Building a Tie Collection

Collecting, a friend of mine observed, is a pastime of the idle. It is, so they told me, a sign of man’s excessive productivity. Unsurprisingly, my friend and I differ in our opinions regarding man’s wants and needs. Naturally, in a world without the paraphernalia we are surrounded with, I need merely shelter, an animal skin or two to keep warm and perhaps the Promethean luxury of fire. However, man has evolved. We don’t live in that minimalist culture. We live, in the western world, in a time of abundance. Whereas our ancient ancestors might have braved wind and rain for an uncooked bite of deer, we have not only beautifully cooked, and aged, meat, but meat substitute.

Through the centuries, man has added to his tastes and he has become accustomed to those things that my contrary friend observes as ‘luxuries’. Man has a habit of collection and consumption and I am no exception, especially when it comes to neckties. Though my collection of ties is entirely intentional (I don’t collect them in an accidental fashion), as deliberate as I am with my purchases, I am worried my tie-lust will spiral out of control. Therefore, I intend to employ a program of purchase for neckties. It works like an ordinary quota; regulating my purchase of check ties, red ties, polka dot ties etc and it restricts me from buying ties, no matter how little they cost, I might hardly use.

If you are, like me, a fan of the necktie and are keen to build up a respectable collection, then there are some things to consider. This guidance is borne of the successes and failures of my own experience.


Plain neckties, whether they be of cashmere or woven silk, are eminently practical. Check shirts and loud stripes call for plains like the hero Heathcliff for his darling Cathy; one simply cannot do without the other. It’s healthy to buy a decent number of plains in a variety of colours, although I would suggest buying woven ties over printed ties. The texture of a woven material adds depth to the tie and this makes a seemingly uninteresting item actually rather eye-catching. A good start would be a quadruple purchase of a Burgundy red, a royal or navy blue, an old gold and a plain black. These strong colours are classic and suit plain white City shirts as well as country Tattersalls. Once these staples are there, forest greens, ivories (for summertime) and light browns are good suggestions for future purposes.


Striped ties are the next step up from the simple plain tie. Not as daring as a pattern and far easier to match with shirts and suits, striped ties boast versatility and an old-world, clubby charm. Plenty of the striped silk dripping from the racks in places like Tie Rack is pretty bad; I, personally do not think that there should be more than four colours on a club-striped tie and yet I have seen ties with six or seven colours and stripes of all different shapes and sizes thrown into one. Stick to classic two and three colour stripes. These look the smartest, and most established. Navy blues, reds, greens are well matched with pinks, sky blues, gold and cream.


About three years ago, I was reading a male fashion column citing the death of, as the writer most appositely put it, ‘the Hermes tie thing.’ Well, the King is dead. Long live the King, for Hermes, and patterns, are back. With the reactionary plain thick silk tie now worn by all and sundry from winners to wannabes, patterns have a new future. And it’s a bright one. Formerly, polka dots were in safe navy and red, navy and cream combinations. Now, colourways like lime and mid-blue and canary yellow and apple green have been added to the mix and been anointed as instant classics. ‘Illustrated’ patterns; dogs, fishing tackle and pheasants are eye-catching and intriguing, but try to keep the objects small and tasteful. Excessive ‘artwork’ on ties looks twee and attention-seeking.

One last thing…

Resist the temptation of a cartoon tie. You know what I mean, those cheap silk things with images of a Simpson’s family member shouting ‘D’oh!’ They are ugly and not at all funny. If you are anti-tie and cite this as your reason for wearing this offensive accessory, do not wear a tie at all.