As a young woman, I was fascinated by ties. If you look at them with absolute practicality, they're essentially useless; a strip of silk tied like a hangman's noose around your neck, good enough only to hide your shirt's button placket. But I understand that even men are entitled to their fair bit of vanity (apparently, there are 85 ways of knotting a tie; saris suddenly seem like a cakewalk!). And that's the reason why ties today are made of the best possible material, in the most stunning designs
, and finished meticulously by hand. Unless, of course, it's just a clip-on. In that case, please don't wear one - everyone can tell that they're cheap, and they look it too.
But I digress. To me, ties are a bit like wine. The connoisseurs will tell you which to indulge in and the ones to spurn, but in the end, it's you who must decide which suits your taste best. And, in this respect, the tie is probably the one fashion accessory that has escaped the death trap called 'trend' and continues to hold its own even today.
I am the fashion director of a brand that revolutionised men's ties in India over 20 years ago. So my interest in ties has once again piqued. During my research for this feature, I came upon men's luxury brands like Canali and Giorgio Armani, which are doing the most gorgeous solid and patterned silks in traditional grey/ black/ blue shades, and offering casual options in knitted, square-ended ties for the younger customer. More daring options in prints and colours come from labels like Paul Smith and Etro, with their fearless use of motifs and vibrant hues. But the bottom-line is - nobody can tell you which tie to wear.
Just like every man has a different taste in perfume and wine, he has a range of clothes and accessories built over the years. This ongoing project, a collection of favourite old suits and shirts, new jeans, broken-in shoes, et al, is a mirror of his personality. Therefore, the tie must bow down and humble itself before the existing wardrobe, and fit in. It must liven up that which is already well beloved in order to be loved in return. It must become part of the family, or stand out at the cost of being neglected while living in the same cupboard. And that is why nobody but you can choose a tie for yourself; unless it's your better half of course.
However, there are certain thumb rules that always help. One: never, ever, drop food on your tie. It only shows you don't know how to eat, and therefore, not fit for polite company, and by that association, shouldn't be wearing a tie in the first place (it's a vicious circle, I tell you). Two: try and keep to medium and slim-width ties. They're classics and even if they're not so 'in' for a time, you'll find it very easy to rock a retro feel. And three: learn how to knot a tie in at least 3 basic ways: A Half Windsor for work, a Windsor for formal dinners, and a Four-in-Hand for a casual occasion.
Above all, don't get too tied up in the rules. Like wine, ties can be fun if you forget about their snob aspect and go a little overboard from time to time.