I haven’t had the opportunity to wear ties that often lately, but when I do I usually find myself reaching for a knit. As I’ve said before, they do a wonderful job of increasing the formality of what you’re wearing but substantially less than a traditional tie would. I generally use a traditional tie when wearing a suit, but when I’m sporting a jacket and trousers I usually opt for a knit.
Knit ties come in a wide variety of styles, materials, and prices, but it’s hard to go wrong with the classics. Here are some parameters that I consider when looking for knit ties:
Color and Pattern: Solid colors are the most common, but stripes, dots, and bicolor knits are a great way to add variety. A knit tie will already be adding a significant amount of texture to what you’re wearing, so I would suggest staying away from knits with complex patterns.
Width: I usually look for knit ties that are between 2.5 and 3″ in width. There are plenty of ties available outside of this range, but I find that this middle ground is the easiest to wear for most people. My ideal width is probably 2.75″ (6.5 cm). This may seem thin compared to standard ties, but remember that knits do not taper along their length and therefore will have a larger “presence” at the neck when compared to a standard tie.
Country of Origin: There are only a few places in the world that make knit ties, and most of these are in Italy. The less common (but equally attractive) country of origin is Germany – products from these two locations will feel a bit different, but they both make great knits.
Material: Silk is the classic choice, but wool and cotton are popular seasonal options as well. The best silk knits will have a dense “crunchy” texture, whereas cotton will be a bit spongy and wool will have a matte, fuzzy hand. Wool and cotton can be a bit tricky to wear outside of their respective seasons, but silk can work year round. In fact, I find that the subtle shine of silk knits can work especially well in the cooler months, when heavier textures tend to dominate.
There are many places to find great knit ties, but I’ve highlighted some of my favorites below. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments at the bottom of the article.
Top tier: it’s a bit too easy to just recommend the best of the best (some blogs do it almost exclusively), but it’s hard to deny the appeal of a luxury product. Drake’s is a popular choice for high-end ties, and their knits are just as exceptional as the rest of their products. They’re made in Germany and have a luxurious dense feel to them. Ralph Lauren Purple Label makes my personal favorite in my own collection – the navy blue knit above is RLPL and is far and away the nicest I own. A high-end knit will usually be thicker, more “crunchy”-feeling, and seem more three-dimensional (as opposed to feeling like a ironed tube sock). If you want to try one of these brands but can’t stomach a $100+ tie, consider searching ebay for better deals.
Mid-range: As usual, this is where some of the best values can be found for full-price items. Makers like J. Press and Brooks Brothers are classic choices and can generally be found on sale (the green knit above is a Brooks Brothers from a few years back). Kent Wang also has a great selection of competitively priced knits, including the brown and bicolor knit shown above; Kent generally does a good job of offering products at a price that provides a better value than brands with more retail markup. The ones that excite me most at the moment are those sold by Conrad Wu – these are made in Germany in the same factory that supplies Drake’s. They are made on ancient machines and come out wonderfully thick and densely woven. And as it happens, they’re 10% off right now with the code SPRING10.
Accessible: Although a less expensive knit will lack some of the depth and texture of a more well-made one, the differences will be not be noticeable to the average passer-by and the ties can still look great. I think the Knottery and Land’s End (on sale) make great options for under $40. The Knottery in particular makes a great product for the price, and I recommend them highly.
A word on knit tie care: some argue that a knit tie should be stored flat and not hung to keep them from stretching out over time; this probably isn’t a bad idea, but for what it’s worth I have hung my knit ties for years and have had no problems. Do what you feel is right.