Q: In a recent column you discussed the new trend toward wider ties and you wrote something about "a tie can be made wider." Is this really possible? And if so, who can do it?
A: The newest neckties are about a half-inch wider than last year's. Altering your tie is the least expensive way to update your look. Still, not every tie has enough extra fabric to be widened to today's width. If a man wants his old 3-inch-wide tie made into a 3 3/4 - or 4-inch tie, he may find it won't work. A half-inch wider is usually doable.
The real key -- the way to find out if you have a shot at widening a favorite tie -- is to open up the back and take a look. Turn the tie over; at the widest part of the large end, partially peel back the two flaps (sides) of the tie. (When you try it with a real tie, it makes immediate sense.) You will discover that the two side flaps of fabric are different on their under sides: one is stitched shut and one has an additional fold of fabric. If the additional fold has at least a half-inch of extra fabric, the tie can probably be widened.
The problem you are most likely to face with a favorite tie: It may have had too much wear along the edges. Often a worn edge will make the tie only borderline acceptable as is, and would stand out as a vertical line when widened.
Woven fabrics are harder to widen than printed silks, because the original creases in the fabric are difficult to remove completely. Examples of woven fabrics are regimental stripes, club ties and other rep ties. Most ties are printed and can be made wider.
A company that has tie-widening down to a science is Tiecrafters, 116 E. 27th St., New York, N.Y. 10016, (212) 867-7676; FAX (212) 725-4714. They will return any tie that cannot be altered.
With the zooming cost of ties today, altering and updating is a bargain.
Q: I like the look of a tan in the summer, but I'm a blond and have fair skin. My family's medical history includes a few bouts with skin cancer (probably tan-related). Even with the new sun blocks, I don't think I should be tanning at all.
Is there some way to enjoy summer's healthy glow without risking the problems of sun exposure?
A: Even in an era when people take risks by going to tanning salons, more men are showing the same health awareness as you.
As an alternative to a real tan, many people use a self-tanning product (not the old bronzers that had to be applied each day; these darken the color of the skin). The self-assured man will not be self-conscious wearing what the insecure might refer to as "makeup." The resulting tan looks like the real thing -- only no sun is needed.
But take care: Self-tanners do not contain sun-screen protection. Do not confuse the two. If you're in the sun at all, you need some sun block.
Two of the many products that create a healthy-looking bronzed skin are Clinique's Self-Tanning Formula and Estee Lauder's Self-Action Tanning Spray. These self-tanning products work year round and will develop a rapid "tan" on all skin types without sun. They also help even out, deepen and maintain a true tan. They don't wash off, and they fade naturally.