Advanced Cravatology

Posted on March 25, 2014

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Despite being such a simple accessory – or perhaps because of it – the bow tie is offered in a dizzying array of options.  I describe the various shapes, models, and materials on the Black Tie Guide’s Classic Neckwear page but there are a few more interesting insights I’ve gleaned since then.

Fabric

Having recently purchased my first grosgrain-lapelled tuxedo, I finally had a reason to buy faille ties to match.  Just to recap, faille is a ribbed texture that is technically thicker than that of grosgrain making the fabric stiffer and therefore more effective for bow ties.  However, in real life the two terms are often used interchangeably and in my small sampling I found a fairly wide range of textures and stiffness.  Shown above are, from left to right:

  • Jos. A. Bank polyester “grosgrain” bow tie (no longer available in self-tie model)
  • Robert Talbott “Protocol” silk faille bow tie ($95 at Hansen’s Clothing)
  • Robert Talbott “Protocol” polyester faille bow tie ($65 at Hansen’s Clothing)
  • The Cordial Churchman silk faille bow tie ($49 at The Cordial Churchman, available in custom shapes)

If you click on the image you’ll see that the Jos. A. Bank and Robert Talbott silk models have much thicker ribbing than the others.  I believe this is because they are both made to match other facings: the former is identical to the grosgrain facing on Jos. A. Bank’s corresponding tuxedo and the latter is the same material used for a matching Robert Talbott cummerbund.  In comparison, the Talbott polyester tie has finer ribbing and the grain on the Churchman tie is so fine it’s almost impossible for the naked eye to discern.  In terms of stiffness, the first three are similar to most informal bow ties I own (the polyester Talbott being a bit flimsier) but the Churchman model is as stiff as Bristol board.  This comes at the cost of the suppleness that you’d normally expect from a silk necktie.

Also interesting to note is that the grains in faille bow ties can run either vertically or at a 45 degree angle.  Personally, I find that the angled pattern lends the tie a more dynamic air.

Construction

Another notable trait of the Churchman model is its relative thinness compared to the others.  To me, it lacks substance and therefore presence, just like very thin informal ties.  I’ve since discovered that one way to ensure a mail-order bow tie has adequate heft is to look for models constructed with a light cotton interlining.

Sized Bow Ties

My Buyer’s Guide doesn’t have a specific category for retailers of sized bow ties so I thought I’d assemble a list for those in the market for such an indulgence:

company price fabric notes
Clermont Direct (UK) £16.50 black barathea silk
Ede and Ravenscroft (UK) £45 black barathea silk
Hackett (UK) £45 black silk or white marcella limited sizes
T.M. Lewin (UK) £25 barathea or satin silk
Beau Ties (US) $45 black satin silk various shapes; sizes only available in 2” ranges

Note that most of these vendors offer only one shape and none have ties made of faille.  Consequently, you may prefer the fallback option of having a tailor sew together the two halves of an adjustable model as those are available in a much wider variety of shapes and fabrics.

Made-to-Measure Bow Ties

For much more variety you can opt for made-to-measure bow ties, an option of which I was unaware when I wrote the current edition of the Guide.

company price fabric shapes widths lengths
Carrot & Gibbs, US $65 satin silk limited range of stock shapes various widths fixed neck sizes
Sam Hober, Thailand $65-$70 black or midnight-blue satin and faille silk; white piqué (Marcella) may be available in future stock or custom shapes custom widths fixed neck sizes
Cordial Churchman, US $38-$49 white piqué (Marcella), black satin silk, faille silk, reversible satin/velvet stock or custom shapes stock widths for stock shapes adjustable only

Single-Ended Bow Ties

Men seeking this novel variation are pretty much out of luck as none of the sellers listed in my Buying Guide offer it any longer.  As far as I know, the sole remaining sources of single-ended bow ties are Sam Hober’s and Cordial Churchman’s custom service.