Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

The Old Man and the …


Canali silk tie $145 via Mr Porter.

Not too long ago, a woman walked into the studio, glanced at the pew full of ties and proclaimed that we (Leviner Wood and I) had “old men’s ties.”


Today, I figure, ties are so rarely worn that almost any tie qualifies as old-fashioned; so perhaps I missed the point.

What would constitute an “old man tie?” As Alan Flusser wrote, “One man’s good taste is another man’s ‘pizza tie.’ ” (The term was coined by Tom Wolfe.)

Is it to do with width? A tie’s width is directly … errr … tied … to the width of his lapel. Wider lapel, wider tie. The width of the tie, in turn, is reliant on the breadth of his shoulders.

Perhaps it has to do with pattern? Pattern must vary for the more sophisticated dresser who relies on different scale to achieve a harmonious balance among patterns in his shirts, pocket squares, suits and spots coats.

Fabric? texture? There are many cottons, woolens, silks and linens from which to choose. Of course, texture and fabric should relate somehow to the overall aesthetic and fabrics selected for suit, shirt and handkerchief.

Ah! It must be colour then! Ideally, the color beneath your chin should echo and enhance the face/head above it. Ruddy cheeks, blue eyes, salt and pepper hair. You get the idea.

You begin, oh astute reader, to see my point. So tell me, do you feel that some ties are “old” by nature? If so, which are they?

7 thoughts on “The Old Man and the …

  1. Like music, ties are either good or bad. And no, I don’t believe any tie is old by nature. Some may be traditional, like an Eton or Cambridge tie or a tie representing a clan or military branch. Yet I doubt that is what the woman was referring to. Ties are a sign that a man actually gave some thought to his appearance on a particular day. Unless one thinks of stunt ties like the ones some dads good naturedly wear on father’s day or Christmas, ties are worn to complement a man’s complexion and outfit. Sarkozy famously wore the same color grenadine tie almost every time he was photographed. He also married Carla Bruni. If this is an example of an old man tie, I will take one.

  2. Dear Chris,
    That woman did reveal a LOT about her class; her few words were like bold exclamation marks to her absolute LACK of class!
    She certainly never had to represent a group of society with dignity nor help a spouse select the perfect tie to compliment his respectful outfit. With our worldwide consultancy work we noticed that in Asia and South America, in general male do present themselves far more respectful to any business meeting; wearing a perfect chosen tie!
    In Europe and North America for a certain class, with higher education and jobs accordingly, ties are still being worn in a correct way.
    That woman is like the noise of a coin, but it’s the paper money that is silent…
    Don’t feel disturbed by it and there will always remain a core of people that will respect a correct dress code.
    Thanks for bringing up such great discussion points!

  3. Chris,
    Perhaps she once lived on the West Coast where it is de rigueur to wear clothing pieces that play off each other to create a clashing and jarring effect for what would be called “Geek Style”. Sadly, it is all too prevalent here. I often see men who spend a considerable amount of effort to perfect this look of oddity. I even have a colleague who ridicules my attempts at dressing elegantly, as he happily subscribes to the dress code of baggy jeans, tennis shoes, plaid wool shirt, mismatched tie and odd looking sport coat. The other day he even laughed at me as he made an offhanded comment about my pocket square. “Oh”, he said, “It looks like you have that color thing going again”. Happily for me, I have many collegues who complement me on the way I dress and my students tell me I am the best dressed professor they have ever seen. Who says you have to look like a geek to be able to teach.

  4. If old is James Stewart & Cary Grant and modern is Robin Thicke or any number of reality TV ‘stars’, give me old any day. Old is about elegance & intelligence & real men, modern is about not caring & celebrating stupidity & giant man boys. Give me old any day.

  5. She was simply repeating what the fashion mags and mavens told her to say this month, or quarter.

  6. LOVE all the above comments so far! Hats off to you Todd Kunz. That says a lot for being called out the best dressed professor they have ever seen. That will make a lasting impression and it sure will last a lot longer into their memories than any so-called ‘cool’ person for the brief moment. Oscar Wilde said it right: EVERYTHING POPULAR IS WRONG
    Indeed Beautiful Things, give me old any day and so far those modern movie stars have failed to impress me!
    NCJack, great observation indeed! The majority of the crowd is blindly following whatever they get stuffed down their throat monthly or even better quarterly so they don’t have to THINK for themselves.
    My husband has been a principal and educator all his life and he did wear ties. He loved the British style most and so do I.

  7. When some say “old” what they mean is “dated”. There are some patterns or color combinations, textures even, that were all the rage at one time, but once a rage passes it becomes old. IF that rage was a loooong time ago, both you and your style become old. It stands to be said that while everyone here may have an opinion, and those opinions may be similar (or we wouldn’t be here) how you dress will send a message to the masses. No matter how “classic” brown and orange polyester paisley is to one person, the masses will think it looks like 1972.

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