My husband, a scientist/engineer, worked in Tokyo for 13 years where men’s dress code is quite rigid: dark, well-tailored suit, white shirt and tie. He is now in Silicon Valley, where no one wears a tie. What to do with the more than 50 beautiful silk ties in his closet? Even thrift stores and charity shops don’t have a great need. I’m thinking of turning them into a psychedelic quilt. Other ideas? — Kat, San Jose, California.
I imagine there’s an ocean of men out there with the same problem: a tie rack full of ties and nowhere to wear them.
Silicon Valley isn’t the only industry where the tie, once an investment sartorial and one of the few ways for men to express their individuality in the office, has fallen out of favor. Even in the financial sector, ties are increasingly an endangered species, which may explain why resale stores are less interested; the market is not there.
That said, there are still occasions when a tie comes in handy: weddings, court, funerals, and Washington, DC, among others. There’s a reason why when tech titans testify before Congress, even they emerge in suits and ties. So I’d save a handful, maybe even 10, for good measure. The very old-fashioned and institutional character of the tie can sometimes be an advantage.
And ties are still usually expected in job interviews, so there are charities like career equipment, Vietnam Veterans of America and Adapted 4 Successes created specifically to help men get back to work (they are the male equivalent of Dress for Success), who are looking for more formal business suit gifts. The real real will also accept ties from top brands like Hermès, Brioni and Ralph Lauren if you want to go the resale route.
For the rest, you have the right idea: upcycle. Ties are often made in gorgeous silk colors and patterns, and they can be used in all sorts of fantastic next-use scenarios. Erin Beatty, a designer whose new brand Re-entry is all about upcycled clothing and homewares, suggesting thinking of a skirt.
“Start by pinning the ties all together with the narrowest part on top until you get your waistline,” she said, and sew from there. Ms Beatty also suggested ties could be used to add pizzazz to a button-up shirt by opening the side seams and inserting some silk. “Suddenly you have a one-of-a-kind shirt that everyone will notice,” she said.
If you are looking for inspiration, Etsy has an entire section dedicated to repurposed ties that have been given new life as pillows, pins, patches, scarves, wristbands, and more.
If that all sounds like too much, or if more complicated sewing isn’t within your skill set, Ms Beatty had a simpler suggestion: “Just cut and sew them on like patches,” she said. . “Cover half the back pockets of your favorite jeans or the top one inch of a patch pocket on a shirt.”
Never, she added, “underestimate the power of adornments.”
Answers to your style questions
Every week on Open Thread, Vanessa will answer a reader’s fashion question, which you can send her anytime via E-mail Where Twitter. Questions are edited and condensed.