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Monday, July 12, 2010

Skinny-Ties: Style or Fashion? A Case Study

Picture Source: Brooks Brothers

A recurring question I receive is the question of tie widths, these days mostly about skinny ties; are they a fad or stylish?

To answer, it comes down to proportions. Like most clothing items, the choice of proper tie width must take other things into consideration.

The fashion industry enjoys cycling proportions. They must feel it will increase sales if they can make people feel their wardrobe is obsolete because its not in style with fashion's latest push. Pant widths, skirt or dress hemlines, ties, jacket lengths and virtually any item that can be proportionally resized will be during the endless fashion cycles.

Classic style is timeless. There are ranges of acceptable proportions and styles that will remain classic in spite of fashion cycles: they'll always look good. It's up to us to hold true to our own style and tune out the whimsical nature of high-fashion and their advertising machines. If we understand which styles and proportions have withstood the test of time and buy accordingly, we have a wardrobe that transcends the latest "fashion".

Tie widths are a perfect example. First, the choice of width is not a decision made in a vacuum. To be proportionally correct, the width of the tie should match that of the jacket lapel. Wider lapels- wider ties, thin lapels- thin ties. Historically the acceptable range of widths for both is between 3 3/8" and 4 1/4". If one was to have all his jackets and ties fall within this range, the wardrobe would be immunized from the whims of fashion cycles. They won't look too wide nor will they look too narrow.

If one was to buy a new wardrobe or more realistically, begin slowly replenishing it- where within this range should they fall? Think proportion. A larger man with wide shoulders and chest would be better proportioned at the wider end. Blazers, sportscoats and suits being the larger ticket items; thus less easily replaceable, it's imperative to purchase the best proportioned jacket for their body type with the lapel falling within the classic range. The tie width follows accordingly.

Think of fashion as a pendulum moving from one extreme to another over time, back and forth. There are times when fast-fashion is pushing 2 1/2 inch ties (and jacket lapels) and others when they swing out to 5 inches. A fashion victim would feel the need to always be on the cutting edge and follow suit. True style understands the difference between classic style and the fashion industry's moodiness. Stay within the historical classic range and you're always in-style. It's hard-earned money that we put into clothing, let's make the best investment we can by insuring it will look just as good 10 or more years from now as it does today. Personal true style has no fashion victims.

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