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A rough gem

Shantung is a matte, richly textured woven silk fabric. It combines a dry, rough surface that’s closer to linen with the springy resilience and deep colours of traditional silk. The slubby surface of shantung silk gives ties an eye-catching appearance and relaxed, even unrefined character.

Sometimes called ‘raw’ silk, shantung is literally unrefined. There are two main proteins in silk, fibroin and sericin. Fibroin creates the central bonds of silk thread, sericin produces the gummy wrapping around it. Ordinarily, raw silk is boiled to remove the sericin before spinning. Leave this step out, and instead of the usual shiny, uniform fabric, you get a rough surface with an erratic pattern of streaks and slubs. It’s an unusual creation, and not widely produced. Ours is milled in both Suffolk, England and Como, Italy exclusively for H.N. White.

With so much surface interest, shantung is best suited to simple designs: solid colours, regimental patterns, and wide block stripes. These ties are not for blending in, but neither are they excessively loud. What they bring is the same charming, slightly chaotic personality as tweed. Shantungs are a good a summer alternative to thick woollen ties. They have all the character of a rough tweed or thick cashmere herringbone without the weight and winter feel. For that reason, a shantung tie is the ideal complement to that other summer staple, the washed cotton suit. Both give a familiar formal garment an air of relaxed enjoyment and ease. The perfect choice for summer weddings.

Leaving silk raw means allowing the material to make its own patterns and complications. Each tie is irregular, and for that reason unique. Even in plain or conservative patterns, shantung is still full of life. The best thing might be the simple fun of these pieces. Ours are made with the usual exacting treatment: constructed by hand and finished with a scrupulously hand-rolled tip.