Sartorial Love/Hate: The Plain Silk Satin Tie


I used to be very fond of silk satin ties. I remember purchasing a navy slub silk in a sale at Debenhams when I was 16, gravely disappointed that the ‘shiny’ silks had sold out. After my friends had abandoned me to what was essentially an enemy activity (clothes shopping) I rifled through the huge tubs of ties, clutching for that deliciously smooth fabric. I was purchasing for a wedding and wished to wear a plain tie – all the rage as far as I was concerned – with a plain sky blue shirt but there was no satin to be found. I had to content myself with the £7 slub. At the wedding itself, I ogled with envy at those in mirror-finish silk satin ties; like a scale-side fillet of sea bass, glinting in the summer sun.

Now, that fishy shine provokes a completely different reaction. I consider silk satin ties; that generic, bog-standard, look-as-ordinary-as-I-can favourite of politicians as the enemy of what I consider to be taste in neckwear. Many will disagree and sneer at the woven silks, wools and the matte prints as the sort of frilly, fussy accessory of best-forgotten decades. I once ventured to point one out to a friend of mine whilst we were drinking and gawping at fellow drinkers outside a pub; “Look, a shiny silk pale pink tie” I observed “Like a side of salmon or something. I just can’t stand them” when he informed me that something like that ‘side of salmon’ would be his choice for his upcoming wedding. “I think it looks the business; plain, shiny. Smart, I think.”

I reasoned that it must be the ubiquity of plain silk satin that so irks me; the fact that it has become the default choice for men about town. However, after rooting around in my mind, I decided it was still the fabric that prompted the dislike; after all, why do I prefer a ribbed silk finish to a dinner jacket lapel? Why do I prefer a moiré cummerbund? Not because the alternatives are commonplace. No, it is rather the rather startling texture reflecting the light; it is attention seeking and rather gauche. Satin silk is a wonderfully luxurious fabric to pass through your fingers but this sense of luxury is somehow lost when it is combined with other textures.

I picked a yellow one up whilst browsing on Jermyn Street, in an attempt to correct my prejudice and wandered around the shop laying it next to a variety of plain and patterned shirts; my eyes continually squinted – a strange habit I inherited from a mother who believes it gives you a ‘distance view’ of anything you apply it to – due to the fact that the colour was pleasant, the combinations were interesting but the sheen was just too much. It cheapened the combinations, despite being made of a high quality and not inexpensive silk satin. And the fact that it was plain too meant it only managed to look interesting and appealing against heavily striped or checked shirts; against a plain blue luxury weave, a force to be reckoned with in the sheen department, it looked positively oily. Yuck.