Choosing the correct tie for the day ahead is a regular part of my morning routine, and one that I like to spend a little (but not too much!) time doing. Colour and pattern are important, but there are a number of other factors that contribute to getting a tie to look just right:
One of the less well known facets of dressing well is the art of keeping ties, shirt collars and suit lapels in proportion. A suit with wide lapels compliments a wide tie and deep-collared shirt; a suit with slim lapels compliments a slim tie and narrow-collared shirt. Needless to say, an outfit that consists of mainly wide proportions will make the wearer appear wider. This might be desirable if you’re proud of your physique, but well-nourished individuals should opt for slimmer lines.
Knots require little in the way of discussion: the humble four-in-hand is adequate for almost every type of modern shirt collar. One of the few exceptions is the extreme cutaway collar, which looks better with a half-Windsor knot.
Unless you have a head that is the size and shape of Chernobyl-grown watermelon you should avoid the Windsor knot: its size will detract from every other part of your outfit, and its symmetry will make your outfit look too studied. Ian Fleming’s James Bond was said to mistrust “anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.” Much has changed since Fleming’s day, but the Windsor’s reputation hasn’t, as its frequent association with Premier League footballers attests.
It’s often said that a tie looks its best when it has a dimple just below the knot. This is true, but with some ties it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve. I have a number of ties that dimple perfectly, but I also have many others that, despite my best efforts, absolutely refuse to form one. If your tie won’t dimple, don’t desperately try to make it do so at the expense of the fabric: some of them simply weren’t made for it.
Getting the length of a tie just right can be a maddening experience. Many a time have I stood in front of the mirror, trying for an age to get both ends of the tie to be roughly the same length. And once I’ve done that, I’ll often find that it’s still too long, ie, the ends fall below my belt line. If you’re tying a four-in-hand, the easiest way to solve this length issue is to wrap the thicker blade of your tie twice around the thinner blade before pulling it through the loop. You’ll find that the knot is slightly bigger (but not noticeably so), and the tie’s ends now rest on, or slightly above, your belt line.
The four-in-hand knot tends to twist the blades of the tie at a slight angle from the shirt. You may find this is especially noticeable when you bend down to tie your shoelaces or pick something up. I’ve found that a few quick tugs when bringing the knot up to the shirt collar usually sorts this out. If you’re still annoyed by it, you might want to invest in a tie clip.