The American, Four in hand, Windsor, Cross... nothing dirty here! These naughty sounding words are the names of tie knots. Read on and learn how and when to wear them.
Stop me if you have heard this: one day I was invited to the wedding of a not so close relative, no way to get out of it. Sound familiar? What about that time you got a call for a job interview? Suddenly, you see yourself diving into your closet looking for that “wear when necessary” suit. After picking it up from the dry cleaning, match it with the right shirt (or the single decent one you have) and finally, bang: what were the steps to tie a tie, again?!!! Sometimes it's a struggle. Sometimes it just requires a little bit of patience.
In the past few years I have found myself more than once in this situation. With adulthood came all the rituals I dreaded as a kid: college graduations, weddings and the likes; then I blinked and got job interviews. Looking back, I cringe when I think of my etiquette mistakes. Don't be like me. Wearing a tie in a non matching color was the lesser of my sins; I had no idea there were specific lengths, girths and sizes in knots, each one according to the event, the shape of the shirt and even the fabric of the tie. To save you from my own faux pas, I will explain the basic rules and shapes when it comes to necktie etiquette. The first knots are for a more casual look, while the last ones are perfect for formal events or parties. So, without further ado, here are the 6 types of ties you should know how and when to wear.
The American Knot (Simple Knot, or Oriental Knot)
This is probably the easiest knot to make. It takes just a few moves and not much craft. I’d dare say that this is the “millennial knot” since it focuses on practicality and functionality. It’s perfect for a your every day routine. But do not use this if you are wearing a suit: this is a "casual" knot. It works best with slim ties and shirts with narrow ends on the collar. Don’t try it on thick ties, it will look bulky.
Remember this cardinal rule: the tip of the tie must be one centimeter above the buckle of the belt and it must cover all the button row of the shirt.
Another casual knot. It’s the “who cares about wearing a tie” look. I love this one for casual dinners with friends or family. Jeans or formal pants can complement this look. Follow the same recommendations as for the American: slim tie and a shirt with a neck with pointy ends.
One good thing to remember is that you can play with the length of the tie to create different effects. Fixed to the button row, it can make you look taller if you adjust the length of the tip to be above the belt. On the other hand, if it hangs below the belt, it will make you look shorter. Anyhow, two or three centimeters either way is enough.
This is just above "casual", but not quite "formal". Wear it with a slightly-casual outfit or with a suit (but never with jeans or shirts with prints or patterns). The shirt should have a wide or spread neck; the Half-Windsor needs air to breathe, wear it on a narrow neck and it will looked stuffed, or it will rest on top of the neck, covering the tips. This is the perfect (and I’d dare to say only) option for job interviews; formal but not too formal. You can also wear it in morning or early afternoon events, but never for a formal evening.
Windsor (or Double Windsor)
The classic, timeless elegance of the Windsor makes it perfect for formal events. Choose a nice shirt with a wide collar and a standard or slim tie. Keep in mind that this knot requires a few more twists so it will grow wider and thicker, so try to select a light fabric or the knot will look “chubby”. If you decide to wear this for a job interview, you need to adjust the level of formality in the rest of your outfit.
Don’t tie it too hard; nothing screams “amateur” like a tie that strangles you. Adjust it to your own neck, it should feel more like a "tight hug" than a "clasp".
Cross Knot (Christensen Tie)
This is for when you want to impress someone (someone who gives a damn about ties, it is). The gentleman's knot. Perfect both for formal events or work, it is very balanced and streamlined. The extra twists will provide structure to the knot, making it into a very masculine fashion statement. If you can master this knot, you will stand out. Practice makes perfect.
The Bow Tie
The bow tie has become one of my favorite items. Although you can buy clip-ons, do yourself a favor and learn how to tie a bow. It is fun and very rewarding. How to wear it? Well, it depends. It can be either formal or casual depending on the pattern and color of the fabric. For a formal event, wear solid colors or discrete patterns. Bow ties in loud colors or fun patterns are great to pair with a blazer, a suit or even a tuxedos. The collar of the shirt is not that important, just keep an eye out for asymmetries.
It takes time and practice to get the perfect shape, so practice a few days before the event with the same tie and shirt so you don't get last minute panic. This will also help you figure out if your tie is a good match for the knot you want to wear. Keep these tips in mind the next time you are out shopping; your wardrobe should include a slim tie, a thick one and a bow tie, at the very least. Tie on!
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