BACK IN MIDCENTURY AMERICA, neckties were part of a man’s uniform. You wore one with your suit and hat and freshly shined shoes, and you went to work alongside hundreds upon thousands of men dressed exactly the same way. For an entire generation of young people, ties became earmarks of the establishment—a suffocating sign that you’d signed over your individuality to Corporate America—and thus they slowly started to disappear. Our culture began to lose its sense of formality, of dressing with purpose, until eventually drab polo shirts and ill-fitting khakis became the choice de rigueur for appropriate office attire. (There’s a special place in sartorial hell reserved for Mark Zuckerburg and his zip-up hoodies.)
But a rebellion has begun—a renaissance, if you will—and more and more young, well-dressed men are donning ties as a sign not of conformity, but independence. They use their neckwear to stick it to their sloppy forefathers and express themselves in the process. Because really, if you think about it, what else is a tie good for? They serve no real functional purpose beyond making you look good, refined, sophisticated. A man in a tie is instantly more respectable, and guys everywhere are using them to add a dash of personality to their ensembles.
“Expressing yourself with a tie,” however, does not mean wearing that viscose number with Tweety Bird and Taz on it that your mom bought you in the sixth grade. Below, you’ll find our comprehensive guide to doing it the right way. We’ll introduce you to a few of the standout labels from a new, innovative generation of tie makers; give you a rundown on the tie every man should own, the ideal fabrics and widths, and the best technique for tying one on; and, finally, four tastemakers we trust will reflect on their favorite neckwear.