Tie clips are everywhere. And I mean everywhere. It’s no thanks to me and my continual evolution towards maximalism; my online prating is but a tiny speck in the universe of influence. Instead, I blame Mad Men. Those cigarette-sucking, skinny tie money-n-misery merchants of Madison Avenue, scripted to sell to others, have ironically succeeded in selling their own dubious lifestyle to a credulous and grateful public. And though the women’s clothing inevitably gets the attention, the menswear is hardly ignored; TM Lewin released an assortment of slim-fit suits inspired by those worn in the series and these proved to be such a raging success that they decided to relaunch considerably more in their new collection. Plain white shirts, slim ties, Sixties style shoes and Brylcreem seems to have done well by the program but the tie-clip is the greatest beneficiary of the show’s success.
Tie jewellery has been largely forgotten. It was, until very recently, a rare occurrence to see a gentleman walking past with a clip or bar punctuating his tie. It was usually the more decorative of gentlemen who did so. One who added multiple accents to his ensemble; patterned pocket squares, polka dot ties, striped shirts; very much an accessory for a man after a Victorian fashion – when too much is never enough. Now, it’s been hijacked by the plain-tie-plain-shirt brigade who see themselves as modern day Don Drapers and I have been consistently mistaken for one of the show’s devotees: “Nice tie…thingy” they say as they pass “you a Mad Men fan?” Being a person who cares little for the stares, giggles, whispers and comments of others, I will continue to deploy the tie clip although I prefer to slot it on haphazardly rather than mathematically parallel as the latter method makes it appear an unnatural contrivance. However, I am a drifter in taste. My recent interest is tie-pins.
A tie pin is a tad more formal than a clip. For one thing, it is rarely seen outside of Ascot or smart weddings; by a long shot the most formal day functions accessible to all. Secondly, it’s much more like ‘jewellery’ than a clip as it usually features some precious metal or stone and is often of a jewel-like size and setting; for macho-macho Mad Men, this is very probably a step too far in the Liberace direction. For others, it might be a more than viable option and so the question that remains for such men is this; in what context would such an accessory be acceptable?
Personally, I think wearing it with denim or in very casual ensembles would be bizarre; ties and jackets with denim are fine – Ivy League provenance – but the very nature of that look seems to preclude dainty and fiddly accessories. A tie clip you’d get away with but a tie pin? Not really. I think a smart three-piece suit the perfect background for deploying a pin. It doesn’t have to be a formal function. Simply wear one with confidence and it will look natural. I recently saw one worn by an elderly gentleman in a blue chalk-stripe suit and chestnut brogues; a little red garnet, surrounded by gold, in the centre of his navy and white-polka-dot tie really accented the look beautifully. He noticed me gawping and nodded; obviously a fellow maximalist.