Sartorial Love/Hate: Back Blading a Tie

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When my father taught me to tie my tie, I remember how he would fiddle with my meagre attempts; shaping the knot, positioning it in the exact centre of the collar, standing back to inspect. I was a rather impetuous little scamp in my youth and did not sufficiently appreciate the lesson he was providing, the result of which is that I have not altered my method of tying ties since childhood; a simple four-in-hand with as small a knot as possible.

My idea of ties is that they should be artistic but precise. A bright, patterned strip of material hanging down from the neck sounds like something wild and bohemian, but it actually represents the ultimate in formality in today’s dressed down world. For years, the tie has been tied by everyone (differences in knots aside) in much the same way; the back blade is concealed behind the front blade by utilising the ‘keeper’ – a loop of material that secures it in place. However, there is a curious fashion developing for displaying the back blade of the tie. And, like many fashions, it has an army of critics – and a cabal of supporters. Some call it contrived, others – interestingly, usually those who can’t speak a word of Italian – call it sprezzatura.

Sprezzatura, or ‘sprezz’ as the iCrowd now efficiently refer to it, has become somewhat of an excuse, rather than a reason, for much of the Tumblr-originated fashions that now dominate elite menswear. If something looks messy, it’s just sprezzy; if something looks out of place, it’s sprezzatura, which means it’s in place. It is this kind of ‘heads I win, tails you lose’ reasoning that so infuriates the Hercule Poirot-esque perfectionist crowd who lambast the Pitti-inspired taste for contrived imperfection.

“What on earth are they doing with their tie?” they cry, as the back blade flutters in the wind, as though they were an errant schoolboy snapped on their way to a chiding from the housemaster. “It looks so contrived” they sneer “the rest of the outfit is perfectly tailored and his hair is absurdly groomed but, for some reason, his tie just happens to be out of place?” As a point of consistency, it is a fair one.

However, the fans also have a point. “It’s not contrived” they say, confidently “the tie is an expression of artistry in an outfit; it doesn’t have to be perfect.” Again, a valid observation. To say that the back blade should never be seen, simply because there is a keeper tab sewn into every good tie is nonsense. Why, if we obeyed the implied instruction of all garments, we wouldn’t have any room for invention or creativity, and it is likely that aestheticism would suffer greatly.

I’m on the fence on this particular trend. I don’t think I will be adopting it any time soon, but it’s nice to see that there are some who are prepared to dabble and break convention and create argument. Doing sprezzatura for the sake of it is contrived; about that, there is no question. Affecting imperfection is still an affectation. However, there are some who have grown bored of the necktie in all it’s combed, tamed formality, and this method of wearing ties offers another, lest I say ‘creative’ approach to cravatting.


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Winston Chesterfield is an amateur composer, fashion blogger, trained lawyer and style aficionado. He lives in Westminster, London and blogs at www.levraiwinston.com.

Comments

  1. Gazman says:

    It’s the dumbest look I’ve seen for many a long year. Cringe-worthy now and forever. I see so many contrived, wanky looks on the web but this one takes the cake. Other truly moronic looks include: the scarf tucked in and hanging out of hip pocket, gloves shoved into top pocket of jacket, spectacles hanging out of top pocket, just so,

  2. James says:

    Agreed. Utterly cringeworthy. Shouting out, ‘look at me, how wacky, free-spirited and unconcerned about others’ opinion I am!!!!’. Sheep – uttterly contrived. Purely my opinion admittedly, but am prepared to wager one shared by most who have a care about their appearance, whether ‘Pitti’ or ‘real world’.

  3. Paul says:

    @Gazman ‘gloves shoved into the top pocket of a jacket’ – are you referring to a blazer or an actual overcoat? For the former, I’d agree but the latter I don’t see anything wrong with it. On the subject of glasses/sunglasses I do this all the time and I am not one for flashy stuff like prominent back blades or even loafers without socks – I dress pretty conservatively. Seems to me like a perfectly logical place to keep them.

  4. James says:

    I think I know what Gazman was driving at – pocket square or (god forbid) driving gloves in the top pocket of a BLAZER and sunglasses also stuffed in this pocket in front with one arm very self-consciously and ‘artfully’ hanging out over the lip. Contrived and ovine.

  5. Paul says:

    My thoughts are:

    Gloves in the top pocket of an overcoat belong there – it’s where they’re logically stored.

    Gloves in the top pocket of a blazer don’t belong there because: a) if it’s cold enough to wear gloves you should probably be wearing a topcoat and b) it’s where the pocket square lives – putting both in there will become crowded.

    Pocket square in the top pocket of an overcoat – personally I feel too flashy doing this but it’s open for debate. I don’t balk at the sight of it and have actually tried it a couple of times before deciding it’s not really for me.

    Re: The sunglasses in a top pocket of a blazer with a pocket square – yes this is exactly how I’ve worn it, not every time, but occasionally. Again, I really don’t go in for flashy stuff.
    To me if you’re wearing a blazer, you put a pocket square in there, but as a logical place to store sunglasses it remains useful. The two can be comfortably accommodated and having the arm hanging over makes them easier to grab, rather than poking around in there to fish them out and potentially disturbing the pocket square.

    You’re assuming it’s done for showy, pretentious purposes which, when you see it in the iGent circle I grant is probably the case nine times out of ten. But, when you break it down it can be a practical decision. I don’t think it’s any worse than having them hanging off the open collar of a shirt, which is also fine in my view.

  6. Whenever I see someone wearing a tie with the back blade I can’t stop myself from mentioning it to them, just in case they weren’t going for the ridiculous look. 9 times out of 10, the blade has come loose in the wind and they tuck it back in and thank me for noticing. Then there’s always that 1 in every 10 that give you the look: ‘It’s supposed to be like this, clearly you haven’t caught on yet’. Nope, I haven’t caught on to the short term trend, nor will I!

  7. SLC says:

    @Gazman ~ I agree with Paul. I place my sunglasses in the pocket with one arm out & while wearing a pocket square. It’s not a contrived look for me, but a practical one. I’ve always been complimented on looking put together…even when I don’t try.

  8. Ties Online says:

    honestly, skinny ties are the way to go these days. I think a skinny black tie is the most versatile and best looking tie available. What are other peoples thoughts? perhaps with a nice tie pin too!

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  16. Next Luxury says:

    Nice way to put it. Every time I go shopping for ties at Men’s Warehouse, or wherever it may be, sales guys are always trying to push the tie sales. But I think a tie should represent the man wearing it, and it’s a selective process to pick one out. Bold flashy ties are too much for me, but I do like to add a bit of color, pattern, etc.

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  18. Dom says:

    The ‘back blade’ visible only looks right with a knitted tie- which tends to be shorter anyway: pretentious crap.

  19. cameron foye says:

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  20. Louis Munro says:

    @cameron You do realize you are arguing with a spambot, right? I guess we’re closer to them passing the Turing test than I thought.
    While I am indifferent on the matter of blade tucking, I am convinced a little comment moderation would help. The spam detracts from the value the comments could otherwise add to the blog.

  21. Gazman says:

    I refer to gloves in suit/blazer pockets not outer coats. As to glasses in top pocket, that’s fine but some of these ‘fashionable’ gents do it in a very contrived way with one of the arms hanging artfully out of pocket and I would wager many do not even have a need to wear spectacles.