If you’re like most guys, pattern and color are all you take into consideration when it comes to wearing a tie. You make sure it matches your outfit and the occasion, but do you ever give the knot much though? Is it tied in such a way that compliments the style of your shirt and jacket or neck and body type?
Granted, you can always get by with the old, tried-and-true standard knot you learned as a kid, but if you want to up your style and fashion sense, add variety to your tie tying skills and see the difference a knot makes. Learning to master the various knot styles, and knowing when to use them, will add dimension to your entire outfit every time. Paying attention to this detail, as subtle as it is, will say volumes about your commitment to fashion and image.
First, let’s talk about the advantages of coordinating a tie knot with an outfit. It’s aesthetically pleasing when lines and styles compliment each other, adding to a harmonious balance. When lines and styles contrast, the flow is interrupted and detracts from your appearance. Wearing an inappropriate knot is really no different than wearing shoes and belts that don’t match. Okay, it’s not as drastic, but I’m sure you get my point. Tying the appropriate knot pulls an outfit together; in addition it flatters your face.
Although collar style is usually the determining factor when choosing a knot, neck size and body type play important roles, as well. It’s about proportions – meaning a large guy looks best with a larger knot, and a small, long knot works well on a tall, thin man. Keep this rule of thumb in mind when choosing a collar style.
Shirt collars have various notch sizes and point angles, which determine the knot gap size. A straight point collar, whose points are angled at less than 60 degrees, provides a narrow opening or gap, and would accommodate a narrow, long, sleek knot best. On the other hand, a wide spread collar with points angled greater than 90 degrees has the capacity to handle a wide, triangular knot. Choosing a collar style that suits your body and neck type is the best place to start, which should then determine which knot to tie.
Necktie design and material should also be a factor in choosing a knot. Bold patterns and heavier material look and fit better tied in a larger knot. A smaller knot is typically more appropriate with small prints and delicate fabrics. These aren’t hard fast rules, but are good to keep in mind when making a knot selection.
There are numerous knots you can have fun with, but I’m going to cover the four most popular styles and the type shirts to pair them up with.
The Four in Hand is probably the oldest style knot we know of, recording back to the 19th century. It’s definitely one of the easiest knots to tie, since it only wraps around a couple of times. The knot is small with an elongated asymmetrical shape, and works well with both button down collars and narrow spread collars. Considered the most informal of all knots, it has a very professional appearance, and is a favorite among tall men because the simple knot leaves more tie length.
The Windsor knot, also known as the Full Windsor and Double Windsor is considered the most professional and formal looking knot, yet is still very versatile. It is large and symmetrical with a large triangular shape, making it a perfect choice for wide spread collars. Often used with ties made of thin material to reduce bulkiness, this knot looks great with striped ties. Tall men and large neck men should use an extra long tie, since this knot requires two wrappings. It takes practice to master this knot, but is worth the investment because its sophistication adds the perfect touch to many outfits.
The Half Windsor is the smaller version of the Windsor knot and is considered the most versatile of knots. It’s a great choice for tall men or those with larger necks, since it requires less tie length to tie. It compliments a medium-width spread collar nicely, and works well with wide neckties.
The Pratt is a simple, medium sized, symmetrical knot that is similar to the Half Windsor in size. It requires less length to tie; making it a good option for tall men or short ties. This knot can be used with a button down collar if tied tightly. It is started with the reverse-side-out when placed around the neck.
Here’s a quick “go-to” list of collars and their complementary knots.
- Narrow Spread (Four-in-Hand)
- Medium Spread (Four-in-Hand, Pratt)
- Modified Spread (Pratt, Half-Windsor)
- Wide Spread (Pratt, Half-Windsor, Windsor)
- Extra Wide Spread (Half-Windsor, Windsor)
Proper Necktie Length
A necktie is tied to the proper length when the tip of the tie lies directly in line with the top of your belt buckle. If you are having difficulty getting the desired length for your necktie, change the knot style. A smaller knot will add length to the tie, and a larger knot will shorten it up.
There is not one perfect knot for every shirt, every occasion, or every body type. If you’re stuck in a one-knot world, you’re missing out on additional style and flare. Learning to tie a knot can be very intimating, but with all the available online instruction, anyone can easily master any knot. The versatility an assortment of knots bring to a wardrobe is well worth the trouble of learning. So, go ahead and make a statement with your necktie today!
by Aaron Marino