My Drake’s MTO Tie

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A custom tie from my favorite tie maker.  Never thought this would happen!

Before we talk about the tie, let’s talk about the maker!

Drake’s

Drake’s holds a special place in my heart.  I don’t think any other brand exudes the same amount of enthusiasm and love for men’s classic fashion than they do.  I say fashion because they don’t try to make it all about being “traditionally” masculine or professional as Youtubers do; all of their lookbooks exude fun, with soft tailoring, the sprezza-tie, and colorful socks.

I found Drake’s through the Armoury’s tumblr back in 2015.  Pouring through the Armoury Lightbox archive, it was clear that these HK gents (and later NYC) loved the brand.  When I finally made the jump to follow Drake’s, it was definitely during a transition period when the brand was changing owners and pushing entirely new lines of tailoring and shirting. Now the brand has become a new powerhouse, championing creative director Michael Hill’s (right) unique vision of classic menswear.

Originally started by Michael Drake (left) in the 1970’s, the eponymous company first manufactured scarves before adding ties and pocket squares which it soon became famous for.  I’ve talked about them loads of times before, praising them for their inventive prints, stripes, and foulards that are entirely handmade in their factory in East London.  Drake’s offerings call to mind classic ivy repps, 1980’s foulards, 1970’s paisleys, and even 1930s-1940s bold prints while keeping things firmly rooted in our contemporary time. Their construction is also a plus for me, since some pieces have untipped, handrolled edges that echo the similar construction found on my vintage ties.

In other words, as a old-school minded guy, I love this modern brand since I see countless ways to approximate adesired vintage  look!   Exuding their vibes in my own aesthetic is basically what I’ve been doing the past year.  It’s so easy to get behind and versatile.

Now while we could talk all day about the evolution of the Drake’s Aesthetic and how Michael Hill dresses in un-released pieces (this picture was taken last year and the sweater is finally available for preorder), but this post is about the ties.

Seriously, the ties are fantastic.  I think they solve a big part of my “vintage problem” in that I’m not always a fan of bold vintage ties.  Most of the ones that you see are swing ties or elegant brocades; the latter is something I’d wear, but only for more formal suits/events.  Stripes, foulards, and “soft squares” are more my speed (to be worn with striped shirts) but they’re not always found too easily as true vintage.  If we’re being completely honest, it’s probably because I have too many ties and I haven’t found anything on eBay/vintage stores that catch me eye. Drake’s on the other hand is inherently new so it’s a bit more exciting to see which ties would work with my 1930s-1960s aesthetic.    I’ve gotta say, a lot of the tie designs from the past year really give me that vibe and fit perfectly.

You can read F.E Castleberry’s post on why he loves Drake’s here. It echoes my own thoughts.

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This gorgeous purplish-brown foulard is my first Drake’s tie and was purchased (on sale, but still pricey) during my recent NYC trip.  I wear modern ties semi-often but nothing beats this one. This tie features untipped, handrolled edges which makes them quite similar to my vintage ones.  The color is perfect for fall/winter (which I tend to dress for 24/7)Getting something new and breaking it in yourself is definitely a cool experience and I’m happy I actually took the leap and bought a Drake’s tie for myself.

But RTW is not where this story ends.

My Custom Tie and The Process

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Thanks to the blog and my passion for trying to make classic menswear happen in LA, I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of cool people.  One of those people was Chris Gumbs, who runs sales and trunkshows for Drake’s.  He came during the spring  trunk show at the Bloke where I got to meet him and keep in contact.  We briefly talked about how there was an old tie from Drake’s that I’ve always wanted and that he would see if there was any archives that still had it. Unfortunately it was all gone (the tie was years old) but he offered to gift me a MTO one for my birthday, which was coming up at the time!

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I decided to wait until my NYC trip to place the order so I could see the fabrics in person (rather than just looking at pictures online). Plus I was certain that the stores would have swatches that weren’t available on the website.  So when I made my first visit to Drake’s that week, manager Matt Woodruff took down the rolls of tie fabric for me to look at.  All of these were the last of the last; once a MTO was made, the fabric is gone forever.

In general I wanted a foulard that worked with my style but also seemed very Drake’s.  I was first drawn to the blue ones since they’re pretty versatile, but I kept finding myself drawn to a black and red one.

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I don’t really wear black ties often (other than a knit) but there was something special about this one. The dark base color allows it to work with more formal outfits while the ecru and red allow for some generous color pairings.  The scale of the patterns was absolutely perfect for me, begging to be mixed with striped shirts or added for pop with chambray button downs.  Everyone at Drake’s suggested this one, since it’s a little bit different than what I normally wear and they wanted me to have something that would challenge me.

As Cary Grant said, “If I had only one [tie] to choose, then I think a black foulard, not too wide nor too narrow, is best, as it’s acceptable with most clothes.  An expensive tie is not a luxury—the wrinkles fall out quicker and the knot will hold better. Personally, I wear ties of small, conservative pattern and color.”

It’s almost as if that entire paragraph was about this whole experience!

After picking the fabric, Matt asked me about customizations.  They had a few samples on hand so I could see the difference in length, width, and interlining as well. Here’s what I ended up with.

  • 30oz printed silk
  • Length: 138 cm (9 cm shorter than our standard 147cm, but still able to tuck the back blade)
  • Width: 8 cm (3 1/8″, Drake’s standard width)
  • Untipped/hand rolled
  • The lightest interlining
  • No loop keeper (old ties didn’t have them)
  • “EW” hand-stitched monogram in silver (debated on silver or white)

Come to Papa

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It  took a little over a month, but the tie made it to me back in LA.  Wrapped delicately in gift paper, it was probably one of the coolest things I’ve ever been gifted, especially since I’m used to getting things from eBay.

The tie is as delicate as they came, being eerily similar to how thin a 1930’s tie feels. It’s not exact since Drake’s keeps their interlining further down than a vintage tie, who’s interlining is more for the middle/knotting area rather than the entire body. With that said, it was much thinner than any contemporary tie I’ve felt.  I was certain that it was going to make a great knot.

The length was also perfect, since I specifically requested it to be shorter than their standard “short” length. This was to ensure that the tie would narrow earlier than regular length ties, as this also affects the size of the knot.  The tie definitely has enough in the back blade to tuck into my high rise trousers (for those sprezzy looks) but it’s also not overly long to the point of me being able to sit on the back blade.

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Monograms are only two characters.

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For my first outing with the tie, I decided to keep it semi-formal with my blue flannel sack suit, vintage stripe OCBD, and an accompanying Drake’s sweater vest.   You can definitely see that the tie is pretty vibrant and contrasts nicely with the more subdued blues of the suit.  Not only does the sweater vest add an extra layer to the look, but it also references in the red in the tie.

Overall, it’s a fairly straight forward outfit that I wore for work that lets me highlight my new tie.

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The black of the tie is something that I really wanted to embrace, as I’m not used to wearing them. I do have a 1930’s black geometric tie, but I find it too formal due to the type of silk (it’s more on the shiny, brocade-esque side). Black ties aren’t uncommon in menswear, as they are plenty versatile as grenadines or knits, but I think that specifically black foulards are.  I can see the temptation to wear them with full suits in dark colors (deep navy or charcoal) to tie in the black, but I wouldn’t do that. I like to think of it as a grounding piece, similar to the plain knits but with just a touch of extra interest!

That’s just what I did with this outfit, shot for my upcoming article on vintage sweaters.  Obviously this sweater is wild (and spoopy) but I was intrigued on wearing it with traditional tailoring.  When taken all together, the outfit is mainly colorblocked, which is why I felt the need to wear a patterned tie.

I think the Drake’s black foulard was the proper choice here; a stripe would’ve been mainly covered by the high “V” of the sweater and you wouldn’t get the pattern mixing effect!

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Here’s how I would typically wear it: with a chambray shirt, brown jacket, and some good selvedge denim.  It’s easy going (definitely the Drake’s uniform in a sense) and provides a bit more interest than a knit tie. You could argue that a striped tie would be better, as it emphasizes the neo-ivy vibe, but I like the challenge of the foulard.  Though to be honest, you could really throw on this tie at anytime.  That’s the entire point of this tie.

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Even though it’s black, the tie isn’t formal and goes with brown fleck cashmere and denim quite well!

Conclusion

I can’t thank Chris and Matt enough for this awesome tie.  Like I’ve said before, being able to review custom products will always be an amazing  experience for me since I’m always used to buying second hand.  The fact that it was done with Drake’s, a brand that I’ve loved since my journey three years ago, makes this piece all the more special.

Getting a MTO is certainly a big luxury piece.  I don’t recommend it straight away, but it’s nice when you have a defined style and are pretty specific in your tastes. A tie isn’t as “utilitarian” as a suit or sportcoat, which makes it an entirely special aesthetic piece of clothing.  It’s definitely a pricey move to make in your sartorial journey and I will always be eternally grateful for this gift.

I’ve said many times that modern ties are too thick (specifically with interlining) and wide/long to make a proper knot, but Drake’s can do it on their RTW and especially when done custom.  My black foulard tie is beautifully made and done to my specifications: untipped/handrolled edges, a shorter length, modest with, and the lightest interlining Drake’s could do.  The result is a piece of neckwear that fits in perfectly with my wardrobe.

When I first got the tie, I tried to wear it almost everyday, as one typical does whenever they get something new.  Now I’ve let it take a small break, allowing myself to continue to wear other ties in my closet.  It’s still a special piece to me and I know I’ll have a smile on my face whenever I wear it.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

@ethanmwong 

Street x Sprezza 

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3 comments

  1. EvanEverhart · November 16

    Highly enjoyable article Ethan! Loved the details and information in Drake’s. Have you read Bernhard Roetzel’s Gentlemen? It has a rather fascinating section on Drake’s along with some fun vintage eye candy, as well as generally interesting information on various makers and history, though their inclusion of the wacky Cosby sweaters of one maker, as well as the sincerely hideous J.P. Todd’s driving shoes is SINCERELY Regrettable…..But I digress; Great tie! Also, great Cary Grant quote. Have a very happy Friday! 🙂

    Like

  2. JJ Katz · November 20

    Nice article; nice tie. I try to visit their factory shop once a year.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Editorial: Friendsgiving 2018 | STREET x SPREZZA

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