Setting The Bar High: Boyer on the Ups and Downs of Tie Bars

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.

31 Comments on "Setting The Bar High: Boyer on the Ups and Downs of Tie Bars"

  1. I do as I was taught, and Marine Corps regulations taught me to place the tie clasp midway between the 3rd and 4th buttons from the top – Parallel to the deck. If I see one anywhere else, it just doesn’t look right to me.

  2. They seem to be trying too hard, is what i think when i see an angled tie bar worn low,

    each to their own, i like mine high to keep the tie curved slightly away from the shirt.
    coincidentally between the 3rd and 4th button.

  3. I wear it the proper way. Straight across

  4. I find a tie bar a refreshing change of pace with certain of my vintage ties that lack a keeper. I go for near the 4th button (usually just below), ever-so-slightly angled down.

    A military tie bar in the context of a uniform looks good straight across. A civilian tie bar–not so much.

  5. A tie bar is meant to keep the tie neat and out of the way. Wearing it up high never made sense to me. It seems like up high is some kind of recent thing stylists have been pushing. It drives me crazy when you see it like that in a J. Crew catalog sticking out over the sides of the tie.

  6. Straight and between the 3rd and 4th buttons, never above or below the shirt pocket. Also must be visable with a jacket on. why hide it?

  7. I’m all for a discussion of the “correct” or “proper” way to wear any given accessory. But, what I appreciate most about the tie bar is it simple variety. Most tie bar look similar or identical from a far, but where a man places it–high, low, straight, angled–says volumes about the style of the man and the man himself. Rarely does something so small say so much. I remember reading a post taken from Patricia Highsmith’s “Talented Mister Ripely” which praised the small simple wardrobe. The tie bar seems to exemplify this efficiency of use. I think it’s the essence of great men’s style: elegance and subtlety in choice.

  8. Gregorius Mercator | August 5, 2010 at 7:43 am |

    I hadn’t thought about the tie curling effect, so I guess there is a logical reason to place it high. I personally prefer to keep it somewhere around the middle so that it serves its utilitarian purpose of keeping the tie from flying all over the place throughout the day.

  9. The base of the sternum always feels like the right place for me–just slightly visible when the jacket is buttoned. I have an orderly personality, so I can’t imagine intentionally wearing it so that it lists to one side…

  10. Then again, there is the dégagé use of a collar pin as a tie bar. Fred Astaire liked to do it, and he always wore his tie bars/pins at a rakish angle.

    Then again, most of us (including me) don’t have as much style in our whole bodies as he had in his toe jam.

  11. That reminds me, Henry, that when P. Sears Schoonmaker sent me the photos for his profile, I asked him about the tie bar. Turned out to be one of those jotter pens! Now that’s some style.

    And worn angled downward, as I recall.

  12. Mostly I like the thumb print clasp from J. Press, worn low as to not be seen when the coat is buttoned. In addition, they have the large safety pin but it leaves a hole so I only use it for knit ties.

  13. Christian,

    P. Sears is an incredibly well-dressed and stylish man. Can you find a few more people like him to do articles about?

    Vern,

    I believe the safety pin-like contraption is actually a collar pin, and its use as a tie bar is something that Fred Astaire did. In some of his movies, Fred left his jacket open in certain scenes, leaving whatever he used as a clasp or pin on display.

    I don’t like poking holes in my ties, but I could see using a pin on a knit tie.

  14. I’m happy to see this return–such a great opportunity for art in daily dress.

  15. With the coat closed a tie bar must be invisible (this means PUT IT LOW).
    period.
    A tie bar too much high is vulgar.
    period.

  16. EVAN EVERHART | August 8, 2018 at 5:02 pm |

    I think that the correct way to wear the tie clip is low enough so that it not vulgarly or garishly visible (meaning it’s never placed upon the middle or upper of the visible tie), however there is a caveat to this; I wear short ties; rarely exceeding 56″ in length, and wear very high rise trousers, and knot my ties (4 in hand), so that they end above the waist-band of my trousers, or just kissing it, that said, the lower 3rd or 4th of the tie is usually below the line of my tie clip, and while I do place it straight at the beginning, I also don’t spend all day worrying about the angle. The only time that I adjust my tie clip, is if its interior curved edge is working its way away from the edge of the tie itself (which typically happens with some of my later model BB ties which have heavier interlining).

    I’d also say that a primary item of importance and stylistic import for the tie clip, is the breadth/width of the thing! Has anyone else noticed that most of the modern tie clips are still sized for those monstrosities from the late ’90s through to the early ’00s of 4″ breadth infamy? Especially in light of the harrowing narrowing trend of current pee-wee suits, shirt collars, and ties, I find this lack of commensurate proportionality to be perplexing in the extreme. Also, Drake’s needs to stop their stylistic travesties with their overly long neckties! The “sprezzatura” long back blade tie thing NEEDS to DIE, it’s as ridiculous and unnecessarily unflattering as the baggy saggy jeans of the 90s.

  17. EVAN EVERHART | August 8, 2018 at 5:09 pm |

    I’d also like to state for the record that I strongly believe that this continual production of over-long 58″ and higher/longer neckties is due to the disgusting and incomprehensible use of not just single, but double Windsor knots, to provide enough fabric for the used car salesmen and Vegas gamblers of the world to hang themselves in proper “style”. Even bolo ties have more class than double Windsor knots. If the fellows who wear these excessive knots were to tie their necktie with a proper length neck tie in the 55-57″ range, and wear trousers that rose properly let alone the typically mid-rise to low rise trousers seen upon the majority, they would end up looking like Laurel and Hardy with belly warmers on but with Gigantic knots which of course would display to full effect the ludicrousness issues of conformation present in these currently prevalent trouser cuts that do not suit or follow human male (or natural female) biological structure!

  18. Minimalist Trad | October 26, 2019 at 1:06 pm |

    Re:
    “Self-confidence is signaled to others through simplicity, understatement and discretion when it comes to wearing jewelry”.

    Not only when it comes to wearing jewelry

  19. Can’t go wrong with MC standard per Ryan’s 2010 comment. Some better uniform ties have button holes sewn into the tail. I go closer to 4 than 3 if I wear a bar. To safety pin the tail of the tie, hidden, near the 4th button works, too. As for the amount of jewelry to wear, less is more. The ladies have a rule of thumb about that.

  20. Evan, did it ever occur to you that some of us might be tallish (6’2”) and long torsoed (32 inseam w/ a 12” rise)? I wear my neckties with the front blade tickling the buckle; the back blade slightly shorter (never longer) and tied with a four-in-hand knot. I can cheat with a 60 – 61” length, but the ones that work best for me are 62 – 63”. The “standard” length of 58” is unwearable. 55 – 56” neckties are best relegated to the young boys’ department.

  21. Carmelo Pugliatti | October 26, 2019 at 7:30 pm |

    Tie bar should be invisible under a closet jacket.
    Show it with a buttoned jacket is gross.
    A tie bar need only for keep in place the tie,not to be shown.
    So the right place for a tie bar is down almost at the end of the tie.

  22. The only gentlemanly tie accoutrement is the solid gold large safety pin thing. The person who knows how to do it is Beppe Modenese. The 1950s are absolutely the wrong period to use as a benchmark, with lots of noisy cheap medal popping up.

  23. The only proper way to wear a tie bar is to not wear one. It just looks so cheesy.

    I guess I am in the minority here, but to me the tie bar breaks up
    a nice smooth line in every one of the above pictures.

    Side note – the last picture would be a refreshingly colorful take on classicly elegant clothing items, but is ruined by the ridiculous crest.

  24. Harrison Brockley | October 27, 2019 at 1:42 am |

    @Andrew K:
    Hear! Hear!
    It’s bad enough to see a tie bar worn properly: Straight across and below midway down.
    What’s even worse is to see one at an angle and higher up.

  25. Old School Tie | October 27, 2019 at 3:37 am |

    Sorry, but it is absolute nonsense to claim that silk knot cuff links were “invented in the 70s” unless you mean the 1870s…(actually, officially, Charvet first introduced them in 1904).

  26. To clarify my previous post, MC tie clasp is not seen when wearing the coat. Correction: If I wear one, which is not often, it is closer to button 6, out of sight.

  27. George Grayson | October 27, 2019 at 8:47 am |

    Has anybody ever seen a photo of the venerable Mr . Boyer wearing a tie bar?

  28. So I wore a tie clasp this morning with a 3/2 sack. Had to go low. I could use a better tie-bar, but maybe I’m better off without it.

  29. George Grayson,

    Here’s a photo of Mr. Boyer wearing a tie bar:

    https://www.marol.it/img/country/country-paisa-01.jpg

  30. correctness? do what pleases YOU. don’t copy anyone else. listen to advice yes but YOU are the final judge of the image you present, not some stranger who is supposed to be “expert.”

  31. Robert Thorn | October 31, 2021 at 9:30 pm |

    First determine if the tie bar is for utility or decorative; then go from there. I personally like a tie clasp,a small oval affair with my initials, placed on the small or narrow end after placed through the keeper then clipped. The tie is held in place and the clasp is not visible; I get compliments when noticed that my tie is never out of place which opens a conversation. By the way, I worked 10 years in men’s clothing; managing a store for 3 of those years.

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