The History of the Silk Knit Tie

Posted on March 24 2021

The History of the Silk Knit Tie

It is safe to say that no wardrobe can be truly complete without having a couple of good ties on rotation. From work to play and everything else in between, a tie can elevate the simplest ensemble and is one of the most versatile men’s accessories. Though reprised in a number of styles from the more formal bow tie to the British-born striped tie, today we’re choosing to focus on the silk knit tie (click for link).

Often called the “sock tie” due to its shape and how it is stored rolled like socks sometimes are, a knit tie has a reputation for seeming intimidating at first due to its unfamiliar texture and uncommon presence.  But we’d like to break that misperception by highlighting why it’s an essential for your wardrobe.

First Thing’s First: What Is a Silk Knit Tie?

The knit tie is distinctive for having a straight shape throughout, with the top as wide as the bottom. It’s also known for its classic square end or a more contemporary triangular tip and is  usually made from wool or silk.  The more common silk knit tie can be soft or have a crunchy feel to the touch, which is known as the “cri de la soie” or the “cry of the silk.” 

Traditional silk ties tend to be associated with formality and can make you wonder if you’re overdressed, especially for occasions when you’re unsure what the dress code is. Got a wedding during the summer and it’s outdoors? That’s when a knit tie’s versatility really comes through, as it can be used to subtly tone down a formal look or make a casual outfit appear more put-together. Catherine Hayward, the Fashion Director of Esquire UK, described the knit tie as the “…rebellious younger brother of the tie world. Maverick, unorthodox, spirited.” 


The Origins of the Silk Knit Tie

The necktie that we’re all familiar with today became the most common menswear accessory around the 1920s. During this time period, ties were usually woven in silk or were knitted from yarn or wool. An excerpt below by The New York Times from July 11, 1922 showcases the knit tie’s popularity at the time: 

Manufacturers of knitted ties say the volume of early Fall orders… has been good. They point out that the knitted tie has been in better demand this season than ever before and claim this is because of its superior wearing qualities as compared with silk ties.

Knit ties often maintained a lower price point than silk ties and were increasingly worn during the war period, as well as postwar years due to shortages in silk. As such, they attracted not just the working class but also college men, who frequently wore them on Ivy League campuses. Often handmade for young men by their mothers or grandmothers, make-your-own knit tie sets also became standard gifts. Due to the knit tie’s popularity with college men, it became associated with men’s casual wear. 


The Silk Knit Tie and 007

The knit tie wasn’t regarded as a more formal option until a style icon known for his tailored suits and shaken martinis came along. Bond, James Bond, of course. Ian Fleming’s novels are known to describe Bond’s attire as detailed and as eloquently as his adventures. An excerpt from the third chapter of Moonraker is a great example of this:

He went into his bedroom, filled the wide black case with cigarettes and slipped it into his hip pocket, put on a black knitted silk tie and his coat and verified that his cheque book was in his notecase…Then he selected two white silk handkerchiefs, carefully rumpled them, and put one into each side-pocket of his coat.

Sean Connery as 007 also frequently wore knit ties with suits and sports jackets in 1960s movies such as Goldfinger and To Russia With Love. The knit tie as Bond’s choice of accessory in both the novels and the movies is appropriate as it embodies his character perfectly: a worldly yet insouciant jetsetter who can just easily roll up his knit tie in his luggage.


Jay Butler’s Silk Knit Tie

Whether you’re a frequent traveler or you’re a desk-to-dinner type, it’s hard not to appreciate the convenience of a knit tie. It won’t crease or wrinkle, it adds texture and personality to your ensemble, and it can be dressed up or down. 

Here at Jay Butler, we approached the design process of our knit ties in the same way as we did for our range of loafers: they had to be well-styled, well-made, and well-priced.

We’re proud of our knit tie, which is crafted from 100 percent silk and made in Germany on a 100-year old knitting machine, leaving a texture that is nothing short of impeccable. We offer them in versatile colors of navy, red, olive green, brown, burgundy, light blue and dark green so there’s a Jay Butler knit tie for every occasion and season. Our silk knit tie is equally at home with a linen blazer in the summer as it is a tweed sports coat in the winter.

The crunchy texture of our knit ties allows for plenty of styling opportunities, from pairing our navy silk knit tie with a navy blazer or our brown knit tie with a button-down and a cardigan for an off-duty weekend ensemble. The classic square end also adds a vintage vibe to any look.

With a width of 2.5 inches that’s a bit narrower than most business ties and a length of 56 inches that’s ideal for a classic four-in-hand-knot, our silk knit tie (click for link) is the travel-friendly accessory you never knew your wardrobe needed.

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