Korky Vann: Is This Radical Shirt Design Revolutionary Or A Gimmick?

When it came to fashion, I always thought men had it easy. Jacket, pants, shirt, tie and good to go.

But I was wrong.

Neckwear, it seems, presents knotty problems for some guys — so much so that the web is filled with forums and Facebook pages dedicated to anti-tie sentiments.

West Hartford resident Adam Alfin says he could have posted his own tie tirade.

"I just dreaded occasions when I had to put on a tie," says Alfin, 31. "Getting it tied correctly and getting it to stay under the collar was just so frustrating. Sometimes I'd have to pull it off and start over several times before I got it right. Putting on a tie was a real time waster."

Instead of going tieless, he decided to stick his neck out and design something to solve the problem. The young entrepreneur, who grew up in West Hartford, was no stranger to innovation. In 2008, he co-founded PageFad, a Hartford tech firm that developed social gaming site, http://www.onlineathletes. (The company, which he still owns, currently has 11 million registered users.)

"Seemed to me I had to approach the issue from a different direction," says Alfin. "What would make it easier to put on and position a tie?"

The answer, he discovered, was in the shirt, not the tie itself. After sketching ideas and cutting up dozens of dress shirts, he came up with three designs that he says will turn ties into a new fashion accessory and make tie-wearing less annoying.

"I had this crazy idea to make dress shirts that rival the tie-tying process and tie-wearing experience of traditional dress shirts, but make the whole process easier," says Alfin.

Each of the shirts feature the signature "Loopnlock," system, soft cotton loops that keep a tie in place. On one of the shirts, the loops are hidden under a collar. On another, the collar can be worn flipped up to expose the loops or turned down to hide them.

The most unusual, the "Pilot" features tabs (which allow the entire tie to be seen), instead of a solid collar.

"We're targeting men ages 28 to 58 years old," says Alfin. "Each shirt has its own personality. The Pilot is a totally new look that we hope will appeal to the younger generation."

Along the way, Alfin picked up three partners and formed a company, Parle IV (www.parleiv.com), to market the shirts. The name is taken from the word, "parle" as in "to speak." Alfin says the shirts "speak for themselves."

The four partners, working from bookstores, cafes and Alfin's parent's home in West Hartford, created a logo and developed a social media campaign that includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

"People can post pictures of their own tie catastrophes on our sites," says Alfin.

If Alfin's products do catch on, the payoff could be big. In 2012, the US menswear market was a 107.7 billion dollar industry, according to research from MarketLine, and that figure is expected to top $139 billion by 2017.

Tom Julian, director for The Doneger Group, which tracks global market trends and merchandising direction, says companies attempting to create new "white space products" (products that fulfill unmet needs), must have a gimmick or be designed with a purpose in order to succeed.

"I believe that your Hartford-based company is right on with focusing on 'innovation' for their shirts/ties," says Julian, who is also the author of two books on men's fashion; "Nordstrom Guide to Men's Everyday Dressing" and "Nordstrom Guide to Men's Style."

Right now, the shirts are only in the prototype phase as PARLE IV tries to raise enough funds to begin producing and selling the shirts. Last week, the company launched a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise $185,000 by April 30.

If the campaign is successful, Alfin says the shirts will go into production. The cotton poplin shirts, which will be available in three colors and 15 sizes, will retail for about $129.

"I'm really just looking to make life in a tie more enjoyable," says Alfin.

If his idea is successful, he might just have that goal tied up.

Featured Stories

CTnow is using Facebook comments on stories. To comment on ctnow.com articles, sign into Facebook and enter your comment in the field below. Comments will appear in your Facebook News Feed unless you choose otherwise. To report spam or abuse, click the X next to the comment. For guidelines on commenting, click here.


Kevin Hunt - The Electronic Jungle

Kevin Hunt: Review: Grace Digital Bluetooth Amplifier - April 18, 2014 - If you and Bluetooth are like this (fingers crossed), the next step in your relationship could be a little trinket like either of Grace...

Gail MarksJarvis

Author: Financial crisis cemented dollar's global role - April 23, 2014 - In contrast to just a few years ago, you don't hear the shrill cry over the dollar much anymore.

David Lazarus

Cheerios maker gets bowled over - April 21, 2014 - General Mills, maker of Cheerios and Wheaties, thinks it deserves credit for reversing itself after quietly trying to strip customers of...

Korky Vann

Vacationers Can Travel With Lighter, Smarter Luggage This Season - April 20, 2014 - Vacation season is just ahead, and for many of us, that means hitting the road or flying off in search of adventures. But if your travel...