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The Compass  /  Style  /  Evolution of the Knit Tie

Evolution of the Knit Tie

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In the morning mist, a ferocious warrior approaches atop a mighty steed. He is one of the gladiators of the 17th Century, a Croat. He is an involuntary mercenary, pressed into service on a battleground that is far from his home. He will go down in history as one of the all-time toughest tough guys, but he will more famously be known for something so soft and delicate, he would probably be embarrassed to know that it had become his legacy. It is the smooth silk scarf he wraps elegantly around his neck—the one his lover gave him before he left for the front. It identifies him as a Croat and includes a pattern that indicates his home town. The way he ties it will come to be synonymous with him. The French, upon seeing these scarves wrapped around the necks of the Croatian soldiers, will come to call it by the French word for a Croat: cravat. You may know it by it’s more modern name: the necktie.

In the intervening years since the tie made its first appearance the last vestiges of its warrior past have been worn away by time. By the 20th Century the tie had become associated with white collar office workers and couldn’t have been any further away from its rough and rugged past. With the advent of silk printing processes and floral and paisley designs, ties reached their most frilly stage. The pendulum of tie style had swung as far away from its sartorial ancestors as possible.

At Black Lapel we’ve got no problem with a little embellishment but when it comes to ties we’ve seen stylish men moving away from the woven silk ties and toward a more rugged option. Men are moving toward a tie with more texture, more character and, in our book, more personality. We are talking, of course, about knit ties.

The Tie Gets Tough Again

Slip a knit tie through your hand and you will feel the slightest resistance. Even one made by Black Lapel, which are 100% silk, will put up a fight as it passes through your fingers. It is that fight—that resolve—that keeps the knit tie from being like a slippery snakeskin and turns it into something more akin to a length of rope. That’s what gives it its edge. That’s what moves it back towards its roots as tough guy garb and that’s why you’re seeing more of them today around the necks of stylish men.
Men’s style has been getting tougher of late. It was bound to happen. A few years ago we saw the rise of the streetwear movement in men’s fashion, with it’s hip-hop inflected edginess. As the streetwear crowd grew up some in the movement started wearing things that would have been antithetical to the streetwear school of style from which they came, like ties. A new generation of style icons started mashing up streetwear with traditional menswear and one of the key weapons in their arsenal, the knit tie. In 2012, the creators of Four Pins collected their musings in the irreverently titled book Fuck Yeah Menswear and included knit ties in their list of Menswear’s Eleven Essentials. It was official, the brashness of the tie was back and it was manifest in knit form.

The Knit Tie Renaissance

Of course, the trend toward knit ties is really not a new idea so much as it is a rediscovery of an old idea. The knit tie has been around for decades. Everybody from Sean Connery, as the that stylish rogue 007, to Cary Grant, as that stylish rogue Cary Grant, rocked the look back in the day. So maybe the correct term for what’s happening is a knit tie renaissance. Today you’ll see them on everyone from the fashion forward men of Pitti Uomo to the debonair bulls and bears of Wall Street. Want to see them on yourself? Here’s what you need to know…

Get in on the movement

Blue Gray Birdseye Custom Unsuit

Featured here is the Blue Gray Birdseye Custom Blazer and Lavender and Blue Striped Silk Knit Tie by Black Lapel

1. Knot it right

Because knit ties are thicker and more coarse than woven silk ties, they can create big, bulky knots if you let them. Stick with a sleek four-in-hand knot to counteract that.

Navy Plaid Custom Unsuit

Featured here is the Navy Plaid Custom Blazer and Forest Green Silk Knit Tie by Black Lapel.

2. Don’t Stress Over Color Matching

Knit ties are packed with visual interest because of their textured look. So the designs are fairly simple.
All of that adds up to easy pairings. Look for colors that either accentuate another color in your outfit, but don’t feel pinned in by this idea. As long as there’s harmony between the two colors (like the deep green set against the dark blue jacket above) you can pull off the look.

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Featured here is the Knickerbocker Blue with Burgundy Windowpane Custom Blazer, Charcoal Brown with Blue Overcheck Custom Suit, and the Navy Blue Custom Suit all paired with the Maroon Silk Knit Tie by Black Lapel.

3. Mix It Up

Knit ties are extremely versatile. You can pair them with everything from a three-piece suit to a pair of jeans and an Oxford shirt. A solid colored one works with a wide range of outfits, as we’ve highlighted above, but even a patterned one can be worn with just about everything in your closet.

Tied up in knots about how to wear a knit tie? Take a look at the collection of knits from Black Lapel for some stylish choices and ask your styling questions in the comments below.

Your Next Move:

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