Anatomy of a Necktie


In an older post I’ve talked about my latest commission, which is the making of a quilt using a person’s old neckties. I must say there is a lot more to a simple necktie that meets the eye. That is why I have chosen to name this post, “anatomy of a necktie.” Why would I dedicate an entire blog post to talk about this seemingly pedestrian subject? Because the more I work with these ties, the more fascinated I’ve become with the whole process behind the making of a necktie.

First, there is the outside layer, the “pretty” part, which usually consists of a piece of cloth, sometimes silk, sometimes wool or cashmere, polyester, rayon or cotton, in beautiful and colorful designs. This is part that everybody sees, the PR department of the tie, so to speak. It is the “shell.”

Then there is the inside, the part that nobody sees, but a most important and crucial element of the tie. It is the “backstage.” It is what gives the tie structure and shape.

The inside part is composed of one or two layers of what is called the “interlining,” a piece of cloth that is cut like the finished shape of the tie; this is the piece that provides the tie its stability and shape. A word of interest: after taking apart dozens and dozens of ties, I came to realize that there is a lot to be said about the importance of workmanship and materials in a finished product, in this case a necktie. It is the difference between a beautiful and elegant piece of garment, and a rougher, cheaper one. As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Some of the ties I deconstructed had a beautifully soft interlining, probably brushed wool, while others–of lesser quality–were made of a much rougher and open-weaved material, almost burlap-y in texture. Needless to say, the first ones were the ones that sported the more exclusive designer labels; but more on that later.


Then there are the pieces that go on the inside of the tips at both ends of the tie. These are pieces of cloth, sometimes of the same material as the front, or a similar one of lesser quality–again this depends on the quality of the tie itself– that are sewn at both ends; this is called “tipping.” Another aspect of quality is whether or not the tippings are hand sewn or serged or machine sewn.

The entire tie is held together with slip stitching, usually hand done with a length of thread, usually silk, or polyester–again, depending on quality–that runs the entire length of the tie.
Another piece of construction that is hidden from plain sight, but placed on the outer part, on the tail that goes underneath the “blade,” or wider (front) part, is the label. It is of much importance, because it is where the “telling” takes place, most of the time. The label indicates the manufacturer, brand, and/or designer of the tie. Labels are the first line of “defense,” so to speak in determining the quality of the tie, since it is practically impossible to take a closer look at the workmanship without taking the whole thing apart. (I don’t think the retailer would appreciate a customer doing this before deciding which tie to buy.)

Some ties also have what is called a “keeper loop.” This is a tab placed right above (or below) the label that the wearer can use to place the tail of the tie through–after knotting–to keep it out of sight. I noticed the existence of this feature mostly in the more expensive-looking ties, sort of as an “add-on,” not part of your “basic model.”

Some ties also have another smaller label, usually at the end of the smaller tip, that contains laundering instructions and other useful information.

As I’ve said many times before, I like working on these unconventional projects, because I always take useful learnings from them. Each challenge is another opportunity to problem-solve in creative ways. This project provided the opportunity to utilize some skills I hadn’t used before, and also was a learning experience in the art of necktie construction and design.

Also, after each tie I took apart, a picture started emerging of the person that the ties belonged to. It’s very fascinating how that happens, because you don’t even have to talk to anybody or consult other sources, and suddenly you have a picture of a person in your mind. I can understand how archaeologists can form a picture of the type of people whose belongings they are digging just by digging up the stuff and putting it into some kind of context. I feel I got a clear picture of the personality of the person who wore these ties, and it was fun to discover each new thing that would complete the picture.

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