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Neck and Neck

This fall’s race for the trendiest neckwear is all about being bold.

By PAMELA DITTMER MCKUEN
    For a hug around the neck this fall, think tradition with a twist. Ties and scarves evoke a warm familiar feeling, and then along comes an unexpected burst of color or texture.
   Trends in menswear are leaning toward the conservative and tailored, and accessories naturally follow, says Jeff Landis, owner of Montopoli Custom Clothiers in the South Loop.
   “With that being said, guys are looking to establish a little more individuality as well,” Landis says. “Neckwear is the one little area where he can step out a bit.”
   Paisleys are hot. Stripes were never out, but now they’re bolder. Abstracts are artier than ever.
   “It’s not your grandpa’s necktie anymore,” says Chicago style consultant Kate Shifrin. “There’s no standard stripe or rep tie, or if there is, it’s got some bold color. Even corporate America, which is pretty much into the basics, is going for something a little extra.”
   Autumn’s rich palette stretches the concept of earth tones into variations of gold, pumpkin, eggplant, plum, mauve and indigo. Being an election year, there are plenty of powerful reds and blues going around, although it is not true that Republicans always wear red ties and Democrats always wear blue ones, Shifrin observes.
   One of the newest looks is the combination of multiple prints, small and subdued, often in related hues.
   “People used to call it ‘clashing,’” Shifrin says. “Now it is acceptable to do a beautiful print shirt against a beautiful print tie, generally in a monochromatic color tone, or maybe the tie picks up another color in the shirt. It’s a strong statement.”
   Printed ties, hand-painted or not, offer even more opportunity for self-expression. The Boca Raton, Fla.-based DeSantis Collection launched its Collezione Artista line this year, which is inspired by the works of significant contemporary artists. The first is internationally acclaimed Salvatore Principe of New York and Del Ray Beach. His color-charged collection includes several limited editions, limited in that 50 ties of each print are signed and numbered on the back.
   “They are very collectible,” says DeSantis corporate director Judi Fox. “The gentleman is wearing a piece of art as opposed to just a tie.” DeSantis ties are priced from $90 to $285 and sold via catalog and online. On the website, www.desantiscollection.com, are illustrated instructions for tying full Windsor, half Windsor and four-in-hand knots.
   Other recent re-inventions are knits and knots. Knit ties, once the domain of conservative circles and still embraced there, have been adopted by the young and groovy. Musical artists Sean “Diddy” Combs and Jay-Z have set a high bar for extra-large knots.
   And pocket squares are back, says Landis.
   “They are a nice way to give a dash of color,” says Landis. “If you have a pair of charcoal gray slacks and a black cashmere blazer, it looks nice. But put the right paisley pocket square in there, and all of a sudden, you have an outfit.”
   For women, the traditional choices have long been the large square and long skinny, now in eye-popping color. They’ve been joined by smaller squares for neck and head wraps and shorter pieces for neo-ascots.
   “Knitting is such a popular pastime right now,” says Shifrin. “You’re seeing a lot of crochet, metallics, fringes and boas. A scarf isn’t for warmth or winter. It’s a very affordable, fun year-round accessory.”
   One devotee is Natalie McAllister, vice president of sales and marketing for Hydrology, an upscale bath fixture and furniture showroom in Chicago.
   “In the interior design industry, it’s all about the collision of functionality and beauty,” McAllister says. “A fashionable wardrobe should follow the same form. I use scarves as bracelets to add texture and color, and the silk lends a cooling sensation on a warm day. I also use them to hold my five-year-old daughter’s hair back. Plus, it gives her an edgy look, which she loves.”
   Don’t discount the pashmina, says Shifrin. It might not be as trendy as it once was, but it’s light weight and enduring warmth make it a classic. Just think of the possibilities: a shawl, a hood, a wrap with jeans or gown.
   Then there’s the scarf look without the scarf. Fall’s most irresistible blouses are fashioned with high ruffles, bows, ties or flounces—in matching or contrasting hues.
   “In the business world, it is important for women to have some femininity in their clothing,” says Shifrin. “Suits tend to be very masculine. A really great blouse with a bow gives softness to the face. It’s a nice contrast with blue jeans, too.”

Published: August 09, 2008
Issue: Fall 2008 Politics Issue