The Neck Tie: The Long and Short of It

The King of Men’s Accessories

Ties are a status symbol, a quintessentially manly item. When one thinks of a male accessory, ties are likely the first to come to mind, probably attached to a successful business man. This ornamental neckwear has been the decoration of choice since the early 1900s, and is still relevant today, as much in the business world, as it is in the fashion world. It’s funny how a strip of cloth can have influence in this world.

Fabric Types

Silk is the gold standard for tie fabric; quality ties are 100% silk. Wools like cashmere and tweed, are suited for all but the most formal occasions, they’re great for fall and winter wear. The most casual ties are made of cotton,  linen, knits (of most fabrics) and even the occasional leather;  it takes cojones and style know-how to rock a leather tie. 

Be wary of polyester ties pretending to be silk ties, as they cheapen the look of any tie.

Prints, Patterns, and Colours

Ties can be more than an obligation to comply with a dress code, they can be a form of self-expression. Done right, they can fit into any social context. Solids are the safest bet, especially in high profile situations. There’s a vast variety of prints and patterns, among the most common are stripes, dots, plaids, paisleys, florals, repeating motifs (animals, objects, monogram initials) and a myriad of other designs. Observe the patterns on the pictures throughout this article.

With designs,a rule of thumb is that the smaller and more spaced together a print is, the more formal it becomes; contrasting to that, bigger and more spaced out patterns are considered less formal. Use your judgement, and  observe what the more experienced are wearing.

There is a reason that a red tie is called a “power tie“. Red is a colour of dominance, it is eye catching and sends the message that you mean business.  The big boys in the corporations wear red ties to affirm their strength and authority in the business world.

Disclaimer:  Principles of Style does not support Donald Trump or his political views.

trump in a power tie
Like it or not, Donald Trump is powerful. To some, a fool with power,but still, a force in the capitalist world.

Principles of Style, is strictly a men’s style blog, and thus maintains political neutrality; it does not endorse or condemn individuals and the views they express.

For those of us still aspiring to be big players in our respective fields, and those entering situations in which they don’t want to stand out (work, funerals, ceremonies,etc) safe colours like navy, grey, and black, will suit our needs. When being casual, you can pretty much wear whatever  you want.

Coordinating ties with pocket squares requires a little finesse, refer to this essential pocket square guide for quick and easy examples to stylishly combine pocket squares and ties.

3 Tie Knots Every Man Must Know

There are a surprising amount of different ways people can tie a neck tie, and they’re mostly impractical. With the exception of a few.

Definitely not these. While it is important to show personality and be unique, wearing these knots will make you look like a tool. Stick to the 3 essentials, below:

The Four-in-Hand Knot
four in hand knowfour in hanfd how to

The easiest and least formal tie knot. The four-in-hand’s asymmetric look gives off a more casual vibe, this is one knot you can wear in dress-down situations.

The Windsor Knot

Windsor_Knotfull windsor how to

The Windsor is a thick and symmetrical knot, almost triangular in shape. It is the “power knot”, this is the knot you wear to job interviews, formal occasions, or wherever you want to look confident. Surprisingly, the Duke of Windsor didn’t usually wear this knot, he favored the Four-in-Hand, using ties of thick cloth.

The Half-Windsor

half windsorhalf windsor how to

Simply, it’s a less bulky Windsor knot, still symmetrical, but smaller. Use this one when a Full-Windsor would be overkill. The diagram does show more steps, but the end product is a less prominent triangle.

When in doubt, go for the four-in-hand.  Remember to tuck in the thin side of the tie behind the loop on the fat end, and don’t forget…

The Dimple

The dimple is that extra 1% that shows you are more attentive than 99% of people. It’s function is to improve the aesthetic of the tie by giving the knot some some elevation, better framing your face. Put your index finger in the center of the knot, while pinching with the thumb and middle finger, and fiddle in between with the other hand as you cinch the tie knot. There’s no exact science to it, just get that dimple in the middle.

The Right Dimensions

Proper length. Once knotted, a tie must be at a certain height to look proper. The tip of the tie should rest slightly above the belt, hanging less than halfway past the buckle (right).

Proper width. Ties are generally available in three standard sizes, as shown below. A ties’ width depends largely on the man’s frame, and the width of the suit jacket or blazer lapel width. A man of slight frame deserves a thinner tie to couple with his thinner lapels. More on lapels and suits in this detailed guide to suit jackets. Conversely, a man of stockier build requires reasonably broader garments.


Ideally, the widest point of the tie should be approximate to the lapel’s span.

tie and lapel width

Accessories for the Accessory

Adding to the necktie, is the tie bar. A tie bar is both functional and fashionable, it secures the tie to the shirt, preventing it from flopping about (good for when you have to eat with a tie on) and is yet another way to show a flash of personality. Tie bars come in many attractive designs.  A tie bar can attach either as a clip/clamp (my preference, for its ease of use) or a slide-on.

Its length should extend approximately 2/3 of tie’s width and attach between the 3rd and 4th button of your shirt, #1 being the uppermost button at the collar.

tie bar size

Storing Your Tie

Ties can either be hung straight or rolled-up. I prefer to roll my ties and put them in a drawer. Some say you shouldn’t hang because it will stretch out the tie, especially knits. Others say you shouldn’t roll because it will damage the ties’ tips. Rolled or hung, it doesn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.

And finally, for the love of the dapper deities (Lord Beckham, Lord Ford, Lord Wooster, Lord Craig, and the other idols) no clip-on ties. Knot it like an adult. You have no excuses, now.

Thank you for reading Principles of Style. I hope you enjoy this post and found the blog useful. If you have any questions, feedback, or want to share some of your style and scent tips, tricks, and insights, please leave your input in the comments section below, or send me a PM.

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