There are several different ways to tie a tie, but not every one of them is appropriate for every occasion – or every man. Here are five different knots for men’s ties, and when to use them.
If you never knew there was more than one way to tie a tie, then most likely the four-in-hand is the knot you use. This is the most common knot used by men, but what most people don’t know is that it is also the most casual.
The four-in-hand method creates a knot that is fairly small and slightly asymmetrical. Because of the small size of this knot, it works well with almost any weight fabric, not to mention almost any collar style. You should not use the four-in-hand with spread or wide spread collars, which are usually found on more formal men’s dress shirts. In fact, the four-in-hand should generally not be worn in formal settings at all.
The double-simple is just a variation of the four-in-hand, but it is especially useful for shortening the length of your tie in the front. The point of the wide end of your tie should just brush the top of your belt, being neither shorter nor longer, which can be a problem for short men.
If you are short or have a short torso, the double-simple can help prevent the tip of your tie from hanging too low, giving you a mildly clownish look. The double-simple is tied almost exactly like the four-in-hand, except that the wide end is wrapped around the narrow end one extra time before looping it up, over, and through to finish off the knot.
The four-in-hand and double-simple may be easy and common, but they are not meant for formal occasions: The knot is too small, too uneven, and too plain. Instead, the Windsor is often used for formal occasions. You can recognize the Windsor by its large, chunky knot and its elegant dimple.
Because the Windsor is a large not, it is meant to be worn with spread or wide spread collars, which are common on men’s formal dress shirts. Also, the Windsor should not be used with ties that are made from heavy-grade fabrics: Because this is already a large knot, using a thicker fabric will make it even larger, not to mention alter its elegant appearance.
The half-Windsor is another formal knot with the elegant look of the Windsor, but with a slightly smaller knot. In addition, the half-Windsor requires fewer steps in order to tie it, making it considerably easier to master.
Because of the size of the half-Windsor, this knot is open to thicker ties. Basically, you will need to use your own judgment — practice tying the half-Windsor on one of your thicker ties, and decide whether you like the look or not.
The half-Windsor also lends a little more flexibility to what type of collar it can be worn with. Because the size of this knot is larger than the four-in-hand, but not quite so large as the Windsor, what type of collar it can be worn with will depend on how thick of a tie you use. Lightweight or medium weight ties may make a small enough knot to be worn with a narrower collar gap, while thicker ties will most likely still need to be worn with a spread or wide spread collar.
The Pratt, also known as the Shelby, is another knot that is good for more formal occasions, similar to the Windsor and Half-Windsor. The main advantage of the Pratt is that it gives you the same symmetrical, dimpled knot as the Windsor, but is much easier to tie. However, the fact that you start out tying this knot with the tie reversed, with the backsides of the wide and narrow ends facing out, makes many men interpret this type of knot as more difficult than it actually is.
Because the Pratt is a little smaller in size than the Windsor, you should use the collar guidelines for the Half-Windsor, keeping in mind that the thickness of your tie will determine the size of your finished knot.
Untying Your Tie Properly
How you untie your tie is just as important as how you tie it. Because ties are made of the finest silk and polyester, the fabric is extremely vulnerable to being stretched out of shape. For this reason, you need to be extremely careful when you remove the tie, taking the time to reverse your steps and untie the knot as gently as possible.
Choosing Your Knot
Wearing your tie in the proper knot for the proper occasion can help to determine the impression you leave with other people. For instance, if you wear a four-in-hand to a formal occasion such as a wedding, you might appear sloppy and careless; whereas if you wear a Windsor to work (and you aren’t in a position that calls for it), you could come across as rather pompous. On the other hand, wearing the four-in-hand in a daily setting, but remembering the dressier knots, such as the Windsor, for more formal occasions, can make you seem refined and stylish — which is, no doubt, the impression you would rather leave with others.
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