Tied in knots

Tied in knots

Q. My new business will require me to wear a tie which I haven’t done in over a decade. Which one is really the appropriate tie and knot today? I don’t trust checking online, where I think everyone will just list their favorite; that may or may not seem right to others.

A. It is smart not to assume that ties and fashion have changed over the decades. They have and they haven’t. Although the swing of the style pendulum persuades some fashion-conscious men to vary their tie widths radically, in the world’s top executive suites, ties remain a relatively consistent 3¼ inches wide. If you like them a bit narrower or if you have inherited some that are slightly wider, don’t feel you cannot wear them. Still, the finest ties available, those made in France by Hermes, have always been that same safe 3¼ inch width.

As to knots, there are not certain knots for certain types of ties, but there are certain knots for certain types of shirt collars as well as for certain types of men. Then, too, there are knots that are no longer in style and better not used at all.

Your collar shape and size largely determine the kind of knot you will tie. A standard collar, one with button-down points or with straight points (and no spread) are best with what is known as the four-in-hand knot. That’s the knot that most conservative dressers have been tying all their lives. It suits the newer smaller collars, and it is almost a requirement for button-down collar shirts. Some men dislike this knot they think of it as “crooked,” because it is always slightly askew.

Fenton fashion ties

The symmetrical full-Windsor knot is out of style and out of proportion for today’s narrower ties. Back when ties approached 4 inches in width, the full-Windsor worked, but now it looks really dated.

For those men who like spread collars, the space between the points needs more knot than a four-in-hand provides. If you have ever noticed a guy with a skimpy knot lost in the gaping space of a wide-spread collar, you know how strange it looks. Thus, the popular half-Windsor knot.

The half-Windsor has the same nicely symmetrical triangle shape as the full-Windsor, but without the bulk. Directions for how to tie the various knots are easily found online. Never wear a childish tie with a pre-tied knot.

Whichever knot you choose, I urge you to include the indentation (called “the dimple”) just below the knot. A dimple makes a big difference. When it is missing, the effect is not quite polished.

The knot you tie not only depends on the shirt’s collar, but also on the individual wearer. More conservative traditionalists are likely to choose the four-in-hand, while the sharper, more style-aware dresser often prefers the half-Windsor. Some knowledgeable dressers choose the four-in-hand to go with their casual sports jackets and the half-Windsor when dressing more formally in a suit.

Since you will be spending money on new ties and since nice ties can be expensive, it is important to  keep them in good condition so they will last.

  • Always untie a necktie; tugging and sliding the knot to loosen it invariably injures the fabric. It also helps to wash your hands before untying a tie. Everyday living – even reading the newspaper – leaves deposits on your fingers that will soil your favorite tie. Hang your ties on a rack to keep them from creasing. Knit ties are the exception; they should be rolled loosely, and kept in a drawer.
  • Do not just send soiled or stained ties to your local dry cleaner. Try a spot remover, but if the stain is beyond such simple help, look for a professional tie-cleaning specialist.
    Remember, for a professional man, a tie is a tool; it needs to be chosen well and cared for.

Please send men’s dress and grooming questions to: MALE CALLLois.Fenton@prodigy.net

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