Q And Answer: What About Cheap Ties?

May 24, 2011

Q and Answer: What About Cheap Ties?

Adam writes: You guys always feature really nice, but also really expensive stuff. For ties, you might like to highlight www.thetiebar.com. They offer some truly hideous ties, but also some really nice ones, especially for wardrobe staples in solids, stripes, wool–and all at only $15 a pop. The quality is on par with ties costing 3-4 times the price or more. I think your readers might appreciate that they don’t have to fill out their tie collection at $150 a pop to look sharp.

I’ve never bought a tie from The Tie Bar (feel free to send me some, if you’re reading this Tie Bar people), but I have handled a couple in thrift shops. I agree with you, they are roughly the quality of a tie that costs 2-4 times as much. If you changed out the tag on the red tie pictured above, put a Macy’s store brand tag on their, or Tommy Hilfiger or Calvin Klein, I don’t think anyone would notice. They are certainly equivalent to a tie that retails for $30-60.

But how much of a compliment is that, really?

While Tie Bar ties are, in my experience, better than, say, novelty ties you’d buy at the flea market with Bugs Bunny on them, I hesitate to recommend them.

Here’s the thing with ties: no one buys them at retail except the kind of desperate men who run into the store and says: “WHAT COLOR TIE GOES WITH A BLACK SUIT? MY AUNT JUST DIED!”

So, there are two questions: what ties do I recommend, and what should you pay for those ties.

The lowest level of tie I recommend is usually Lands’ End. Their ties aren’t on par with a truly excellent tie, like the blue Drake’s tie pictured above. They are, however, an excellent value at their price point (often on sale at around $20-35). The Lands’ End ties in my collection are roughly comparable to the Brooks Brothers and Polo ties I own, which retail in the range of $75 or so. That is to say: they are fine. The silk is heavy enough, and the construction good enough, that most people wouldn’t notice that I wasn’t wearing a very fine tie.

Most fine ties retail for $100-200. These are the ties we usually recommend when we’re recommending ties. For $100, you can buy a custom tie of excellent quality from Sam Hober, who will make it to your specifications in Thailand. Our friend Kent Wang offers ties of this quality for just under a hundred dollars, including our own club tie. For $150 or so, you can buy something from an outfit like Drake’s, or from our friend Will of A Suitable Wardrobe. These are ties worth paying extra for.

I have dozens of ties. Maybe a hundred. I think I paid retail price for one of them (a grenadine from Sam Hober). I’ve bought many, many ties used. If you’re one of about 85% of men, ties always fit, so they’re a great thing to buy at thrift stores. Try eBay, too: I love the country designs of Holland & Holland, and grab them for $25 or $30 when I can. These days, my collection is so full that I only buy ties that I love, and regular readers will recall that I sold about 75 six months or so ago.

I find that as I’ve come to appreciate the quality of truly fine neckties – the Marinellas and Drake’s and Borrellis of the world, I want fewer, finer ties. Since I also thrift and eBay avidly, I can fulfill my interest in novelty that way, without ever stepping foot inside a store.

My strongest recommendation is to remember that quality trumps quantity, every time.

So… when you can buy a Drake’s tie for $50 on eBay, is it worth spending $20 on one from the Tie Bar? Or $30 on one from Lands’ End? Should you spend the time thrift shopping to build up a wardrobe of ties at $3 each? Is a tough-to-find tie like a striped grenadine worth its $150 retail price? Only you can do that math for yourself.