The Drake's Guide to Ties
Apr 20, 2023
At Drake’s, we’re proud of the fact that our ties are still made by hand, the traditional way, in our factory in East London — a part of town that we’ve called home for over four decades. When Drake’s was first established in 1977, printed accessories were the first things to be produced, and these products are still very much at the heart of our identity.
This intricate process, the hand-rolled edges, running a single slip stitching through the fabric’s length, encompass a type of handiwork that we are proud to champion.
The tie as we know it today is a direct descendant of the bright red scarves worn by 17th-century Croatian mercenaries hired by King Louis XIV of France during the Thirty Years’ War. Legend has it that the king began to emulate the look of these croates (from which the French for tie - cravate - comes from), as such the Parisian elite copied suit, or tie, rather.
Following King Charles II’s 1660 return to England after his exile in France, he brought this new fashion along with him, and the rest is history.
Anatomy of a Tie
Not all ties are born equal. Understanding what makes a tie will allow you to know what to look for in terms of quality and make a selection that is built to last.
Blade - this is the main part of a tie, the body, if you will, this should at least reach your belt.
Neck - the middle part of a tie, between the blade and the tail.
Tail - This is the thin end of the tie, ours are slightly flared, and can be tucked into the keeper loop.
Tipping - this refers to the material that is sewn on the reverse of the tip and the tail. Self-tipping refers to when this is made of the same material as the shell itself, though this part is usually constructed from a separate piece of material (such as ours in Drake’s navy) or can be absent entirely in the case of hand-rolled ties, commonly seen on our grenadine ties, and a sure sign of quality.
Shell - also known as the envelope of the tie, this is the outer fabric, and can be constructed of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or a blend of each.
Interlining - This is the name given to the strip of material placed inside the tie to give shape and a degree of wrinkle resistance. Ours are made from wool for softness and durability.
Bar Tack - This is a heavy stitch that serves to hold the two sides of the tie together and maintain its shape.
Slip Stitch - Together with the bar tack, this runs along the length of the tie and holds its two ends together.
Seam - This is the part of the tie where the two ends of the shell are sewn together. The shell must be cut on what is known as the ‘true bias’ — a 45 degree angle from the finished edge of the fabric — in order to hang properly and last longer.
Keeper Loop - This is the loop of material that secures the tail of the tie, if you are so inclined.
Tag - This is usually located alongside the tipping of the tail, and denotes where the tie was made (in our case, London), what it is made of, and any care instructions.
Label - The final touch, applied only once a tie has passed our rigorous quality control in our factory, and our assurance of a first-rate piece of neckwear.
Types of Tie
A British classic, repp (which is the correct spelling) refers to the fine, repetitive woven ribs of the silk fabric itself, and is derived from the French reps, short for répétition.
The ubiquitous striped repp tie may find its origins in the heraldic colours, carried by Medieval knights, and has since been used to display association with schools, regiments and clubs (as explored here by G. Bruce Boyer). English repp ties traditionally feature stripes pointing from the left shoulder to the right hip, whereas stateside the opposite is found.
Foulard is a lightweight fabric, either plain-woven or a fine twill, and commonly made from silk or a blend of cotton and silk. The term can also refer to the small-scale repeating geometric patterns - medallions, flowers, tiles, diamonds, and the like.
Mogaor is a distinctive tight weave with fine ribs, made using a mix of silk and cotton yarns. Named for the Moroccan port town from where the fabric originates (now Essaouira), it is similar in feel to Irish poplin or faile, with a stiff handle and bright matte colouring, making it ideal for making classic striped ties.
A type of plain silk weave, originally from the Chinese province of Shandong, with a slightly thinner and less slubby feel than Dupioni, the ribbed surface is is created using long weft yarns, and adding adding slubs of thicker yarns into the warp, making each tie unique.
Sometimes referred to as ‘Ancient Madder’ and principally made in England, these ties often feature paisley or other complex patterns, and became popular as an alternative to the repp stripe patterns seen on mid-century Ivy League university students.
The term madder refers to the plant from which the natural dyes are extracted, before being printed onto a twill silk fabric that is treated with Arabic gum, resulting in a distinctive chalky hand.
Genuine ancient madder is extremely costly and time-consuming to produce, which accounts for its scarcity. But this is also part of its charm. It is something of a rarity these days, a quiet, understated luxury, and is all the more special for it.
Grenadine is a weave characterised by its light, open, gauze-like feel, and is produced on jacquard looms. Usually solid in colour, grenadine ties are much better suited to formal wear than other knitted ties, due to their tighter and more complex weave using high-twist silk.
Known colloquially as ‘wild silk’, Tussah is found in the forests of South Asia and has a pronounced texture which can be loosely woven into a fabric resembling a lustrous, silky linen - perfect for pairing with relaxed tailoring.
For us, knitted ties are the epitome of sartorial refinement, the torch bearer for texture. Distinctive due to their straight shape and square end, alongside their crunchy ‘cri de la soie’ hand. Ours are spun, dyed and knitted on hundred-year-old frames, which are slower than modern machinery, but ensure a superior quality. Usually, knitted ties are solid in colour, but can also be found in bold stripes.
What follows is a set of guidelines for selecting a tie, that said, many a trend has been borne directly from disregarding these rules.
Match your tie to your suit and shirt, not the other way around, it should be the last thing you put on.
Avoid ties that are too skinny or too wide, the kipper tie may have cut the mustard with the elephantine collars and lapels of the late sixties, but would border on the novelty when tied around a modern collar. Our ties are cut with an 8cm width, sitting on the wider side of the spectrum, without looking dated, and are paired nicely to the measure of our three-finger collared shirts.
A good tie can and should last you years, decades even, but they must be treated with the proper respect and care. To get to get the most out of them, there are a few simples things to keep in mind when it comes to their care.
Consider these ties, selected by G. Bruce Boyer, essential equipment to accompany virtually any tailored outfit.