No doubt fueled in part by the popularity of “Mad Men,” tie bars have become ubiquitous. But while there’s general consensus that they’re in vogue, there’s less agreement about how they should be placed: high or low, straight or angled. We asked legendary menswear author G. Bruce Boyer to give us his take.
In the 1950s, what I call “shirt jewelry” — i.e., collar pin, tie bar, and cuff links — was taken for granted. A man, regardless of his age, would have worn all three items if he wanted to create an impression. Even young men in high school wore shirt jewelry. The most popular collar style at the time was the rounded club collar worn with a collar pin.
But by the end of the ’50s jewelry began to disappear from the masculine wardrobe. I have no sociological or aesthetic reason to offer, and did not begin to return until the invention of the silk knot cuff links of the ’70s. The tie bar has followed discreetly in the wake, and there has been some resurgence among dandies for the collar pin.
Exactly how to wear the tie bar is of course a matter of taste and preference, but the various ways do connote an aura. A bar worn higher up than the midpoint of the tie reflects a more Edwardian aesthetic, which echoes the stickpins of the early 20th century. Worn angled and on the lower half of the tie is a bit more modern, emanating from the 1930s. The look of the moment seems to be for the bar to be worn very high, so that it shows above the lapel spread of a high-buttoned coat.
Personally I prefer the modern approach, wearing the bar somewhere on the lower third of the tie and angled downward a la Fred Astaire. Men who wear their bars at midpoint or higher and straight across always remind me of Midwestern grain salesmen, no matter how elegantly they may otherwise be dressed. They seem to be trying too hard: It’s much too studied. Self-confidence is signaled to others through simplicity, understatement and discretion when it comes to wearing jewelry. — G. BRUCE BOYER
Top image, high and straight at J. Press. Below, mid, straight and short for Thom:
Ditto for Pete:
Low and straight for John Gavin (see our post on him here):
Dressed by Flusser, it’s the ’30s look for Gekko:
As originally demonstrated by Fred:
Finally, Ralph Lauren has generally been styling tie bars angled downwards. For Fall, however, only two outfits for the look book include tie bars, and these were shot angled horizontally.