The Gentleman: Suiting Up

Cotton Ties and Internet Forums

Believe it or not, The Gentleman does not know everything about mens’ style. As I mentioned in my first post, I am still very much an amateur in the sartorial world. A few weeks ago, I spotted a cotton tie that I just had to have from J.Press. It features a bright orange and blue patchwork madras pattern. The store had it as both a necktie and a bowtie. When it went on sale, I asked one of my contacts in Washington D.C. pick it up for me at the J.Press store there to avoid their exorbitant shipping costs.

Photo Credit: J.Press

Photo Credit: J.Press

As I unwrapped it, I realized that this was the first non-silk I’ve owned. I had always heard that there is a rule that ties must be made out of silk. I wondered, was it acceptable to wear a cotton tie to work?

A lot of what I learn about mens’ style I find on the Internet, especially mens’ style forums. There are two main style forums that I frequent: the aptly named Style Forum and Ask Andy About Clothes. I decided to turn to Ask Andy for the answer about the cotton tie.

Style forums can be helpful, but they can also be a bit intimidating, especially for novices like me. The responses you receive can range from very helpful and genial to demanding and pompous.

Here’s the question I posted:

“Hey guys,

I know the general rule is that only silk ties are to be worn in a professional setting, but I was wondering if a high quality cotton tie is acceptable, especially during the summer. Specifically, I recently purchased this tie from J.Press and was wondering if it would be work appropriate. Specifically, I’m working as a legal intern at a District Attorney’s office and spending a lot of time in the criminal courtroom. What’s the consensus on cotton ties? Thanks!”

I decided to fib a bit and ask the question about the madras necktie and not the bowtie that I actually own because I wanted to avoid a discussion about the merits of bowties in the office and restrict the discussion to cotton. The first couple of comments I received were a bit less than helpful:

“Since when is that a general rule? Many professionals have polyester or cotton ties as a part of a uniform. I’ve never come address this ‘rule’.”


“I would not wear that tie for a really conservative situation. If your office is really conservative, no. In court, no. If your office is not really rigid when you are not in court, I might wear it. (I’ll confess, I don’t really like the tie, but that’s my taste, not necessarily everyone’s.)”

These two posters didn’t really get to the heart of whether cotton ties are professional. The next response continued this unfortunate trend…

“I might wear it at a Scottish soccer match, or to work, if I worked for a more formal IT company. I would wear it to a District Attorney’s office if I were pleading guilty to a DUI.”

Finally, however, I did get two pieces of good advice, albeit from different perspectives. One commentator thought that a cotton tie, and particularly the madras one that I purchased, is a very bold and loud statement, especially for someone beginning his or her career like myself.

“Some cotton ties are okay in almost any office. I’d expect this to be particularly the case in Louisiana. That particular tie: Caution, if you’re an intern. Not in a courtroom, at least not unless you’re in charge and know what you’re doing. An intern in a courtroom? No.”

However, the final response approached his answer from a more nuanced perspective.

“The madras-plaid cotton tie is a warm-weather classic. Not for the most formal situations, true–but entirely fine for wear with a blazer, an OCBD (oxford cloth button down), and loafers on a Friday. So stick with cravats more sober and of silk for reciting funerary odes, breaking the bank at Monte Carlo or explaining how you invented desktop cold fusion, sure, but go cotton and go madras all you want when the mercury is high and other circs are right.”

You get a great deal of information from Internet clothing forums, some of it useful, some of it not, and a lot of it confusing. In the end, like with anything on the Internet and especially with style, you have to make a judgment call. I may be a bit prejudiced in that I love my new cotton tie, but I tend to agree with the last comment. I think that a cotton tie can be appropriate in a professional setting during the summer. On Fridays, many lawyers in my office forgo the suit for a blazer and chinos. I can see this tie fitting in nicely. However, I think it is a matter of judgment, and I think the comment cautioning against being too flashy as an intern is well taken. Being too flashy is something that this Gentleman definitely needs to keep in check.

If you have a mens’ style question, you can always email me at cubiclechic (at) gmail (dot) com and I’d be happy to devote an article to exploring an answer. Otherwise, internet forums like Style Forum or Ask Andy About Clothes are good places to look for solutions, just be prepared to sort through the occasional frustrating response for those coveted pearls of style wisdom!

Next week, The Gentleman scours eBay to determine if he can build a top-notch professional outfit for rock bottom prices and wonders whether such an ensemble can be trusted…


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One response to “The Gentleman: Suiting Up

  1. Pingback: The Gentleman: Suiting Up « Cubicle Chic

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