What is Shantung?

16 February 2018

"With its Spice Road origins, fascinating texture and superb versatility, a Shantung tie is an easy win for any wardrobe"

On a formality scale that ranges from an unstructured sports jacket and chino trousers combination to a business-formal two-piece suit, a Shantung tie sits squarely in the middle. The nature of its fabric is essentially what makes the necktie so versatile in different environments.

Less formal than a striped wool or silk tie yet significantly dressier than a knitted one, Shantung is the Switzerland of ties. It appeals to most menswear enthusiasts with enough drape to respect all but the most formal of suits or occasions, yet also the texture to add dimension (and fascination) to a more casual look.

The Shantung tie is named after the Chinese province of Shandong from which the source raw silk originates. For Westerners, the Shandong name was anglicised in the 19th century to Shantung. Either way, the name translates as ‘east of the mountains’ with its province situated to the east of the Taihang Mountains.

For centuries, Shandong has been a hub of textile and wine production. It is also an origin for the Silk Road, the famed trading route that extended from Asia to Europe and North Africa. The city of Zibo has been the epicentre of silk production and continues to be the most reputable provider of Shantung silk.

A type of raw silk, Shantung fabric is noted for its ‘slubby’ texture – referring to a lumpy, deliberately imperfect finish that lends great character. Shantung is usually heavier and thicker than other varieties of silk, yet far less treated and groomed. Hence, leading to its ribbed effect. It has a soft, yet slightly crisp hand and are most commonly woven in plain colours or repp stripes.

The Shantung tie can very comfortably be paired with several looks and within various occasions. Its earthy texture adds a casual note to business-formal suitings, and even works well with casual suitings from cotton and linen to flannel and other lightweight wool. Corduroy or tweed are also good alternatives to consider pairing with Shantung in colder seasons and less-formal settings.

With its Spice Road origins, fascinating texture and superb versatility, a Shantung tie is an easy win for any wardrobe – and an Oscar Hunt Tailors' recommendation.

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