If your stomach is in Windsor knots about what to get dad for Father's Day, don't despair. This year pop may actually welcome that 3-by-10-inch box containing the old standby gift: a tie.
An explosion of new styles has hit the menswear market over the past few years. Ties have become a way for men to express themselves, with patterns and colors ranging from screaming to shy.
This spring, ties are wider, currently stabilized at 4 inches; brighter, in colors like fuchsia, purple and chartreuse, and patterns are bold, bold, bold. "Current styles are a result of an evolutionary process traced back to the late 1980s," said Jerry Andersen of the Neckwear Association of America. "Men started wearing antique ties from the 1940s emblazoned with scenic and art deco patterns. This fringe trend resulted in today's conversational prints."
Every dad has received a quiet foulard, but this year why not select a tie that fits his personality. Extroverted dads might like the bold, unconventional designs of Lorenzo Vega's patchwork collection available at Saeno. The Vega signature is a pieced silk tie, usually priced around $85. Multi-colored swatches of silk are hand-sewn into stripe, square and harlequin patterns. Sometimes, up to 60 pieces are combined to make one tie.
Another version in Vega's patchwork collection is a textured (brocade) ribbon inserted into a solid-color silk base. The ribbons are ornate, nubby weaves that resemble the coarsely woven Guatemalan fabrics. "Men are actually buying suits to go with these ties, when traditionally it has been the other way around," said Liana Toscanini, vice president of Lorenzo Vega. "Vega's main goal is to design something different."
And he does. Only 20 ties in each pattern are available nationwide, and recently he came up with a new feature: Each tie has a pocket from the label to the tip. This would be the perfect place to keep a pen, a business card or cash.
Talkative fathers will get a kick out of the conversational print ties of Nicole Miller now available at the Femme boutique. Ms. Miller's trail-blazing designs helped pave the way for the resurgence of the extreme.
And just what is a conversational print? Conversationals are topical prints in high-contrast colors, according to Lori Oscher, a design assistant at Nicole Miller, who has about 30 prints available now. The ties are constructed from sand-washed silk Jacquards ($60) and wovens ($65) with subject-related objects scattered across the tie.
Femme carries an eclectic variety of ties with topics revolving around hobbies and professions. The stock-trade tie is printed with pens, memos and catch-phrases like "Just Fax Me," "Free Market" and "Bottom Line" in a gray and burgundy color scheme. The colorful dentist tie, strewn with surgical tools, tubes of toothpaste and terms like "Periodontal Irrigators" and "Laminates," pops right out from beneath a white lab coat. A tie picturing a chaotic conglomeration of running Dalmatians on a blazing red background is ideal for fire-fighting fathers.
"Men are like kids in candy stores when it comes to these ties," said Ms. Oscher, "They always see one they want." Nicole Miller fans can look forward to the Engineer Tie Collection scheduled to appear in stores after Sept. 30. The front and back flap of the tie will depict different themes in before and after stages. A perfect accessory for New Year's Eve, one tie will show a full champagne bottle on the front flap and the back will show an empty glass and a bottle of aspirin.
Those buying for conservative fathers can look to the traditional styles of J.Crew, Joseph A. Bank and Brooks Brothers. Polka dots, small graphic dots, rep stripes, regimental stripes and cotton madras and tartan plaids are featured by J.Crew this season. Rep stripes are being shown in unusual color combinations such as pink and orange. Otherwise, colors are classical pastel and bright shades.