All About Ties

The tie occupies a mysterious place in the male wardrobe. In some countries, it is considered politically incorrect. It has no real function, other than decoration. And while men's tailored clothing tends to be rather consistent, ties tend to differ substantially from one another. It's the most personal and variable thing a man wears. It's sort of the wild card of the wardrobe.

Long ties come in a variety of widths and lengths. Basically, the tie should be as wide as the widest point of your jacket lapel. When tied, the tip should be in the vicinity of your belt buckle. It shouldn't be any longer, although a bit shorter is acceptable.

Some men worry over choosing a tie. It's not that hard. There are three basic elements involved: the jacket, the shirt, and the tie. At least one of these should be solid. You don't want to wear a striped suit, striped shirt and striped tie. And if you are wearing two elements with stripes, they should be stripes of different sizes. If your shirt has pinstripes, your tie should have wider stripes.

Woven silk ties are dressy. Knit ties are more casual and should be avoided on more formal occasions.

The bow tie was once an item worn by a great many men, then in the latter half of the 20th century it came to be seen as a bit eccentric, and most men wore bow ties only when they put on a tuxedo. But the daring, the flamboyant, and the traditionalists still flaunt them, and properly chosen and tied, they can look good.

Some men think it's hard to tie a bow tie. It's not and there's only one way to tie it, unlike a long tie, which has many knot variations. It's basically the same as tying your shoes, but you don't tie your shoes in the mirror, which seems to be the complication.

Tie Knots

A pair of physicists once wrote a book explaining that there are 85 possible tie knots. Fortunately, most of us can get away with two or three. In fact, you can live with only one, and if you tie only one knot, it should be the Four-in-Hand. It's the easiest knot to tie, it's modest in size and unpretentious and since it's slightly asymmetrical, it doesn't look fussy. If you tie a Four-in-Hand and it looks too small, try a Double Knot, which simply involves wrapping the big end of the tie around the narrow end twice instead of once. Both of these knots look good with button down collars.

The fussiest knot is the Windsor. It's a big knot and so it works best with spread collar shirts. It's probably not the best choice when you're wearing a thick tie, like a knit or a woolen tie.


Caring for Ties

It's not hard to care for ties; just hang them on a tie rack when you're not wearing them. Don't stuff them in a drawer. Try not to fold them unless you're traveling, and then be gentle.

If you wear a tie regularly, you know the dangers of mixing ties with dinner. You can try taking out a spot with the handy K2R spot remover, but if it doesn't work the first time, entrust your tie to a good dry cleaner.