The casual tie

by Harry Sheff

For two capitol city contemporary stores, ties are best suited to denim.

Neither Austin, Texas nor Madison, Wisconsin are known for formal dress, despite each being a capitol city, but they each have an innovative menswear retailer that does a fairly good neckwear business. A casual one.

“Dressing, especially for men, doesn’t get more casual than it does in Austin,” said Steve Shuck of Stag. “Yet, despite this relaxed dressing, ties have become a larger piece of the business for us over the last year. Ties are definitely becoming more of a staple in a guy’s casual wardrobe. A lot of this upswing has been due to makers like The Hill-Side, Hitsman, Forage and Brett Fahlgren (to name a few) making ties that are more appropriate for this look. They make classic styles with less traditional patterns, colors and fabrications. As tailored clothing, even in sportswear, has become a more important part of our business, we expect that more guys will add ties to their everyday wardrobe.”

Context in Madison doesn’t yet carry tailored clothing (it’s arriving for the first time this fall), but they’ve done a good neckwear business for years. “Our customer is trending toward less formal ties out of non-silk materials,” says Ryan Huber. “The Hill-Side is our biggest and most successful tie brand, followed by Engineered Garments, which is a full collection (and a very extensive one). The way to present Engineered Garments is to buy into their accessories. [The brand’s designer] Daiki Suzuki shows a unique range of accessories each season, everything from your more basic pointed-end tie to really interesting hats and pocket squares. We do a big business in ties with them. We also do Band of Outsiders.”

Casual ties in chambray, canvas, denim and other non-silk constructions seem to have two kinds of customers: younger guys who’ve never worn ties and want to start with something versatile and older ones who are looking for a modern look.

“We get younger guys who need a tie (maybe even their first one) for an occasion like a wedding or a party. He’s looking for something that can transcend this single use, but is still a tie that he can throw on with jeans,” says Shuck. “Our more mature customer is looking for an update when he is shopping for a tie. Maybe he has never worn a bow tie and wants to jump on that trend, or is looking for a fresh color or pattern. Most of these guys are not shopping for ties for work, but to wear more casually. Many of our guys are looking for ties that he can wear to elevate his jeans and jacket uniform, while others are really committing to a more quirky, gentlemanly look overall.”

Huber has customers coming to Context looking for wedding ties, too. “We have a lot of guys coming in saying they’re getting married outside or in a barn,” he says. “They don’t want to wear a black suit and white shirt. They want something dressy, but appropriate for that setting. We sell a lot of Hill-Side ties and pocket squares for weddings because it’s a whole different take on dressy.”

The Hill-Side

The Hill-Side was founded about three years ago by brothers Emil and Sandy Corsillo in Brooklyn. They started with square-bottomed ties and pocket squares out of chambray and other non-silk fabrics sourced in Japan. Ties retail for $76 to $95 and pocket squares and bandanas for $39 to $62 (some special editions for more). The brothers also operate a retail store called Hickoree’s Hard Goods, a floor below their offices in a building near the Williamsburg Bridge in Brooklyn, and online at

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