I picked up this vintage cream linen Polo Ralph Lauren necktie at a thrift store for $2.99. It was essentially unused and in perfect condition when I bought it. It is easy to see why it was so unused. It is a tough tie to incorporate well. You wouldn't think it would be this way. It is a plain color. The fabric is beautiful and textured. It seems as though it would be a dream. Yet, once you start to put an outfit together, there are all these stumbling blocks that appear before you.
First, comes the problem with a tie being lighter than the shirt. Many people don't like this. It just feels off to them. It feels better when the tie is darker than the shirt to them. Next, comes the problem of not being able to wear this tie with a white shirt. It would look incredibly strange. After this, the problem comes with the pants / shorts. When you try to wear this tie with light pants / shorts it looks like you are trying to match the tie and the pants / shorts but are doing so poorly. It just looks off. It feels similar to when your pants and coat are too close.
Lastly comes the problem of spirit and the concept of "pulling it off". Simply put, many guys feel like they wouldn't be able to pull this tie off for all of the reasons listed above plus the general sense of the tie being too unique. Additionally, the Polo logo in the middle of the tie on the bottom may also create even more issues because it draws even more attention to the tie. If you are already trepidatious with regards to trying the tie in the first place, this logo drawing attention is going to turn you away even more.
That this tie is such a menace in this way is fascinating. On paper you wouldn't think it would be, yet it is. All that aside, and even considering all of that, almost because of that, I do actually love this tie. All of this difficulty and all of its "weirdness" actually makes a uniqueness that when done right, when pulled off just the perfect way, at the right time, with the right spirit, is quite beautiful and unique.
By looking at the photo above you can see clearly what I did. I avoided all the pitfalls described above and I essentially switch the tie and the shirt. By this I mean instead of a pink tie with a white shirt, I go with a pink shirt and a white (read as cream) tie. The green Bermuda shorts work with both pink and cream. The navy blazer is our trusty friend which goes with everything. Worn-in brown boat shoes on the bottom completes the ultra-prep summer ensemble. If you imagine the entire outfit the same but with a pink tie and a white shirt, it is essentially summer preppy 101. Simply switching the color of the tie and the shirt works out perfectly.
Ties (and pieces like this tie) are tough nuts to crack. When you are thrifting, you may see items from great makers and think it must be great and buy it without any hesitation. But sometimes there is a decent reason something was given away. If I didn't have a full wardrobe with lots to choose from providing lots of flexibility or if I didn't have the discerning eye and a highly developed personal style and idea, this tie could end up gathering dust for decades (like it did in the previous owners closet). I think many guys would buy this tie because it is Polo Ralph Lauren only to discover they have no idea how to use it well because "it never seems to look right".
Even beyond the understandable situation mentioned above, this really is a tie that brings with itself such a heavy hand that it really only suits a very particular personal taste. There is, when worn like I am doing, a throwback 80s-90s feeling to it. Unless you are comfortable with that, or know how to wield that well, this tie is more of a menace than a joy. Nevertheless, the joy in threading the needle a bit, utilizing a tough to incorporate (yet beautiful) piece in a natural way, comes with tapping into a spirit and energy that can only be accessed by particular off the beaten path avenues. These are harder to find, harder to work through (one needs to be careful not to get lost), but reveal an almost secret sartorial place once you arrive. This outfit has a spirit all its own. It has a message and a near-nostalgic feeling unique to itself and it is one that is closed off and unaccessible unless you know how to find your way through the eye of the needle. There is something hidden, rare and beautiful about it if you can find your way there.