Master the art of summer accessorising with the help of menswear authority, G. Bruce Boyer.
Awhile back I mentioned a few ties I thought every man should have in his wardrobe, and it just occurred to me that I might have made the discussion more seasonal. The light went on when I started to push my winter wardrobe to the back of the closet and bring out the summer gear. The cotton twills and linens, the seersucker, tropical worsted, loosely woven hopsacks and frescos are now front and center, and it got me thinking about summer neckwear. You know, what summer neckwear to accompany that crisp navy linen suit and white poplin button down? The buttery beige lightweight gabardine double-breasted and blue chambray spread collar? The jaunty hopsack blazer and striped oxford cloth?
Summer ties are really characterized more by texture than by pattern or colour. And that makes the first ties that jumps to mind for warm-weather wear tussah and shantung silks. The two are often thought to be the same because both have the similar telltale irregularities of being woven with distinctively characteristic slubs and knots which give the silk a rough texture, a matt finish and dry hand. But tussah silk ties are slightly more loosely woven, have a texture more like coarse linen, and are exclusively produced in block colours. Shantung silks, woven more tightly and thus a bit tougher, are typically produced in striped patterns, and are occasionally blended with other yarns. Both tussahs and shantungs have an insouciance that seems to lend a carefree air to any sort of tailoring.
Stripes and solids are also the traditional predominant approaches to grenadines, woven silk with a slightly pebbly hand that can be either coarse (called grossa) or fine (fina). But today grenadines can also be found in natty dots and small geometric patterns which are a bit more sophisticated and seem to work better with dressier suits.
One particular pattern that we do tend to associate with summer is the polka dot. Classically in navy with white spots – dark blue and white are the great nautical colours of summer – the polka dot silk tie is the straight up choice with a white dress shirt and solid grey suit. White spots on brown, green, black, and burgundy grounds are estimable alternatives to navy, and provide a deceptively simple refinement with linen suits shades of brown from lightest cream to darkest coffee.
Lighter and brighter foulards tend to have an elegantly understated effect, a more playful and spirited excursion if you will that signals a confident individualism at work. Warm weather foulards tend towards pastels and jewel-tones – handsome without being flashy -- to brighten a sedate ground: India pinks, saffron yellows, and lawn greens on khaki, chocolate, and azure grounds always play well with tan poplin suits or seersucker jackets.
And finally, if the cashmere knit tie is an icon for winter sophistication, surely the silk knit holds the same position for spring and summer. In either solid colours – not the dark browns and greens of autumn, but the lighter blues, greens, lavenders, fuchsias, and canaries) – or with woven spots for a bit of discreet dash. After all, it’s not about being singled out, is it? It’s about being remembered.