New Ideas in Neckwear

New ideas in menswear aren’t impossible, but they are hard to come by. Men, we hear, don’t like to stand out. So menswear designers, their creativity bound by CFOs and retailers loath to take risks, are forced to hide some of their more vibrant impulses—hence the wildly colorful suit jacket linings we’ve been seeing for the last few years.

But every once in a while, someone comes up with a novel idea that changes just enough of the details to make something traditional new again—without freaking out the traditionalists. Eric Glennie, 40, an Apple Valley, Minn., designer, may be one of those people. He worked for a trucking firm as a transportation broker for 20 years, but got laid off during the recession. He’s been using the time to hone some of the necktie and apparel designs he’s come up with over the years.

Glennie’s big idea is something he calls “The Congruent Necktie,” a tie in which the stripes reverse at the seam so that when tied, they are all running the same direction. “I think the reason neckwear has lost business is the lack of innovation,” Glennie told me via e-mail. “The perfect suit jacket looks okay with a monochromatic black tie like Dolce and others, but you can never create the perfect look with a striped tie in today’s fashion because the stripes in the tie knot skew direction. The congruent necktie complements the perfect tailored jacket because the stripes run similar top to bottom.”

Glennie got a nice write-up from L.A. Times fashion blogger Adam Tschorn in early April, and that’s given him a lot of encouragement. He sells his ties for $59.99 (plus $6 shipping) online at EricGlennie.com. They are all-silk and come in 2-inch and 4-inch models. He has other tie designs in which the ends are different colors, creating a contrasting knot.

Glennie is new to the business and he hasn’t gotten any retailers to bite yet. He’s got an incredibly tough road ahead of him if he chooses to stay on it, but he hasn’t been daunted by the retail cynicism that we all wade through every day. He’s more an idea man, rather than a fashion designer—a rare creature in the men’s business.

No, a subtle shift in stripes isn’t going to save the necktie from obscurity, but as long as hopeful new designers still think neckwear is a viable accessory, the necktie will not die. Nor will the tie’s natural partner, the suit. The future of tailored clothing will not come from the big guys—they’re getting too beaten down by the economy, the major department stores and the unrelenting casual dress codes. It will come from the small designers and regular people who take the risks that the majors can’t afford to take.

Photos courtesy of Eric Glennie.

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