I recently stumbled across a very cool tie maker in the Denver area called HIM Clothing.
The company is run by two entreprenueral guys – Hugh and Chris. And they have been making some big waves recently. After they attracted the attention of 5280 Magazine, I knew I had to contact them and take a close look at their products.
A few weeks back I sat down with Hugh Hartigan. He was smartly dressed and brought with him a nice looking briefcase filled with a colorful assortment of ties and bow ties.
Now, there are a handful of people making ties in Colorado today. So I’m no stranger to vintage and cotton neck wear. When Hugh passed me one of his ties, the first thing I did was flip it over and look at the construction. It immediately became clear that this guy knew how to make ties.
Suffice it to say, I knew that we had to feature HIM Clothing on the BE blog. Their quality and passion mirrors our own.
I followed up with Hugh and had him answer some questions for me…
[Ryan] HIM Clothing offers hand made neck ware and accessories for men, can you give us a little background on how your business started and what made you want to learn how to sew ties and bow ties?
[Hugh] My best friend, Chris, and I have always been artists at heart. We have known each other since kindergarten and we used to run a drawing club in elementary school. We went to different high schools, but we kept at it. I pursued painting and drawing and Chris started to get into music and ceramics.
We both graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2012 where we each received a degree in Psychology and I also received a degree in Studio Arts. Right out of college I decided to attend law school, but shortly after I started my mom lost her job and financially the schooling did not seem feasible. After getting a bartending job to help my mom out, I started looking into the fashion industry. I thought about studying it, but a friend told me that most schools were geared towards womens’ fashion and I knew I wanted to do something for men. One day I just tore apart an old Christmas tie and reconstructed it from the ground up. My mom taught me how to sew on the only machine we had available, which was a 1950 Singer Featherweight 221 (we still use the same machine for everything we make).
I made a few prototype ties for my friends’ birthdays to get a feel for the craft. After designing a logo and spreading it around social media I had more and more people asking if I had a tie company. A couple of months later I brought Chris on board, taught him how to sew, and the rest is history.
Regarding quality, what is it that men should be looking for when they shop for neck ties? What’s a mark of high-quality construction?
Chris and I are constantly striving to improve our wares, so high quality is something we are consistently trying to achieve with every new product. We had actually studied under a self-made tailor who wrote the literal handbook on making ties. There are two crucial things to look for in a high-quality neck tie:
The first is the slip stitch. This is the largest undertaking of our ties and is the most crucial step because it is what holds the entire tie together. The slip stitch is a thread that runs the entire length of the tie, holding the fabric together, but also allowing it to slide up and down the thread. If this is done improperly, the tie may bunch up awkwardly when tying. Most commercial ties machine stitch the length of the tie and simply turn the tie inside out. This saves a lot of time, but drastically reduces quality, causing the fabric to have unnatural twists and turns along its body and affecting the overall drape of the tie.
The easiest way to tell if your neck tie has a slip stitch is to delicately pull the tie apart in the back where the fold is. Here you should see little bits of thread peeking out, which indicates a slip stitch. Some commercial ties have even developed a machine that does the slip stitch, however, there’s one more way to tell if it is hand made.
On either the blade (front end) or tail (back end) of the tie, you can pull open the fabric and check for a small piece of dangling thread. True handmade ties leave about half an inch to an inch of excess thread at each end of the tie, which gives just a little extra length for the tie to slide along when tying it. This bit of thread should have a small ball knot to keep the thread from coming undone, as well as about an inch or two of excess thread past the knot. This excess thread became a calling card for old tailors to show that their slip stitch was truly hand sewn.
The second thing to look for is the bar tack. This is a small horizontal thread that can be seen on both the blade and the tail. This keeps the ends of the tie closed and helps to maintain its overall shape. Most commercial ties will simply use a thick piece of string as their bar tack; a handmade tie, on the other hand, should have a more ornate and intricate woven bar tack. This is done by wrapping thread around a primary stitch to strengthen the bar tack, adding to those little extra details we love in our ties. Chris and I have been amazed at how complicated bar tacks can get and we are constantly trying to invent more intricate weaving patterns.
About how long does it take to manufacture a neck tie? Bow tie?
Chris and I have done what we call a ‘speed run’ to see how fast we can construct a tie from start to finish with each of us working on it. There are five essential steps to making a tie: cutting, stitching, forming, sewing, and what we call ‘details’. With each of us ready at a different station as the tie was made, the fastest we have made a tie from start to finish was about an hour and a half. Working on our own, it probably takes closer to two hours. When we first started it took closer to three, so we have made a lot of progress. A proper hand sewn slip stitch alone takes about thirty minutes.
Bow ties, fortunately, are not as daunting of a task to undertake. From start to finish, the fastest I have finished a bow tie is just under forty five minutes. This includes cutting, stitching, flipping, forming, and ‘details’.
With the warm weather approaching, do you have any style advice for men that still want to dress sharp, but may shy away from wearing a tie in the summer months?
Personally, I am a huge fan of bow ties in the summer as well. They are less intrusive and less cumbersome than a tie. They lend themselves to more sessions of spontaneous activity like a pick-up game of basketball or a bike ride. More often than not, to keep your tie from flopping around, you either have to tuck it into your shirt or take it off. No such issue with bow ties, just strap it on and get outside.
My best advice for ties is to do something light. As is often the case with suiting in summer months, you want something that breaths easy like cotton or linen. You have to remember that this thing is going to be strapped to your neck, so you’re going to want some air circulation. Personally, I recommend our Essential line of ties. Each of them is constructed from locally bought cotton fabrics, which gives them a little more weightlessness. The color palette is also something I am fonder of for summer, with more muted pastel colors and minimalistic patterns.
What’s the future of HIM Clothing look like?
Chris and I have big plans for the distant future, including custom products of all kinds from shirts to boots to belts to shoe laces. However, for more current projects, we are sticking to what we do best: accessories. Chris and I have been studying different creative methods over the past few months, including wood working, metal working, and textile weaves. We are hoping to work with some other Colorado crafts people to create some exciting new products, including tie bars, cufflinks, lapel flowers, and wallets.
We are also planning on doing a line of ties with hand drawn and painted patterns from local Denver artists. In return for contributing their designs, we want to give 20% of the proceeds back to the artists to help them continue to practice their craft. Being artists ourselves, we understand how hard it can be to find success in the art world, so we want to try and provide an opportunity for those ‘starving artists’.
Are you familiar with the brand? Let us know in the comments below!