The Italian Job: Ties & Pocket Squares

Words | Jonathan Lobban

Woven and made in Lake Como and southern Italy by our long-term partner, Davide Martinelli, our ties and pocket squares are wearable works of art.


M.J. Bale ties and pocket squares aren’t your typical sartorial standard, and neither is Davide Martinelli, our Italian maker. Born and bred in Lake Como, Davide was a police school graduate who was fortunate early on to realise that law enforcement was not aligned to his lifestyle nor passion for nightclubs and house music. He began his official working life as an employee of a company selling ties to Japan and the UK in the 1990s, before realising he could make a superior-quality product himself. Calling on small, family-run artisan workshops in Salerno and southern Puglia to craft ties and pocket squares from the finest silk, wool, linen and cotton fabrics woven in the hills around Lake Como, his business – and our partnership – was born.

Davide’s craftspeople include a luxe 77-year-old jacquard-centric weaving company, which specialises in silk, cashmere, linen and wool, and a 165-year-old silk-grenadine tie weaving business – both located in the hills above Como. The latter uses almost century-old looms to create our rich grenadine ties in very small production runs.

“This is a very special article,” Davide says, pointing out a blue-white fabric being woven that will become a regimental-style tie for M.J. Bale’s Summer 2023 collection. “These are old looms that weave in a special way using three warps, instead of one.”

And why would one still want to wear a tie in 2023, you might ask? “When I was younger, everybody wore a tie,” says the MD of Davide’s grenadine weaver. “My father and grandfather wore a tie. If you look at videos from the 1960s and even the 1970s, even all the football stadiums were full of men wearing ties on the weekend. Now, the sons of my father’s generation – I am 53 – no longer wear ties. It is because wearing ties used to be compulsory. Now it is a choice. It is more fashion. But when you wear a tie and dress up in a nice way, you don’t just look different, you feel different.”

M.J. Bale’s double-sided print pocket squares in matte silk, linen and linen-cotton, woven by Davide’s 92-year-old firm in Lake Como, are also elegant points of difference. We’re biased, of course, but they are menswear works of art; it’s almost a shame they are created to be stuffed inside a pocket.