A superb shantung silk tie from Drake's

I do like to speak of spectrums. I’ve often found that the weakness of a man’s argument is that he jumps to one extreme in reaction to a point made by another. This is not reductio ad absurdum; it is creating conflict where there need be none.

Earlier in the week the spectrum in question was the 180-degree sweep of collars on offer to the modern man. Today I’m concerned with the texture of a tie.

Though ties can be made of other things – cottons, linens, even polyester – the vast majority are made of silk or wool. Or a combination of the two. Broadly speaking, silks are smoother than wools. But there are always exceptions – a shantung silk, for example, which displays the nubs of silk threads where they join together, is rougher than a fine cashmere. As is a knitted silk.

So it is best to talk in textures rather than materials. The rougher the cloth that your tie is made from, the more casual it should be considered. A smarter tie is nearly always smoother. Of course, there are again exceptions, as pattern and colour have some bearing. There are still silks in this world emblazoned with the image of Ronald McDonald. And the width of the tie, its knot and how far it is pulled up into the collarband can all contribute to formality or its lack.    

Nonetheless, and shaking these exceptions off as if they were dogs nipping at our heels, it is worth the uninitiated bearing this rule in mind: a rougher cloth is more casual. So have available in your closet (eventually) the following navy-blue ties: knitted wool, cashmere, knitted silk, woven silk, printed silk and satin. Chuck in a cotton, linen or shantung on the casual end of the spectrum if you find a good one.

Then select from those navy ties depending on the occasion. Satin, merely a tighter weave of silk that gives it greater lustre, is suited to evening events. Its smoothness and light-reflecting qualities are just what artificial lighting and flickering fires are longing for. Then the printed and woven silks are for daily business attire, and the wools and knits for more casual occasions.  

Mix it up a little too, though. Knitted silk is a nice change when all about you are wearing prints. Understand the rule so you know why to break it, that’s what I always say.