The Return of The Tie Clip

Words by: Andrew Watson

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There are few items of jewellery that a man can get away with wearing in the workplace. A watch, a pair of cufflinks, a belt and a wedding ring are all fine, of course; but extra rings, necklaces and bracelets are often a step too far. There is, however, one oft-overlooked accessory that’s both perfectly suitable for work and highly practical: the tie clip.

The tie clip’s rise and fall is inextricably linked to the history of the tie itself. By the 1870s the tie had acquired pretty much the same long, thin form that it possesses today, but as it was often not made of expensive material most gents were quite happy to stab it through with a tie pin. By the 1920s the tie had become an altogether sleeker item that deserved to be well looked after. The tie clip stepped in: admirably keeping it under control without damaging the silk.

From the 1930s onwards the tie clip was a common sight in American political and corporate life. From the simple elegance of the solid silver bar to the gaudy, logo-emblazoned monster, they were a small yet ubiquitous accessory. Interestingly, in Britain they never quite reached the same level of acceptance as they did in the States, save for in active professions like policing. Perhaps this is because they signified practicality and a degree of manual work, things that gentlemen wouldn’t concern themselves with.

By the end of the twentieth century the tie clip was careening towards sartorial extinction on both sides of the Atlantic. The relaxation of workplace dress codes often alleviated the need for ties. In an age when the simple act of wearing one was seen as “dressing up”, the tie clip became an idiosyncrasy, and its wearers invariably labelled dandies or try-too-hards.

Thankfully, the recent marked rise in the number of men who take an active interest in dressing smartly – and the increasing acceptance among other men that this is a good thing – has led to an upturn in the tie clip’s fortunes. Personally speaking, I was a bit apprehensive about wearing one, but their sheer usefulness completely won me over. The coming of spring in Tokyo is marked by warm and very windy days, and I was sick of having to claw my tie off the back of my neck. Thanks to the tie clip, this is no longer a problem. It also saves my tie from bearing the brunt of occasional lunchtime spillages.

If you’re looking in investing in a tie clip my advice is to keep it simple. A well-made sterling silver clip, without markings or logos, can be worn both at work and at formal occasions. There is also the matter of width. My favourite tie clip is narrower, or at the most the same size as most of the ties in my wardrobe. Remember: your tie clip should offer an aesthetically pleasing counterpoint to the combination of patterns and colours in your jacket, shirt and tie, rather than scream for attention like an oversized cowboy-style belt buckle.