Knowing How to Look Good in a Tie Is an Essential Skill for Any Man

If you're like me, you probably have over 20 ties in your closet with a few bow ties mixed in for those special black tie affairs. However, if you aren't a necktie connoisseur, which sadly many of us aren't, read on; this article is for you.

Before I get into the specific ways of wearing neckties and how to tie them, it is important that we define just what is meant by the term “necktie”.  If we dive into the history books we find mention of ties as far back as the mid to late 1700s.  In those days they were little more than scarves worn by fashionable Croatian mercenaries.   

Croatian Mercenary
Credit: Nikola Solic/Reutersters

The modern-day tie has dramatically evolved since the 1700s, when it was known as "Le kravat".  From the image below it is plain to see that cravat tying used to be an art, with knots for every occasion.  Fortunately for most of us, we only have to deal with the relatively simple necktie and the occasional bow tie.  

However, for those who prefer to swim against the current, there is a resurgence in cravat wearing.  In fact, the modern day ascot, has become particularly popular among today's dapper young gentlemen.  If you are wondering what's the difference between an ascot and cravat, don't worry.  So are the rest of us.  The best explanation is that an ascot is a form of cravat tied around the bare kneck and tucked into the front of the shirt underneath the collar.  The modern day necktie was not really popularized until the 1920s.  Before that time all neckties were cravats.  

Early cravat tying methods
Credit: (published by J.J. Stockdale in 1818) 

How to Tie a Tie: The Three Most Common Knots

The three most common Knot tying techniques and the only three approved for wear by the U.S Navy are:
  • The Windsor
  • The Half Windsor
  • The Four in Hand
The windsor knot (named after the Duke of Windsor) is, in my opinion, the most stylish of the big three knot tying techniques.  Its perfect symmetry allows you to perfectly position the knot and finish it off with a well placed dimple.   

The Windsor Knot

How to Tie the Windsor Knot
Credit: Created by

The half windsor is exactly what it sounds like; it's half of a windsor knot (kind of).  The method for tying this knot is pretty simple and probably the knot you think of when you imagine tying a kneck tie.  It's a smaller, slightly less symmetrical knot that can work well for those guys that don't want to accentuate a smaller neck.  This knot also works well for skinny ties.  In my opinion, the half windsor goes well with a more informal "blazer and jeans" look, while the full windsor is definitely the knot of choice for those black tie affairs.  But it's all personal preference.

The Half Windsor

How to Tie a Half Windsor Knot

The Four-in-Hand knot is similar to the half windsor, with a more asymmetrical and skinnier look.  It is the simplest and smallest of the three and the least formal.  It is generally thought of as the least formal knot although there are many who swear by the Four-in-Hand knot, no matter the occasion.  

The Four In Hand Knot

Four In Hand Knot

Remember, when tying a tie it is all about the details.  You can make any knot look good and work for just about any occasion as long as you tie a clean sharp looking tie.  However, there are a few things you MUST do to get a well tied tie.

  1. Make sure it is the right length.  Not too long and not too short.  My general rule is that the tip of the tie should barely touch the top of your belt buckle.  This can vary depending on how high you wear your pants (a topic for another day).  
  2. The knot should be tight.  Enough said.
  3. Make sure you utilize a well placed dimple.  Perfect neck tie cleavage is an art unto itself.
  4. Make sure your collar is clean, crisp and doesn't detract from your perfectly tied tie.
  5. Keep it centered.  

Just a few extra seconds spent on your tie can be the difference between a fly guy with a well tied tie, and that dude that tied his tie while driving to work.