Most men probably aren’t sure what a tie clip is, how to wear a tie bar, where to place the tie clip, or why men’s tie bars are even used. It’s totally understandable, as this particular men’s accessory hasn’t been a part of learning how to wear a tie in modern times. Check out our crash course on tie pins, tie bars, tie clips and what ties to wear with them.
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Everything old is new again. We’ve heard this phrase constantly and we see the trends on a yearly basis. The three piece suit used to be an ageing getup, now it’s a mark of distinction. Fedoras were de rigueur in the early 1900s, fell out, came back and now are….in the middle. Likewise, a small bit of metal on your tie, alternately called a tie clip or tie bar, is wending its way back into high fashion and casual couture.
How to Use a Tie Clip
If you want to know how to wear a tie clip, you must first know exactly where to wear a tie clip. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, you want the placement of your tie clip juuuuuust right. If it’s too high or too low, it can ruin the whole effect! You want the tie bar to be right in the middle of your sternum, Or to be exact, between the 3rd and 4th button.
Now this may sound obvious, but the purpose of a tie clip is to keep your tie in place. It is not to keep the two parts of the tie together. Thus, you want to wear your tie bar from right to left, so that it can slide in the placket, or opening between the buttons on your shirt.
Types of Tie Clips
Like just about any type of fashion, you have choices on the types of tie bars you want. There are three basic types: tie tacks, non-hinged and hinged.
Tie tacks are the sons of the tie pin. It is usually a small metal piece the size of a medium button that uses a pin to pierce the material of the tie, similar to an earring. There will then be a short piece of chain that a T-bar is attached to.
The T-bar goes into your button hole, keeping the tie in place. This is good for ties made of coarser materials such as wool or cashmere, as the tack will not leave a permanent mark. My first tie clip was a tie tack, it's a bit more formal and old fashioned, so we will focus more on the next two.
Non-Hinged Tie Clip
Non-hinged tie clips, also called slide clasps, work on the same premise as a money clip. It may be one long piece of metal that is bent in a U-shape, pushing the two ends close together. The thickness of the tie’s material is what keeps the tie bar in place, if you're using a very skinny tie there may not be enough pressure to keep your tie bar in place.
Hinged Tie Clip
Hinged tie bars work like a clothes peg or alligator’s mouth. It has two bars that are attached by a spring mechanism. You simply pinch one end to open it, slide it onto your shirt and tie and release! There is usually a bit more pressure imbued in these types so they tend to stay in place better. Also, using two bars, the top bar can be made of a different material and can be more showy.
Which Tie Clip to Use With Which Tie
Right now ties can vary a lot in their width and patterns. Each type is valid for different situations, so you want to make sure that you have the right tie clasp for the right style and pattern of tie that you wear.
Skinny Tie Clip
If you decide to go the route of the skinny tie, you want to make sure you also have a skinny tie bar as well. One of the definite 'don'ts' of fashionable tie clip wearing, is to have your tie bar wider than your tie. It should be less wide and less bulky.
A skinnier tie just feels of-the-moment right now. It's not too mainstream and not too traditional. And there's less material, so there's less potential for a colour or pattern to feel garish or offensive. Plus, the way people dress is cyclical. What's rebellion and what's conformity flip-flop back and forth. For a long time, rebellion was a T-shirt and a trucker hat. Then, suddenly, that mess became conformity, and dressing up a little bit became a way to differentiate yourself. Take the Mad Men era: Back then, looking really fantastic was the way to conform, and rebellion was the beatnik in the T-shirt. And then it just flips. So right now, a well-tailored suit and skinny tie is cool. Right now, that's the mark of an individual.
- Scott Sternberg, Designer, Band of Outsiders
Thicker Tie Clip
On the other side of the coin is the thicker tie. If this style is more in your comfort zone, you want your tie clip to match. Make sure that is a bit wider, else it could get lost and won’t be as effective at actually doing its job, holding your tie in place. With a thicker tie, you can also have a bit more heft to it, be it a heavier material or more 3-dimensional.
I've always preferred wider lapels and wider ties, as they seem more elegant and flattering to me. There is something a bit meager and uptight about a skinny tie and jacket. I think that accentuating the natural V of a man's body makes men look more masculine, less boyish, and in general more powerful.
– Tom Ford, Designer
Patterned vs. Solid
If you have a patterned tie such as the club tie (any tie with a repeating logo) or the repp tie (diagonal stripes, think Harry Potter), your tie is the focal point of your upper body. Therefore, your tie clasp should be plain and unadorned. Silver is for always, gold is…for sometimes.
If you have a solid tie, you can absolutely wear a plainer tie bar for a slick, clean feeling. But you also have the opportunity to wear a tie clip that has a little more joie de vivre! While you don’t want to look ostentatious or clownish, you can wear something that draws a little more attention to it, becoming a focal point. This can be done with colour, style or material.
Silver Tie Clip
The perfect understated colour, a simple silver tie clip can serve you well for many years, and with many different ties. It tends to give off a cooler tone look, so pairing it with colours like blue and green can help give a sleek vibe that tones down a more vibrant tie.
Gold Tie Clip
Gold has a warmer tone to it, and gives a less toned down look when paired with various colours. Bright colours like red would match well with a simple gold tie clip and give off a rich, statement look.
Rose Gold Tie Clip
For a subtle blend of the cool tones of silver and the warmth of gold, a rose gold tie pin is a good choice. It has the benefit of staying as versatile as silver and gold, while giving off a less traditional, more modern overall vibe.
Black Tie Clip
Probably the least common colour tie clip, but definitely useful if you've got a colourful tie on your hands. Instantly able to tone down the vibrancy of a look in a cool, sleek way, a black tie clip is a bold yet surprisingly versatile piece.
Where to Buy Tie Clips
While it feels like you can buy ties just about anywhere, you may not have noticed tie clips in high proliferation. So where does a discerning chap like yourself pick up a tie bar so that you can rock the pub or boardroom? Luckily, men’s tie bars (yes, there are ones for women too) are becoming quite the “thing” so you can find a couple of ways to pick yours up.
Modern Tie Clip
If you want to get something specific for a specific suit or look that you're going for, it’s probably easiest to purchase a new tie bar. You can pop into your favourite men’s fashion store for a quick glance, but the options will probably be limited.
With the advent of this inter web thingy, your best option is to go online for a wider variety. TheTieBar.com is a great place to start. With well over 100 choices, I feel confident that you can find one that speaks to you.
Vintage Tie Clip
My preferred way of getting much of my clothing and accessories is to look through vintage stores. There’s something cool knowing that you are wearing decades of history on your person! Plus, there are some really nifty, odd, crazysexycool and plain old WTF choices out there in the wide world.
Pawn shops are another interesting place to look. You just never know what you’re going to find there and the price is usually right. Lastly, check on eBay.com. You’ll find other aficionados like yourself offering up their old or unneeded tie bars for sale.
How to Wear a Tie Bar
Okay, so you've learnt all you need to know and are now ready to go out and find the tie bar that is going to make you the envy of all your mates. However, you’re not sure exactly how to put it together into an outfit. Well, like many things, there is a dressier, more dapper way to wear them and a more casual, cool way to sport them.
If you are going to wear your new or vintage tie clip with a full suit, it should be a bit more understated and classy. A simple silver rectangle will never be wrong. One with a small pop of colour to compliment the outfit or a subtle design will also work. If you have chutzpah, a crest, monogram or small jewel can be added.
If you are wearing your tie with jeans or perhaps sans-jacket, you can opt for a tie bar that is a little less formal. These can be more of a fun statement piece! I have seen moustaches, a slew of weapons, skull and crossbones or a classy pearl tie pin. Whatever your personality is, there is a tie bar just waiting for you.
If you are going for one of these more casual and fun tie bars, make sure it is in the right setting. If you’re trying to figure out what to wear to a bar, these can be a great conversational piece. But if you’re going for a job interview, even if it’s for the newest, hippest, most indie fashion mag, less is more.
If you're interested in the smart, defined look of a tie clip, you might be interested in the similarly categorised, although not quite as common, collar pin. In simple terms a collar pin is a bar that fits between your shirt collar and your tie, holding it in place while adding in some extra class. Although it might be a bit of an overkill to wear both a tie and a collar pin, a collar pin on its own can bring your outfit into the spotlight without shouting too much about it.
History of The Tie
If you are wondering why ties were invented, or who invented the tie, the truth is - tying a piece of cloth around the neck has been around for thousands of years, It was used to tell members of different tribes apart, as well as signifying a point of honour. The first known representation is on Qin Shih Huang’s famous “terra cotta army” from 210 BC.
Tie precursors were also used by the Romans, specifically rendered in Trajan’s Column, circa 113 AD. Over the centuries there were numerous varieties of neck cloths in various cultures, but it wasn’t until The Thirty Years’ War in the mid-1600s that the beginnings of the modern tie came about.
Croatian mercenaries, known for their bravery and military prowess, wore small, knotted neckerchiefs that aroused the interest of the Parisians. Louis XIV of France became enamored of these “cravats” in 1646 and soon the trend spread to England where King Charles II imported Venetian lace so that he might have his own line of cravats.
By the middle of the 19th century, the recognisably long tie came into fashion as well as the bow tie. This is also where we see the advent of the tie pin. Early cravats and ties were usually made of silk, satin and lace, and pins were necessary to keep the material in place and protected. At first they were made with jewels and pearls to showcase the wealth of the wearer, but as the common folk began adopting the tie pin, much more understated styles emerged.
By the 1920s, the wearing of ties was becoming commonplace but the tie pin was hurting the fine materials that they were made of. Thus the birth of the tie clip or tie bar (which I will use interchangeably). They were able to keep the tie in place through repeated wears without harming the material. During the 80s and 90s, they fell out of style but are now having a resurgence due to programs like “Mad Men”, as more men want to recapture the dignified and stylish past.
Your Quick Guide on Tie Clips
- If you're wearing a skinny tie, you want to make sure you also have a skinny tie bar as well.
- As with skinny ties, if you're wearing a wider tie - wear a wider tie clip.
- With thicker ties, feel free to bulk up the tie clip material choice accordingly.
- If your tie is patterned, stick with a simpler tie clip.
- With a simple tie, opt for a simple clip for a chicer look.
- Your tie clip should never overshoot the width of the tie.
On That Note
As with all the types of ties and ways to wear them, men’s tie clips can fit into almost any situation. If you’re not sure that tie bars are for you, start small and understated. After you start receiving compliments on it (and you will!) it will give you the confidence to branch out a little more. Then you can start elevating your men’s accessory game to the next level!