Thanks to the internet, Thailand-based custom necktie maker Sam Hober carefully manufactures custom ties for clients around the world. The company offers a variety of silk, wool, linen and cotton ties, scarves, and pocket squares to a global customer base while boasting of the largest selection of solid grenadines in the world. Modern Fellows ordered a tie from Sam Hober and, in the process, interviewed David Hober, who “handles the business side of things” for the company.
David outlined for Modern Fellows what a first-time customer should order, future plans for Sam Hober, and his old-fashioned approach to a digital business.
About Sam Hober
Amid more recent accessory startups like Argoz Socks, Freshneck, and Tommy John underwear, which go out of their way to engage in online communities, solicit reviews, and otherwise fine tune their web presence, David and his company seemingly follow a much more nose-to-the-grindstone path.
With a simple though functional website, no discernible presence on Facebook or Twitter, a policy against providing product to media for reviews, and what would appear to be much more blasé approach to press coverage (through an email conversation over several weeks this summer, David was earnest in his responses but appeared honestly unconcerned whether Modern Fellows wrote about him or not), the company lets its product, along with customer reviews in forums like Styleforum.net (which has a Pinterest page dedicated to the ties) and Askandyaboutclothes, do the talking.
In an era where U.S. consumers have been spoiled by free shipping and unconditional satisfaction guaranteed promises on e-commerce purchases from the likes of Zappos.com and even from select online custom suit tailors such as Black Lapel, Sam Hober’s policies are also old-school. Shipping for one tie costs $11. While the company will refund or exchange a product due to a manufacturing defect, their official policy is to “not offer refunds or exchanges for any reason other than our errors.” David indicated that a tie could potentially be remade at a cost of $35 plus shipping if, for example, a customer were unhappy with the length, width or knot thickness. While their website explains that the company’s “limited refund policy helps us to keep our prices low,” it also means you better be pretty confident about what it is you are getting into before putting your money on the table.
As for the tie, I ordered a 2.75 width, 57 inch length slate-blue piccola grenadine with the company’s recommended “standard construction” (a standard lined 4-fold tie). A four-in-hand knot ties cleanly, produces a perfect dimple and drapes well, though even the finer grenadine is a looser weave than I expected, which makes for a slightly thicker knot than most ties of comparable length and width. At $80 plus $11 shipping, it is not a bargain, but is less expensive than typical designer ties and is priced comparably to those from the likes of start-ups such as Hook + Albert, Kent Wang, and Everett Clothing. Most importantly, I like it, and it has become a wardrobe staple.
The company offers a range of custom flourishes, such as a hand-sewn monogram on the tie keeper and hand-rolled tie edges, for moderate up-charges.
To follow is an interview conducted over email with David Hober, lightly edited for length and clarity.
Your website notes that Sam Hober is a merger of your dad’s New York-based company and the Thailand-based Mulberrywood silk company that dates to 1886. How did the merger come to be?
It is all about a merger of marriage and family. Sam Hober was formed after Noi [David’s wife] and I married when my mother-in-law gave me some silk that she had woven as a wedding present. Noi made some ties for me which I wore in Denver – and received compliments for – and then we started making the ties for sale.
Noi grew up in Thailand in a traditional silk weaving family. As is the custom in Thailand, the women in the family dyed and wove silk. The silk designs that Noi’s family worked with originally came from Laos and the northeast of Thailand. And the family wove silk in the province of Chaiyaphum and later and around 80 years ago moved to the province of Korat. Until recently silk weaving was a very common practice in farming communities with the mulberry bush being grown for feeding the silk worms.
When we first started making neckties we were still active in growing mulberry, as well as reeling and dyeing silk by hand which we then wove by hand. Currently our focus has shifted to making neckties with silk imported from Italy and England. When our new workshop is built later this year in Chiang Mai we hope to have enough time to return to hand weaving silk and doing some more dyeing.
My fathers’ business was based in New York where he made women’s clothes. I grew up spending time in our factories on the weekends.
What are the primary ways you reach customers? How much do you rely on online forums, blogs and the Internet for marketing and sales?
We never advertise and primarily reach customers by word of mouth. On occasion gentlemen who like our ties post on fashion forums and blogs.
We do not have a bricks and mortar store and probably won’t build one soon as we are very busy 6 days a week making ties and a store would slow us down.
Custom ties is a fairly unique niche. What would your pitch be to someone who has never ordered a custom tie?
Custom made ties or bespoke ties as our British friends would say are typically made slowly and with great care which is one of their main advantages. Gentlemen who want a certain length, width, shape, knot or monograms etc also enjoy a custom made tie.
If someone has never ordered from you before, what kind of tie and construction would you recommend as an introduction?
I suggest a classic 3-fold or in the case of a grenadine a 4-fold to start with. unless someone really wants a complex construction for a wedding or special event.
What is your favorite tie?
I usually have a dozen or so ties that I actively wear at a time (the dozen will rotate every few months or so) i really like a black grenadine and a Macclesfield print. When i lived in Denver I wore mostly Mudmee and shot silk Thai ties.
Is there anything new or exciting in the pipeline?
[We are adding] to our striped grenadine collection and down the road we will add more pin dot grenadines and perhaps some grenadines with more complex collections.
We have started a dye garden in pots which we will take to our new workshop and plant in the ground later this year – I am very excited about this. With real madder root being one of goals to grow and work with.
The featured photo in this article is from Benjamin Hober Productions video, “7 Fold Unlined Tie Construction With Rolled Edges.”
About JakeJake is passionate about exploring entrepreneurs' global journeys. He founded Modern Fellows in 2012 to get to know the entrepreneurs behind the innovative brands helping men dress sharp in the digital age. Jake has written about entrepreneurship, international business and fashion for outlets including Business Week, Forbes, Inc., Details Style Syndicate and Primer Magazine, and has provided analysis on international business for BBC Radio, NBC News, CNN and Time Magazine.
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