As the seasons change and the weather gets a little cooler, wool ties are a nice way to freshen up an outfit and reflect the thicker, more substantial clothes of autumn. There are, however, a few important points to bear in mind.
First, when purchasing a wool tie in anticipation of the season. Avoid heavy, thick wools as they can look as if you have a strip of carpet tucked beneath your collar. The very fact of being wool rather than silk gets across the change in texture – no need to have a heavy wool as well. So go lightweight and, if possible, try to find a cashmere or at least a cashmere mix. This will always sit more lightly on the outfit and move more freely with you. It is also nice to rub your cheek against. If you are so inclined.
An alternative to cashmere is a wool and silk mix, something many of the Italian manufacturers and a few Americans – such as the ubiquitous Ralph Lauren – do every winter. I have a particularly nice Ralph Lauren wool/silk mix tie in a green tartan which I often wear with heavy knit jumpers. It is a Purple Label tie, however, and this is indicative of the price you can expect when going for silk mixes or cashmere generally. Another favourite is a Loro Piana cashmere in olive – but again, the brand speaks for the price.
That Loro Piana piece does demonstrate another point, though: keep the colours muted. As with paisleys or madder, a wool tie is always more sophisticated when subtler in colour. Go for dark or greyed greens, like the olive mentioned, for dirty browns and rusty oranges. Greys in all tones also work very well, and the subtlest of all is a navy cashmere – classic and conservative, until one gets close differentiated only from its silk peer by the light it absorbs. A lovely unexpected texture.
Last point on the tie itself: preferably it should be of a normal or slightly narrower cut, to reflect its informality, and works very well when unlined or only lightly lined. As a casual accessory, it really is imperative that it be treated as such. It should not be pinned, worn flamboyantly or cut in an extravagant size. Three and a half inches or below, I would say.
So what to wear it with? Well that is almost another post in itself, but I would say the important thing to consider is texture. When worn with a suit you want some variation between the tie, suit cloth and handkerchief. If wearing a flannel suit, or tweed jacket, opt for a silk handkerchief. If wearing no handkerchief at all, tend towards a sleeker worsted suiting.
If the tie is worn casually, with jeans and a nicely fitted shirt, perhaps open at the collar, there is little of import in the texture. With such combinations, as I’m sure you will have already learned from seeing the mistakes of others, anything looks better than plain silk. It’s like writing with a fountain pen on the bark of a tree.