How Are Ties Made?
“How are ties made?” you find yourself asking after browsing our website. First, we applaud you for the self-awareness that brought you here. Clearly, you have noticed that some ties are sartorial masterpieces; other ties deserve to be doused in gas and burned to ash. Understanding how a tie is made not only helps you understand what to look for in a tie but helps you to bring a new meaning to being the life of the party. Knowing how ties are made will richly enhance your partygoing conversation. “Ah, I see that your bid is cut along the bias of your four-in-hand. Sartorially elegant, quite masterful.”
Beginning with tailor Jesse Langsdorf in 1926, tie fabric began to be cut along the bias in order to ensure that it would not twist when tied. Fabric cut along the bias is at a forty-five degree angle to the weave of the fabric. This is why striped ties generally have stripes on a diagonal. Poorly made ties will often be cut in other patterns or lack crucial parts of the tie’s structure, causing them to lump and twist when you attempt to tie them.
There are two ways of constructing a tie that are currently predominant. The first and most common way is the four-in-hand. In this, the material of the tie is built in three pieces. The front, or bid, is sewn to two other pieces of material, called the spine and the neckpiece. Four-in-hand ties (not to be confused with the four-in-hand <knot> [link knot tying video]) received their name from a combination of a club called the Four-in-Hand, a style of knotting carriage ropes, and the knot tied on the kerchiefs and ties worn by the carriage drivers. Originally popular as far back as the 1850s in Great Britain, four-in-hand ties were prized for their sturdiness. The modern four-in-hand continues this tradition; the three-piece outer fabric usually is sewn onto a wool-blend liner that runs the length of the tie (this is especially pronounced in polyester ties; more carefully crafted silk ties often conceal the liner).
Handmade ties are often more prized than machine-made ties. To know how a tie was made, and to know if it was a handmade tie, turn the tie over. You should see a single hand sewn bit of yarn or string that runs the whole length of the tie. Additionally, the loop or keeper on the back of the tie should be hand sewn. Another hallmark of a good tie is that it will have a bar tack—an additional piece of fabric that matches the tie, sewn as an extra loop—on the back, usually above the keeper. Some ties also have a lifesaver—a piece of yarn that hangs down inside the tie and can be given a gentle tug to pull any folds or kinks out of a tied tie. Lastly, you will notice that a well-made tie has rounded edges, having been gently ironed with steam. Poorer ties have the edges pressed sharp.
The second manner of tie construction is called a sevenfold. The appearance is generally the same as a four-in-hand. The difference arises in the manner of construction. A sevenfold tie forgoes the wool-blend backbone in favor of simply layering the silk. This provides the heft necessary for the tie to hang properly. Often, corners will be cut in creating a sevenfold tie by ending the folds halfway through the tie’s middle. These fourfold or lined sevenfold ties are generally cheaper. They do not last as long but are still a viable alternative. If you look at the bottom square in a fourfold, it will not be a single sheet of silk. The pattern will appear introverted and you will feel a liner in the middle. The other variation on the sevenfold is a sixfold tie, or an Italian-style sevenfold. These are self-tipped and self-lined; the standard or “American-style” sevenfold is not.
Armed with knowledge about how ties are made, you can now be the one you always wish that you were at the social functions. You know—the one who could walk up to a man, take his tie, flip it over, and snort in derision. Yes, you know the one. That’s why they keep doing that to you.