If you’re still taking your cues from the pop-culture icons of “Mad Men” and “Hawaii Five-0,” you might want to reset your style dial to 2011. Jessica Pastor, a top Hollywood men’s fashion consultant who works with Kevin Connolly of “Entourage” — among other celebs — would like to loop you into an old-is-new style: trendy shirt-and-tie combinations.
These days, there’s less rigidity to the button-down look, giving you more options and freedom of expression — without fear of breaking unwritten codes. For instance, Ryan Gosling sports skinny ties, while Mark Wahlberg’s signature is ’70s-style wide ties.
“Right now, we’re seeing thinner ties, and it’s been like that for the last three years,” says Pastor. “But leading fashion companies like Zegna, Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani are starting to revisit thicker ties.”
Deciding on width depends on the look you’re trying to achieve or the statement you want to make. “When you wear a thinner tie, it feels a bit more youthful,” says Pastor. “Carrying off a thicker tie adds a bit of sophistication and old-school style.”
She also suggests taking your individual build into account. “If you’re broader in the shoulders, or on the shorter side, a thick tie isn’t going to do you any favors,” she says. “Conversely, if you’re built like a bear, a skinny tie will just look disproportionately silly.” Face it, fellas: Length matters, so be sure to wear the tie so the bottom of the wide front hits just above your belt buckle.
“If you’re short, there’s nothing wrong with buying in the teen section, as you can find better fits and better prices,” Pastor advises. “If you’re tall, try one on by Armani, Zegna or Hugo Boss.”
When it comes to shirts, a good fit is critical. “The standard shirt has a 32-inch arm length, but if you ask, you can get longer ones,” Pastor says.
Made-to-measure is a great way to go because you get a perfect fit every time. Here, the expectation is for the shirt to fit you, not the other way around. Kevin Connelly is fan of Anton Custom Shirts ($165), but we also like Roger Charles ($180) and Ascot Chang ($150).
“It’s all about proportion,” says Pastor. “In addition to your own build, you want to balance the lapel width, the width of tie along with the collar length. Tom Ford and Armani both make longer shirt collars to accommodate their wider ties.”
Here’s where you can get creative: With basics out of the way, the next thing to focus on is solids vs. patterns. Those with more classic tastes might opt for both a solid shirt and tie. This combo produces a strong, traditional, can’t-miss look. We’re not talking about the Ninja-looking novelty black shirt, black tie and black suit that prehistoric Regis Philbin rocked five years ago. We prefer the contrast of a dark tie against a lighter background — or vice versa.
But if you’re the type to go against the grain, you might want to sample the bold, Brit-inspired patterned tie and patterned shirt combo. “A lot of guys are afraid of patterned ties, but you can feel confident with a patterned number from Etro or Paul Smith tie,” says Pastor. “However, if you want to play it safe, wear it with a solid shirt.”
If you really want to push the individuality meter, try turning heads with tie jewelry. While Americans may think this looks more Dracula than Details, Europeans have successfully embraced it for years. “Tie clips, bars and pins smarten up any outfit,” says Pastor. “The rule of thumb is to make sure you’ve got an appropriate jacket to pull the look together.”
If you’re a more downtown dude, Pastor urges you to not be afraid to add a casual touch with a shirt and tie combined with khakis, jeans or even sneakers.
Michael Rovner has written for Vogue, Esquire, and Details. He has been on staff at WWD, Star Magazine and Life & Style. He has also covered fashion and style for the New York Post and The New York Times magazine.
Photo credit: needoptic