When it comes to dress wear, we men seem to be starved of options. While women have an ostensibly infinite variety of dresses and gowns available for formal occasions, men have the suit.
There are only a few suitable hues of suits for most situations (and if we’re getting into technical color theory, black and gray make even that hard to say), a handful of nearly indistinguishable styles (with the quantity of buttons and breasts actually being used as the basis of categorization), and each suit comes at such expense and is such a hassle to fit that most of us own only a suit or two. The realm of formal footwear offers the fashionable male even fewer options. (Toes: round or square? Laces: yes or no? Colors: black or brown—better match your belt!) And while shirts do open up a world of multicolored stripes and checkers, they’re mostly hidden beneath our jackets and tucked into our trousers.
With such a constrained closet, how does a man express himself and differentiate himself from his peers? Through his necktie, of course.
Neckwear is seen as such an indicator of a man’s personality that it becomes a subject of rigorous analysis during presidential speeches and debates. But as vital as ties are to a man’s wardrobe, they’re also perhaps the most fragile articles in it, their delicate silk or cloth being susceptible to creases and stains. And unlike other articles of clothing, ties are in particular danger when you’re not even wearing them: Storing your ties in the wrong position or location, whether in a closet or self-storage unit, will quickly lead to their ruin.
So how should you go about storing your prized ties? Unfortunately, with SpareFoot being such a casual work environment, I’m nowhere near qualified to answer that question. So I sought out Omar Sayyed of Ties.com for his expert advice on caring for and maintaining ties while they’re in storage.
Letting It Loose
Before you put your tie away, you’ll need to take it off—unfortunately, many men find themselves in a tangle over this step and end up damaging their neckwear. “Don’t pull on it like you’re in the movies. Always unknot your knot and gently pull apart the sides,” Omar said. “Most ties are delicate, and pulling them roughly may damage the stitching and lining.”
If you’re in a situation where you need to take your tie off and are unable to access your closet, don’t fold the loose tie or stuff it into your pocket. “Treat a tie the way you would a pair of dress pants,” Omar said. In other words, try to keep the tie straight and loose.
“If you’re out and about town or find yourself somewhere you can’t hang your tie, roll it from end to end (from the tail to the head). This will reduce your risk of damaging the lining or getting creases in your tie,” he said. Remember, though, that rolling your tie is only a temporary solution until you can find somewhere to hang it.
Storing Your Tie
Now that your tie is hanging loose off your neck, how should you put it away? “The best way to store your ties on a day-to-day basis is on a tie rack,” Omar said. “Tie racks come in all shapes and sizes and in a number of conventional materials to suit your preference.”
These range from basic metal or wood frames that either can be mounted to a wall or hung like a clothes hanger, to electric racks with lights and carousels or those made of finer, more fragrant woods, like cedar. Hang your ties evenly across the pegs or hooks of the tie rack, so that the center section of the tie lies across the peg and the head and tail of the tie are of equal length. Make sure the tie is perfectly flat on the peg, or else you still can get creases and folds.
Even though it may seem more space-efficient to roll up or fold your ties and put them in a drawer, doing so for more than a short period will leave the fabric creased and warped. “Don’t roll them for a long period of time and don’t put fold them,” Omar said. “You may inadvertently put pressure on it, and it may leave your tie misshaped.”
Extra Precautions for Self-Storage
While making sure your tie is loose and is hanging correctly from a tie rack is enough for your closet, self-storage units present more danger to your neckwear. You typically don’t have to worry about damage from light, humidity or temperature in your closet.
“If you are storing your ties at a storage facility, you want to make sure your unit is dry, clean and cool,” Omar said.
We recommend going with a storage unit that offers climate control, as this maintains a stable temperature and humidity and typically is better protected from the outside world, making it harder for pests to invade. Humidity poses a particular hazard to both cloth and silk ties, as high levels of humidity will encourage the growth of mold and mildew, which will eat away at organic materials.
Omar recommends keeping ties on the rack if possible and then covering the entire rack with a dust bag. If you have nowhere to hang the rack (as is likely in a storage unit, unless you own a mobile clothes rack) or lack the space, you can box up your ties, but remember to try to keep them as flat and straight as possible. If you don’t have a box or container long enough, fold your tie once, preferably at the vertical middle. Keep in mind that this likely will leave a crease, particularly on silk ties. Rolling your ties is another space-friendly way to store them, but that also puts them in danger of warping, particularly if any pressure is put on them.
Removing Creases and Stains
If your tie was creased or stained while in storage, there are a few ways to get out the creases or stains.
For stains, Omar recommends using a spot cleaner (and personally recommends Dryel On The Go). If the stain still won’t come out, you can look into taking the tie to a dry cleaner.
If your tie is creased, “hang it in your bathroom and take showers as you normally do,” Omar said. “Typically, the steam from the shower loosens up the fiber and acts like a low pressure dry cleaner. If that does not work, use an iron at a very low setting and only iron the parts that are creased.” This last option is risky, as heat can endanger silk ties.
Caring for a Tie When Traveling
Transporting your ties, whether while traveling or moving them into a storage unit, often puts them in the most danger. Unless you’re already bringing a suit on a hanger, it’ll be hard to keep your tie straight. Omar offers a few solutions.
“You can use a gift roll to store your tie and travel with it. This is the best solution, as the case is hard enough to hold its shape and protect your ties from the pressures of being in a luggage,” he said. “If you don’t have one, roll it up and put it in a pair of shoes, or inside your suit jacket.” You also can buy a handy travel case to keep your tie safe.