Silk ties and other necktie fabrics

Silk had been produced in China since about 2640 BC. From there it first made its way to Persia around 400 BC before it reached Asia Minor and Egypt some 200 years later. The peregrine fabric did not enter Europe until the last pre-Christian century. To the Romans it quickly became a luxury good, and nothing will change about the exclusiveness of this material in the course of time – nor when the Moors had started their own silk production in the 8th century in Spain. In the 10th century this technology spread from Sicily all over Italy.

In the Middle Ages silk was produced, traded or manufactured almost everywhere, but the most dominant in this branch of the textile sector were the Florentines. Later on, the French took over the lead and advanced this delicate textile to first choice and a “must” atCourt. It was only near the end of the 18th century that the English trend for wool and cotton in male fashion was established. However, silk did not vanish but was reserved for vests, morning robes and stockings, as well as for edging and lining.

The elaborately tied necktie of the dandies in the 19th century had not been made of silk, but of snow-white linen or noble lace. Silk was not used for neck adornments until the late 1880es . This was closely connected to industrialisation, and the ability to produce the once so rare silk in large quantities. Right from the beginning, men were enthusiastic about the geometrical all over designs from Macclesfield and the oriental-appearing Paisleys, which came from the Scottish city of the same name. Since the 18th century, silk fibers from British colonies have been spun and woven into patterns from India that, even today, appear exotic.

The principle of silk extraction has hardly changed since its beginnings. Still it is a time and labor-intensive process. As soon as the silkworms have wrapped themselves in cocoons, these so-called pupas will be killed with steam or hot air. The cocoons are soaked in water to loosen the layers of gum, which agglutinated the cocoon threads. These threads, which will be unreeled with small brushes, are about 1.86 miles (3,000m) long, but only 330 to 880 yards (300 to 800m) are of such quality that it can be used for further processing into high quality floss. Before it can be spun and woven, it has to be decocted in soapy water to remove remains of the silk gum. The specialist calls this “degumming”.

China is still one of the largest suppliers of high quality floss. The center for manufacturing silk ties lies in Como, Northern Italy. From design to the final product, the companies offer the complete manufacturing process The silk will be either imprinted or woven into Jacquards using different silk yarns. Silk prints are especially suitable for pictorial or floral patterns because with this procedure almost any motif can be applied on to the fabric representing the real object. Thus, woven silk mainly provided geometrical or rhythmically arranged patterns, since these are best to be drawn with warp and weft.

Judging the quality of silk fabrics can be difficult, even for an expert. Just by looking at it, it is hard to tell synthetic from pure silk. Thus, one has to use the sense of touch. The most striking difference between pure silk and synthetic is that the latter is made of much smoother yarn and thus the fabrics will also be much smoother. For this reason you should run the tie through your fingers. Pure silk will inevitably get stuck on rough skin parts or the edge of afingernail, while the imitation will just slide over it.

Another often suggested quality check is to press and crumple the silk. Excellent goods will remain uncreased. But, of course, be careful with this if you haven’t bought the tie yet. There are also many other procedures, but these are not necessarily applicable for the consumer, such as scorching the fabrics. Thus, he has to rely on the quality promise made by the tie brand. A good reputation usually stands for good quality, and the price also makes a good guideline. Under a certain level you won’t get top quality.

Even though silk is the fabric of choice for most high end neckties, there are a few other fabrics that offer certain benefits for mens ties. For those who are looking for an inexpensive alternative to natural silk can choose from several synthetic imitations. One common synthetic fiber for ties is polyester. Polyester is very cheap but also doesn’t look nor feel like silk. It has a plastic-like feel and a more unnatural looking shine. However, advances in the textile industry made it possible to create synthetic fibers that are almost indistinguishable from genuine silk. One of such fibers is simply called Microfiber. It is a man-made fabric that blends the two synthetic materials: polyester and polyamide. Both are mixed into a goo-like paste which is then spun into a microscopic thin yarn – a yarn that is even thinner in diameter than silk. This yarn is then dyed and woven into fabric. The benefit microfiber offers over silk – besides a lower cost point – is the fabric’s high stain resistancy. In addition, microfiber holds dyes much better and is therefore available in much brighter and more vivid colors than silk.

Besides man-made fabrics there are a few other textiles worth mentioning. One popular fabric for classic striped ties and regimental ties is called Poplin or Mogador. It is a fabric that blends silk in the warp with cotton fiber in the weft. The fabric has a matte shine and a slight ribbed texture. It is the perfect choice for traditional striped ties. Irish tie maker Atkinsons has been known for using Poplin for their neckties since 1837. At Ties-Necktie we are proud to offer exclusive designer ties by Atkinsons. To see this selection please click on: Atkinsons Ties.

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