By Film Noir Buff

…and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked `poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.
However, this bottle was NOT marked `poison,’ so Alice ventured to taste it, and finding it very nice, (it had, in fact, a sort of mixed flavour of cherry-tart, custard, pine-apple, roast turkey, toffee, and hot buttered toast,) she very soon finished it off.
`What a curious feeling!’ said Alice; `I must be shutting up like a telescope.’

Fear of change is with us always because change is the great foe of tradition. But there will always be that unknown bottle to try and someone, like our Alice, will always be courageous enough to do so. And, far from destroying tradition, will forever alter themselves and the world around them for the better.

Drake’s ties have braved Alice’s bottle and evolved.

The average English person might not be interested in their ties because though English, Drake’s are not typical of English tastes. Typically, English ties are either very conservative or very flashy while the more sophisticated looks of Milan and Paris are absent. Drake’s international mission is to offer English taste the way the Italians, French and Americans imagine it and offer a style that all men of taste will recognize.

Drake’s outlook is an updated version of the international look of the 1930s when men, irrespective of their origins, could admire universal good taste in a necktie or shirt on each other. It all sounds like a very exciting style but how do they accomplish it?

Drake’s asserts that the art of dressing well is incorporating something special into the outfit that the observer would not think of but would find appealing. The London City practice of matching the tie and cufflinks to the shirt is a universal starting point and beloved by the great bulk of English city workers but the most sophisticated and self assured English dressers advance past this stage. To make it clearer, the coloring by numbers approach may be England but it is the England of the tie wearing masses. The most discriminating England is one of individuals wearing smart combinations of both color and pattern.1

Caption: This is NOT a Drake’s shirt and tie combination. The Jermyn Street look of red and white striped or checked shirt and a red and white tie aren’t for him. When it comes to accessories, the English generally think that whatever is the brightest and most shocking is the best. Also English is the belief that there should be nothing fabulous about the tie sitting on the shirt, it just sits on the shirt because it picks up the same colors. Simple and safe. Branching out sartorially for most Englishmen is akin to throwing darts at a board.

For example, a brown tie with a grey flannel suit makes a man more dapper but it cuts against the grain of the standard English approach. However, a brown tie gives an outfit more sophistication and warmth when paired with a grey suit and white shirt; in summer add a tan panama hat for a real coup de maitre.

These ties are from the Drake’s Spring Summer ‘08 Collection

Drake’s offer brown woven ties in patterns that relate back to the Duke of Windsor’s times and often based on archival swatches from the period. In the past they would have been rendered in Navy (a light navy) and white or black and white (In England’s 1930s, black and grey hadn’t yet solidified a fascist association.)

For woven ties, Drake’s uses English macclesfield, end- on-end silk. Traditionally, in end on end silk, the warp is equal parts black and white with colour added in the weft usually with white crossing the white and colour crossing the black. The result is a fresh crisp pattern with clarity of design.

Perhaps the best examples of English style reside outside of the culture altogether because Mr. Drake admires the English look the way the French wear it. The French lend the English look an air of chic in a way the English rarely could; which means that although it’s all English clothing at the same time it isn’t assembled in an English manner. Is it any wonder that he admires Hermes?

Another country which aspires to English style but not the Way the English would combine it is Italy. The Italians wear the English clothes very well but they wear them precisely as items of fashion, not cultural signals. They will have none of the rumpled look the English wear so well. But then, neither will the French, Swiss or Germans and this is the divide between the familiar ease of England and the heel clicking Continent. Drake’s believe that Italy’s artistic eye enhances the English style and he draws on their dressing deportment for inspiration. And, although the Drake’s aesthetic is not Italian, they do seek to create the England that appeals to Italy’s daydreams.

Photographs from Drake’s Spring Summer 08 collection – Vintage Madders created in shades of cream, brown and blue.

Drake’s make a lot of prints in proportion to woven ties (about 50-50) which is not very English. The English tend to congregate around heavy woven ties although if they do wear a print, it will be a heavy weight silk one. The Italians like heavy prints and in terms of color backgrounds they prefer navy or blue (60%), then wines and greens and browns (20%), then everything else (20%). Italian shirts tend towards blue stripes and solids. They like charcoal and grey suits, they love brown shoes. The English wouldn’t touch a brown tie for city wear but the city lads will choose a pink tie for a change of pace.

When Drake’s design a collection they take every culture’s taste into consideration; Japan’s, France’s , America’s and Italy’s. They approach it not only from the stand point of the elegant man but also from the current of fashion. They try to envisage what sort of person would wear each tie collection and for what purpose or event. Colors, patterns and their combinations as well as what sort of shirts and jackets they will be worn with are all carefully considered to ensure the end result is not simply…ties.

Photographs from Drake’s Spring Summer collection – 50oz handprinted Foulard silk._These pastel colors are hand printed in England. They are all lined with 36 oz white silk to give them a clean, fresh look. For summer; pale blue, lilac beige, light apple green and pink and red.

Photographs of Drake’s tie archive designs circa 2004 – bondage art including intertwined whips, fetish shoes and girl with gag. All Collections have themes and although most of the ties made are geometrical, some of them can be quite whimsical such as Indian Gods, World War Two aircraft nose art, clowns and, as shown above, 1950s bondage art from period magazines.

The trendiest shops get the narrow 7cm width ties while other shops get 8 or 9cm width ties. Although for the narrow ties, Drakes ensures that the knot they make is still somewhat substantial.

Does Mr. Drake believe there a difference between a well dressed man and a dandy? There is a difference between someone who dresses in a very elegant but correct way, who does everything better than everyone else and who must have the best of every article of clothes but nothing outlandish. A dandy wears more extreme items like a skin tight jacket with a particular color shirt to pick up a particular hair color.

Drake’s do all the ties for Mimmo Spano’s shop at Saks 5th Avenue which are the best quality woven end- on-end silks with some color; the typical 1930s high luxury. It’s a chairman of the board look, very strong and definite.

The biggest single giveaway as to whether a man knows how to dress well is that relationship between suit, shirt and tie. That V formed by the closing of the suit button. A man can wear the finest handmade suit but if the shirt and tie aren’t right, it’s a sure sign that the wearer doesn’t know how to dress with panache. And the tie, like a pair of shoes, is an especially strong indicator of the taste and style of the wearer. It’s another real give away

Drake’s are the largest handmade tie manufacturer in the UK; their biggest markets are Italy, Japan and the USA. In the USA, their tie collections can be found at both Bergdorf Goodman and Barneys. The ties made for Italy have that old world English look which the Italians make a cult of and the English do not wear anymore. It’s a classic look which showcases an endless array of snowflake like patterns and the Italians cannot get enough of it. They are mostly printed on 36oz silks.

Photographs from Drake’s Spring Summer 08 Collection.
Is there a shift again for American tastes? Drake’s make a lot of ties for stores in the USA which are good for New York but wouldn’t sell in Europe. There are rules in Europe but American men are much more flexible about their choice of ties.

A machine made tie is flat and lifeless. A handmade tie2 is folding around the lining and stitched by hand for that “rounded” look which lends it liveliness and suggests quality and elegance. Of course it takes around 40 minutes of labor to complete a tie made by hand while machines can turn them out by the second.

And what is that “rounded” look? The high grade tie silk is pressed only lightly so that they make a fuller, springier knot. Does handmade make for a better tie? Everything that you do better helps the item out, and in this case hand making of the ties allows for a more luxurious item.

Drake’s has its look which can be summed up as English style with Italian artistic flair. In Italy, Drake’s are the British rock stars of tie makers. They also have a large following in Japan because it seems the Japanese love the Italian interpretation of English style! Rock on.

Drake’s own crest which his wife drew up. Cashmere goat holds up one side of the shield and inside it resides a little drake, a lamb signifying wool, a moth signifying silk, and because their Italian customers used to refer to the company as the cat and the fox, they put the fox on top of the shield and the cat holding up the other side of it.

Our hero partakes of one of his creations rather like a wine aficionado sampling in the comfort of his own cellar.

Drakes have their own web site at www.drakes-london.com

Drakes online shop is at shoponline.drakes-london.com


1 Although the observation is appreciated, it might also display an Englishman’s fatigue concerning the routine cultural style. The “paint by numbers” style may be rather simplistic but is not necessarily less sophisticated with regards to the message it sends to the observer which is straightforward, trustworthy; one of the tribe. It would seem like we are dealing with two competitive choices here which are more like the difference between soap & water clean and well-blended cologne.

2 Handmade or not, every man damages a tie at some point, and what is he to do about it? Truthfully, you cannot successfully clean and press a tie commercially. The tie has to be unstitched, cleaned and sewn back together with a brand new lining.

  1. Will    Sep 20, 16:23    #

    Nice piece. I fervently hope Drake fares better than the last necktie maker written about here.

  2. — FNB    Sep 22, 16:01    #

    I suppose as long as he steers clear of trunk shows, his survival is somewhat assured.

  3. — James Michelsberg    Jul 17, 06:31    #

    Really enjoyed your article – I run a bespoke tailoring business based in Leeds – please drop me an email. Cheers. James

  4. Gentleman's Gazette    Apr 3, 15:43    #

    Nice article, I particularly enjoyed the background about the crest drawn by Michael Drake’s wife.
    Recently we had the chance to meet with Michael Drake personally and posted a video of our Interview on our website: http://www.gentlemansgazette.com/drakes-ties-interview/

    Regards, Sven Raphael Schneider – Gentleman’s Gazette

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