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Tie Rules 101 Monday the eighteenth of January, 2016

Four-in-hand, Half-Windsor, Full-Windsor – just because you know how to tie these different knots doesn’t mean you are wearing your tie correctly. And no matter how good your suit looks, a bad tie can easily take your outfit from stylish to oafish. While many think that finding the right tie is as simple as not picking a pattern that glaringly clashes with your shirt, there are actually three key factors to consider in selecting the accessory that can make or break your suit.

Tie-to-Collar Ratio

Trashness suit/tie
One of these key elements of tie styling is the proportion of your knot to your collar. In general, a tie knot should be three-quarters the length of your collar point. A spread collar shirt requires a wider knot, while going with something thinner for a point collar is ideal.

Obviously, there are physical factors to consider here as well. To balance you out, if you have a wide neck you’ll want a narrower spread collar, while if your frame is skinnier a wider spread is preferable. Face shape and size are also important aspects to keep in mind with the proportion of your collar and knot, along with the fabric of the tie.


Width Proportion


The cardinal rule here is that the widest point of your tie needs to be roughly equal to the widest point of your suit lapel. This balance is key for a look that seems deliberate and pulled together.

Go for too thin a tie and it’ll seem like you just stumbled out of Williamsburg, but going too wide risks resembling a 1920s gangster.

For reference, George Hahn writes, “A lapel, collar or tie between 2 and 2.5 inches is in skinny territory. Wide is around 3.5 inches…“

These numbers are generally the standard in menswear, and even if you can’t measure exactly it shouldn’t be too hard to see the distinction.

Don’t fret if the ratio isn’t exactly one-to-one, there’s about a 0.25” margin of error, and that slight difference is barely noticeable. 


Pattern Matching

Now this is the tricky one, because there truly is no single correct way to match patterns. In general, there are four styles to keep in mind here: solid-on-solid, solid-on pattern, pattern-on-solid, and pattern-on-pattern.

With solid-on-solid, you have plenty of options. You can go with contrasting colors, creating a bolder relationship between your shirt and tie, or analogous colors (i.e. light pink and red) that fit together more easily. Be wary of shades that are too similar though, you need some dynamism to really make the outfit stand out.

Solid-on-pattern and vice versa are pretty standard for traditional menswear, but there are some keys to pulling them off. You again need to make sure the colors compliment, and generally it is important to anchor at least one element of your pattern to your solid color.

Pattern-on-pattern requires some confidence to pull off, but it is far from impossible. Here, you need to be sure that your patterns are pretty strikingly different. Wearing stripes on top of slightly thinner stripes isn’t what we’re talking about here. Additionally, it makes sense for your tie pattern to be louder than your shirt. After all, the shirt is generally the canvas for the tie to pop. Also, don’t forget to factor the pattern of your suit into the equation.

Getting your tie style down pat will take some time, but these rules should make it simple enough to keep the basics straight. Do not hesitate to contact us to help you out if you are unsure!