A Case for the Skinny Tie

Trends come and go, but as far as professional (and stylish) men's attire is concerned, the tie is here to stay. Keep your look up to date with a skinny tie, a style that was born more than six decades ago.

In a 1968 New York Times Magazine article, fashion designer Bill Blass claimed that men's ties would ultimately “have to go” someday. “Men will use scarves or something,” said Blass in the piece penned by future Academy Award nominated screenwriter Nora Ephron. ” [. . .] a man needs something up around there to set his face off since he doesn't use cosmetics. At least not yet.” Nearly forty years later, Blass wasn't entirely off the mark. Today, men do adorn scarves (and some even makeup, you know who you are), yet men's neckties have never gone out of style. If anything, it's their width that keeps disappearing.

During the last decade, thin has been “in” in terms of neckties, with skinny ties becoming hugely popular. However, skinny ties have gone through their phases over the years. They first rose to fame in the 1950's and 1960's when trendsetters like “the Rat Pack” and The Beatles made them famous.

Old and busted, new hotness, fat vs skinny tie - texture color shape

However, by the end of the decade, wider ties became fashionable again. Since then, there has been a push and pull between “skinny” versus “wider” ties. However, the “skinny tie” didn't see a real resurgence until the new millennium, when Tunisian-French fashion designer Hedi Slimane reintroduced the slimmed-down tie. Soon, other designers followed, with the look popping up in Buckler and Prada collections. Today, skinny ties are worn on everyone from the guy who works in the cubicle next to you to every week on “The Soup,” when Joel McHale hops onto his mark in front of a green screen, clad in a slim necktie.

Here's the Skinny on the “Skinny”:

Fat Guy in Little Tie
Unfortunately, skinny ties tend to only work with skinny guys. Even though one would think a skinny tie would elongate the torso, it also is incredibly thin, which makes muscles and bulkiness look bigger by comparison.

However, the good news is that there are variations on the skinny tie that are better for the husky gentleman. Find a skinny tie that has a “shape” rather than something that is pillar-esque, straight up and down.

The Right Fit
In order to wear a skinny tie, you have to find the right kind of shirt and collar to go with it. Thick, wide collars are not going to work with a skinny tie. These kind of collars will make you look wider and bulkier. You want to look for just a regular dress shirt. You also want to make sure your shirt fits you well. It shouldn't be so tight that you can't breathe, but it should be snug enough that the shirt doesn't bulk out when tucked in. The key to pulling off the skinny look is looking sleek.

A larger man wearing a wider tie, a thinner man wearing a skinny tie

Length DOES Matter
When choosing a skinny tie, you want to make sure the length hits you just right. If you are tall, you don't want the tie stopping short above your belly button. If you are short, you don't want the tie hanging down to your crotch. Skinny ties require some extra attention to this detail. A good rule of thumb is that skinny ties cannot be past your belt and should not be more than three inches above your waist.

Pairing with a Blazer
If you wear a skinny tie with a blazer, you want to make sure that the lapels aren't bigger than the skinny tie itself. The lapels and the tie should be approximately the same size, although the lapels will be slightly wider. Aside from blazers, skinny ties also go well with vests.

Find your Skinny Soulmate
The most fun thing about skinny ties is that they come in a variety of styles and colors and that you can really play around with styles. If you simply like the classic black tie on white shirt look, rock that out. If you would like to experiment with bolder prints, that can also work. The important thing is to discover what makes you look and feel good.

With skinny ties rising in popularity, some people have gone so far as to link skinny ties with the harsh economic climate, similar to the way women's hemlines dictate how well the Gross Domestic Product is faring. At the very least, someday when we look back on the Recession, we'll think the men looked stylish.

A skinny knot for a skinny tie

Ephron, Nora, ‘The Man in the Bill Blass Suit,' New York Times Magazine, December 8, 1968.
Megan McLachlan

Megan McLachlan currently resides in the Pittsburgh area where she freelance writes, drinks coffee, and obsesses over popular culture. She was an English major, but doesn't think she wasted her life. Yet. Her blog is megoblog.com.