness of your average shirt, and the knowledge of how the latter should fit.
The thing is, I’ve always been a t-shirt guy. I’m wearing one even now, although there’s a blazer over it, and a body-hugging button-up shirt just isn’t and never will be as comfortable. But a t-shirt just isn’t always appropriate, and when you want something with a collar, your recourse is the Big Shirt.
I have been, in many ways, groomed since birth to favor the Big Shirt. My mother is a painter, and many of my childhood memories involve seeing her in her own Big Shirt – either stolen from my father or purchased for herself – covered in paint, charcoal and wood chips. Similarly, my father chronically finds all clothing intensely uncomfortable, except for his selection of ancient and heavily-worn oxford cloth button downs. He wears them all the time, with everything – including under a sweater when skiing. As neither of them have ever been particularly interested in fashion or clothing, I never saw anything else. It should come as no surprise that the comfort I take in wearing a Big Shirt is both physical and mental.
My first Big Shirts were hand-me-downs from my father, and I still have them: pastel pink and pastel yellow oxfords from Polo by Ralph Lauren; even years after he gave them to me the shoulders are too big and the sleeves too long. They are, however, loose enough to be comfortable in the summertime, and offer just barely enough in the way of decorum so that if a friend comes over for brunch on the patio I don’t feel the need to change. I’ve also snuck them into the occasional casual outfit, usually secreted beneath a casual blazer or a heavy cardigan and paired with an equally casual pair of jeans or trousers.
I have a few other shirts I consider Big Shirts: one is a hand-me-down from my mother, one is a relatively new chambray workshirt from RRL, and the last is, similarly, a workshirt from Yellow Hook. The latter two are just about fitted in the shoulders, but cut loose enough through the waist to trick the wearer into forgetting they’re wearing a shirt. I’ve even tried to incorporate Big-Shirtness into the other aspects of my wardrobe, and one of my favorite shirts that isn’t for casual outfits is a Haider Ackermann women’s blouse in gold silk that is truly Big.
Speaking of, part of my love for the Big Shirt is due to its androgynous appeal – women and men alike look great in Big Shirts. Old Ralph Lauren ads are a truly great source of inspiration for oversized silhouettes, and the women’s suits of the 80’s are still fantastic. 80’s Armani and Versace advertisements are equally great, and all three brands showcase the elegance of billowy clothing – and of the Big Shirt in particuarly. I still love the look of billowing fabric and a cinched waist, and although trim-cut shirts are certainly still – and likely will be for the foreseeable future – very popular, there’s nothing better for a relaxed outfit than a Big Shirt.
You can, of course, head to your local Ralph Lauren outlet and buy an oxford a few sizes too big if this is an itch you’re interested in scratching, but 1) that lacks magic and 2) going to malls and outlets is a terrible experience. Instead, I’d recommend shopping Ebay or Etsy for old shirts. The key is really to find a shirt with a giant armhole and a pleated sleeve, because as much as we like to say that high armholes improve mobility – and they do – you’re much more mobile in a shirt that fits like a sack.
There are more than a few brands playing with bigness these days – popular names on Styleforum being Christophe Lemaire and Kapital – but if you’re sitting on the more classic side of the style spectrum, I’d suggest trying the vintage route first. Start with a plain white or blue oxford. Get yourself a narrow, over-long belt, then tuck your shirt into a pair of soft, pleated trousers; or wear it with comfy, worn denim; or be like me and wear it over a pair of beat-up hiking shorts. You just might find that what your wardrobe needs is a little bit of Big Shirtness.
Spring in San Francisco is onerous. It’s as if winter is on its deathbed with a wet cough that keeps drenching you with incessant gloom as it slowly releases its grip on daylight. It’s pathetic. Long after the novelty off sweater weather wears off, you just feel like pulling the plug and ending the misery.
My first spring in New York was unforgettable. For months, the trees surrounding me in Putnam County had been shivering naked during the long winter like so many desiccated toothpicks, reaching up to a sun that would give them no warmth. The trails circling Mountain Brook were surrounded by dirty snow that blended into the granite horizon and ashen sky, painting a dormant landscape filtered in desolation, until finally the earth awoke. I remember buds shooting from the branches while it was still cold in March, offering hope of renewed life. I was so excited I walked around in jeans and a t-shirt; 36 degrees seemed almost warm. The snow began to melt, and within weeks, the whole valley of the east branch of the Croton River exploded in an intense, waxy green, sparkling in the breeze with hues of malachite in the sun and viridian in the shade. I’ll never forget that sight; it could have made anyone a believer.
It’s no wonder, then, that our clothes reflect spring’s renewal of life and color. The changing of seasons brings longer days and blossoming flora, prompting us to put away our heaviest winter coats in somber hues and exchange them for something lighter and cheery. For men, this traditionally means oxford cloth button-downs in soft pastel hues of robin’s egg blue, pale pink, and dusty yellow. Since it won’t get really hot for several months, now is what some call “Shoulder Season,” when moderate temperatures can accommodate items from both summer and winter wardrobes, without necessitating full-on shearling or head-to-toe linen. Lamentably, many places have pathetically a short Shoulder Season. This is a shame, since spring and autumn have arguably the most pleasant temperatures of the year – the Golden Mean Climate – perfect for for a variety of menswear. Here are some of my favorites for spring:
A faux tweed sport coat. I’m considering sending this fabric to my tailor in Sicily. A lightweight wrinkle-resistant wool from the long-gone Hardy Minnis Riviera line, the dusty kelly green expresses just the right amount of “spring” without being garish. A jacket in this color goes great with light grey trousers, tan chinos or faded jeans, so I expect I’ll be wearing this a lot come March. One of my favorite online stores, No Man Walks Alone (also a Styleforum affiliate), headed by longtime forum member Greg Lellouche, has a jacket in a solid olive green and a houndstooth patterned blue and brown in fabrics that are perfect for spring and would transition well into summer. If you’re not a plaid person, try a suit or jacket in a fresh sage green cotton instead of traditional tan.
A suede safari jacket. Last year I scored one from Polo Ralph Lauren at Goodwill for less than $30. It quickly became one of my favorites, and I found it went surprisingly well with a variety of outfits: beat-up denim and white sneakers, fresco trousers and tan chukkas, and hunter green khakis and boots. The four utilitarian pockets carry just about anything, and the jacket can be worn open for ventilation, casually belted for a quick jaunt to the market, or buttoned-and-belted for when the wind starts to pick up. Fair warning: people will want to touch you.
A mid-weight sweater. Twenty years ago, a sweet girl from Hyde Park named Liz gave me a periwinkle blue cotton cable-knit crewneck sweater from LL Bean, and I ended up wearing it all spring. In fact, they still offer the same one, available online. Perfect for those in-between times when you don’t have to worry about shedding layers of clothes. Sweaters such as this one feel wonderful against your skin, and when the temperature changes you can either roll up your sleeves or throw on a Baracuta. Later on, I picked up a shawl-collar sweater in a cotton-cashmere blend that serves more or less the same purpose, worn either with a simple white t-shirt or taking the place of a more formal jacket.
A velvet blazer is great for the winter season. First of all, velvet is warm. That’s a good thing when it’s cold out. Second, it looks fantastic in the dark, and in the winter it’s dark all the damn time. Third, a velvet blazer is surprisingly versatile. You can wear it casually with jeans, or you can take the same piece and wear it to a black tie event. That includes all occasions in between; like, say, an office party, entertaining at home, a night out for cocktails, or just a nice dinner with your partner.
So, we’ve taken the same Ralph Lauren navy velvet blazer and given you two ways to wear it. In the first, the classic combination of black, white, and navy is perfect for any holiday party. The key to not looking like a dust-covered relic while wearing a velvet blazer is to keep things slim. Your clothes needn’t be skin-tight, but we’d certainly recommend hemming the trousers so that they end without breaking atop your loafers. Finishing off the look with a classic silk bow tie makes the deep navy of velvet stand out further, while a gentle touch of white at the chest pocket keeps you from blending into the night entirely. All that’s left for you to do is act the part.
On the more casual side, a velvet blazer is perfect for looking like a louche degenerate in the best of ways. Unbutton the shirt, ditch the tie, stuff the pocket square (instead of folding), and go all-out with raw-hemmed skinny jeans. Mid- or high-rise denim lets you keep the shirt tucked, and slim black boots are a elegant-but-snarky way to tie the outfit together – and they’re better for walking around than patent loafers. Just keep sidewalk salt off of them, and you’ll be set for the whole season.