WHEN you get up in the morning and blearily pull a tie around your neck, you might be forgiven if all you care about is tying it in such way that it stays on and doesn’t make you look like a footballer. If that describes your neckwear routine, then you are missing a trick. There is a world of knots out there – at least 85 – and it can make a real difference to your look.
The conventional tie-knot known to every schoolboy is called the Four in Hand, and although it is straightforward, it has its advocates. Patrick Grant, of Savile Row tailor Norton & Son says that for him this basic knot covers many bases. “I like a slightly longer, slightly slimmer knot,” he says, “I don’t want one that sits and fills the collar.” The Four in Hand is the knot used by fashion guru Ralph Lauren who, Grant says, “ties the perfect tie”.
What makes it so elegant is that it tapers down, giving the tie an hourglass shape, which matches the shape of a well-cut suit. Grant, though, does point out that it doesn’t work for all ties: “It doesn’t look good on a really thin tie. You need a bit of width on the blade.” On a normal tie, though, aim to tie it high up where it is still slim.
Oliver Spencer of Anderson & Sheppard, another Savile Row tailor, says that while the Four in Hand is fine for lounge suits of countrywear, for formal businesswear a Half-Windsor is the thing to go for. “The half Windsor lies more centrally”, he says, and avoids the slight wonkiness of the Four in Hand.
He adds that he likes “as small a knot as possible, I think it’s much more elegant”, which ruled out the chunky Full-Windsor, which also “takes too long to tie”. He also says that your collar makes a difference. With a cutaway collar, the Half-Windsor is preferable, as a Four in Hand can be too thin. Whichever you choose, says Spencer, you should have a crease in the centre of the tie, and make sure that the bottom always comes just a little below your waistband.
This knot is considered more formal than others, and it’s also the biggest and thickest. The knot is triangular and chunky, which gives it a masculine feel, perhaps explaining why it is often worn by military types. It works well with wider ties and cut-away shirts. It is arguably a little too much so for the City, where understated elegance is arguably preferable. The knot itself is fairly simple to tie, although you ought to make sure that you start off with the short end very short, as the knot involves a fair bit of wrapping around and you can run out of material. This also means that it can be hard to keep it long enough, and you might end up showing some shirt.
A good knot for those who want to avoid the thickness of the Full Windsor but who are offended by the slight lopsidedness of the Four in Hand, it is also good if you are wearing a cut-away collar. It’s not the simplest knot in the world, but after a bit of head-scratching it’s actually quite easy. Start as you are tying a schoolboy knot, loop it twice, then flick the tie back down behind the loose knot you have formed. It’ll look messy, but don’t worry. Take the head of the tie out to the left, wrap the tie around the front of the existing under-knot to create the nice triangular top-knot, then it’s up through and back down as with the Four in Hand. Practice makes perfect.
A far simpler knot than the Half-Windsor, you start with the tie the wrong way over, and then there are just a few, simple moves to create the knot. It is less thick than the other knots on this page, and it has the advantage of avoiding the wonky look that can be problematic with the Four in Hand. However, it does lack that knot’s skinny elegance, and is perhaps a little too squat to be truly stylish. Another alternative to the Four In Hand is a simple refinement whereby you loop the tie round twice, rather than once, something which is known as a Prince Albert, which is good with narrow ties and is better for keeping that crease in the tie.