Sartorial Love/Hate: The Plain Silk Satin Tie



I used to be very fond of silk satin ties. I remember purchasing a navy slub silk in a sale at Debenhams when I was 16, gravely disappointed that the ‘shiny’ silks had sold out. After my friends had abandoned me to what was essentially an enemy activity (clothes shopping) I rifled through the huge tubs of ties, clutching for that deliciously smooth fabric. I was purchasing for a wedding and wished to wear a plain tie – all the rage as far as I was concerned – with a plain sky blue shirt but there was no satin to be found. I had to content myself with the £7 slub. At the wedding itself, I ogled with envy at those in mirror-finish silk satin ties; like a scale-side fillet of sea bass, glinting in the summer sun.

Now, that fishy shine provokes a completely different reaction. I consider silk satin ties; that generic, bog-standard, look-as-ordinary-as-I-can favourite of politicians as the enemy of what I consider to be taste in neckwear. Many will disagree and sneer at the woven silks, wools and the matte prints as the sort of frilly, fussy accessory of best-forgotten decades. I once ventured to point one out to a friend of mine whilst we were drinking and gawping at fellow drinkers outside a pub; “Look, a shiny silk pale pink tie” I observed “Like a side of salmon or something. I just can’t stand them” when he informed me that something like that ‘side of salmon’ would be his choice for his upcoming wedding. “I think it looks the business; plain, shiny. Smart, I think.”

I reasoned that it must be the ubiquity of plain silk satin that so irks me; the fact that it has become the default choice for men about town. However, after rooting around in my mind, I decided it was still the fabric that prompted the dislike; after all, why do I prefer a ribbed silk finish to a dinner jacket lapel? Why do I prefer a moiré cummerbund? Not because the alternatives are commonplace. No, it is rather the rather startling texture reflecting the light; it is attention seeking and rather gauche. Satin silk is a wonderfully luxurious fabric to pass through your fingers but this sense of luxury is somehow lost when it is combined with other textures.

I picked a yellow one up whilst browsing on Jermyn Street, in an attempt to correct my prejudice and wandered around the shop laying it next to a variety of plain and patterned shirts; my eyes continually squinted – a strange habit I inherited from a mother who believes it gives you a ‘distance view’ of anything you apply it to – due to the fact that the colour was pleasant, the combinations were interesting but the sheen was just too much. It cheapened the combinations, despite being made of a high quality and not inexpensive silk satin. And the fact that it was plain too meant it only managed to look interesting and appealing against heavily striped or checked shirts; against a plain blue luxury weave, a force to be reckoned with in the sheen department, it looked positively oily. Yuck.


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


  1. Agreed! Although a black silk satin tie can be usefull for a clubbing night.

  2. Anything of which anyone says “it looks the business” is to be avoided.