A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

Does the number of gold threads in a tie's lining indicate its quality?

December 20, 1991

Dear Cecil:

The other day at work we were sitting around (on our coffee break, of course) telling stories about our middle school days. We discovered that although we grew up in different parts of the country (Atlanta and Dallas), the students in both our middle schools believed you could tell the quality of a necktie by the number of golden threads running through the lining inside.

When we graduated to high school and our parents began to equip us with nicer neckwear, we noticed that some expensive ties such as Hermes and older Brooks Brothers models did contain the much sought-after golden stripes, confirming our beliefs. However, other quality ties such as newer Brooks Brothers and Perry Ellis were stripeless.

Is there any basis for the belief that gold threads mean quality? Or have we been prying open perfectly good ties all these years for nothing

Cecil replies:

This is what guys talk about nowadays? Whatever happened to cars, sports, and girls? Contrary to common belief, the number of gold stripes in a tie's inner batting (the "interlining") does not indicate its quality. We might have guessed this. You really think a manufacturer would use a lining proclaiming that it made crummy ties?

Gold stripes indicate that the lining (1) was made by the Ack-Ti Lining company of New York City, the world's largest maker of interlinings and holder of the gold stripe trademark; and (2) contains some wool. Wool's resiliency helps the tie hold its shape and shed wrinkles hanging in the closet overnight.

The number (as opposed to the mere presence) of gold threads indicates not the quality but the weight of the interlining. One stripe indicates the lightest material, six stripes the heaviest. Tie makers generally use light interlinings with heavy "shells" (the outer part of the tie) and heavy interlinings with light shells. This ensures that ties of varying materials all have roughly the same "hand," i.e., bulk or feel.

Years ago Ack-Ti was quite successful in promoting the idea that gold stripes = wool = quality, and Joe Citizen naturally but erroneously concluded the more stripes the better. Interlinings without gold threads aren't necessarily bad; they may simply have been made by a different manufacturer (or else they're one of Ack-Ti's non-wool varieties).

So now you're asking: If the gold stripes are no guide, what does indicate a tie's quality? While I haven't made a detailed study of the subject, my guess is that if the tie has little lights that spell out "SHRINERS," this is not a good sign. One might, I suppose, deduce that a tie with a light shell (silk, say) and a light interlining was on the cheesy side, but even that's not certain because of the trend toward ties with a lighter hand, which make a smaller knot. My advice is to check with the one font of wisdom that's never let you down. If Mom's in Vegas in this weekend, you can always fall back on Esquire magazine, America's main textbook on the art of manliness. The March, 1988 issue covers the topic in abundant detail.

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