Ties 101: Everything You Need to Know About Neckties

So you’ve finally hit that critical juncture. You’ve bought a dandy suit. Heck, it might even be a bespoke one. Your shirt fits perfectly at the shoulders, and works its way down effortlessly.

Rishi

Rishi Chullani

Note from Brock: Big thanks to my good friend Rishi Chullani, founder of The Dark Knot, for writing this in-depth men's necktie guide.

Your fit is essentially impeccable. You’ve gotten your new set of wingtip brogues. Your belt is brand spanking new. You’ve even adorned your suit jacket with a pocket square. Except, there is one critical piece missing. You got it. The necktie.

Layering clothing for men has been about as confusing as dating a Kardashian. We just don’t know what necessarily works, and in all honesty, it can often feel like a real mess.

What patterns to we match our ties to? What constitutes a high quality tie to begin with? How do we know we are getting the best craftsmen ship around? And then the more nuanced questions, such as what tie will work with my body proportions? With my collar spread, with my shoulder width, with my height?

Men of modest height will have their own unique challenges in finding ties, not that different than men of taller height well.

We all have our own unique situations to address with matters pertaining to style, and so it’s important that we ask the right questions and address these topics to ensure that we make the most informed purchase possible.

With that said, here is our comprehensive guide to buying ties for the modest man!

Tie Fabrics

When looking to buy that elusive necktie, the first factor one should consider is necktie fabric.

Silk Ties

For year round ties that will work across a range of seasons and occasions, silk is your best consideration.

The Dark Knot ties

Courtesy of www.thedarkknot.com

Silk ties offer the following characteristics that make them such highly desirable men’s accessories:

  • Silk is one of the most durable fabrics in the world. Despite silk being soft,  its tensile strength is very high. Silk’s elasticity contributes to its tensile strength.
  • Silk Fabrics retain their shape and have ample resistance to wrinkling.
  • Silk provides excellent drape, resulting in an elegant and dapper look.
  • Silk repels dirt due to its smooth finishing.

Linen Ties

For those of you seeking ties for more casual settings, especially during warmer months, a linen tie is your ideal choice.

Linen is a lighter weight fabric that breathes easily, making it an appropriate choice during casual settings in warmer climates.

Blue tie

Courtesy of www.indochino-review.com

The downside to wearing a linen tie is that it creases easily, and so should be avoided for most formal occasions, such as work, a cocktail party or a presentation. They are, however, great for summer weddings!

Cotton Ties

Cotton ties, like linen, are lighter weight and ideal for casual settings and / or for warmer climates.

Pink tie

Courtesy of blog.trashness.com

Cotton is a preferred choice for more casual settings as these ties are typically lighter and exude a sense of relaxed debonair.

Woolen Ties

An ideal replacement for silk or lighter weight summer ties, woolen ties will provide your ensembles with textural variation and depth, particularly during winter months. Given that wool is a heavier fabric, its insulation properties make it a fantastic choice for the fall and winter seasons.

The somber tone of most woolen ties make them blend in perfectly with colder months, where colors such as olive green, mustard yellow and navy replace the summer pastel hues of light pink, light green and lavender.

This delicious cocktail of textural and color considerations make woolen ties a preferred choice during the winter months.

Blue tie

Courtesy of www.thenordicfit.com

While woolen ties can work well with textured jackets such as tweed, they are an excellent complement to traditional suits. Woolen ties are full in body, drape well, and tie thick knots, making them the perfect neckwear choice for any formal setting during the winter seasons.

Knitted Ties

Knitted ties are on the less formal end of the neckwear spectrum, and can be used, and can be used to dress down a suit or dress up a more casual outfit.

Knitted ties offer an alternative texture and aesthetic, given both their weave and their pattern construction. Knitted fabric is highly breathable with an open weave, providing great textural variation for any ensemble, year round.

Knitted ties are offered in both silk and wool variants, with silk variants being perfect for both year round and specifically spring / summer wear, while the woolen variant is best suited for the fall & winter seasons.

Blue striped tie

Courtesy of blog.trashness.com

From an aesthetic standpoint, Knitted ties offer both depth because of their textural variation and weave, and due to the fact that most are constructed with square ends, providing an alternative look.

Since they're considered less formal than their silk counterparts, they are best worn using a four in hand knot, exuding a sense of casual debonair.

Tie Construction

A well constructed tie will have the following pieces in place:

Shell

Higher quality ties are generally constructed from three pieces: A large end (blade), a small end (tail), and a neck piece (gusset), which joins the two ends. These three distinct pieces provide the tie with a degree of flexibility and durability, as it is contorted in various directions throughout the course of the year!

Woolen Interlining

Interlining refers to the layer of material embedded within the shell (fabric) of the tie. Interlining thus gives a tie its shape and drape, in addition to wrinkle resistance. Luxury Necktie Manufacturers generally use wool to interline their ties, versus lower quality manufacturers that use synthetic materials such as polyester.

Woolen Interlining

Courtesy of www.putthison.com

The Dark Knot Test: A Good way To Test your Necktie Interlining is to shuffle the tie around by grasping onto the interlining from the outside. If the tie retains its shape, this is an indication of a well constructed tie. With a poor quality tie, the lining will shift and be off centered, resulting in a sloppy looking tie.

Cut On The Bias

A hallmark of a well constructed tie is that it has been cut on the bias, at a 45 degree angle.

Cutting a fabric on the bias means that it has been cut diagonally across the grain of fabric, allowing the tie to assume its original shape after knotting.

Test: Keep your forearm out and have your tie hanging around it. If your tie has been cut on the bias, it should not twist.

Cut on the bias

Courtesy of www.gentlemansgazette.com

This specific type of cut also allows the tie to lay flat and resist turning over to one side. A cut on the bias also allows a tie to maintain its drape and subsequent level of sophistication, both of which are essential to wearing a tie!

Slip Stitch

Quality manufacturers will use a slip stitch, which refers to the thread running down the tie vertically on the underside of the tie. This stitching affords the material flexibility as it is continually moved around during the tying and untying of your ties. 

Slip stitch

Courtesy of www.thefineyounggentleman.com

The Dark Knot Test: Try and spread the tie apart using your thumbs and fingers in a horizontal manner. The tie should return to its original shape, indicating that a slip stitch has effectively been employed in its construction.

Bar Tack

This refers to the stitching across both the blade and tail (wider and skinny ends) of the tie, where the two sides join and make an inverted ‘V’. Luxury tie makers will often use a reinforced bar tack stitch with a thicker thread, to ensure further durability with the ties.

        The Dark Knot tie

Courtesy of www.thedarkknot.com

The Dark Knot Test: Try and lift the shell fabric of the tie up right below the bar tack stitching on either end of the tie. If the bar tack stitching remains firmly in place and doesn’t appear to loosen with some slight tugging of the tie fabric right below the bar tack stitching area, higher quality threads have been used with this finishing touch.

Keeper

The keeper is the loop behind the blade (wide end) of the tie, that the tail (narrow end), is slipped through. Higher quality tie manufacturers will ensure that the keeper (could be the brand’s label, fabric, or in some instances both – with two keepers!) is kept firmly in place with reinforced stitching.

Sloppy tie manufacturers often use sub standard stitching at this stage (finishing touches) of tie construction, often resulting in keepers or label loops that are subject to wear and tear and subsequently fall off easily.

Orange tie

Courtesy of www.thedarkknot.com

The Dark Knot Test: Gently tug at the label loop or keeper (fabric), or both, to ensure that they are stitched firmly in place and will not easily be subject to wear and tear. This is extremely important, as a missing label loop / keeper, will result in an inappropriately worn tie, with the tail (skinny) end flailing around aimlessly behind the blade (wide end) of the tie.

Tipping

And finally, the tipping! While the tipping of a tie (fabric at the bottom of the underside of the tie) purely serves an aesthetic function, quality tie makers will go out of their way to ensure that their ties are tipped with silk.

Blue The Dark Knot tie

Courtesy of www.thedarkknot.com

Sub par manufacturers will often use polyester tipping instead. After all, if your preferred tie brand pays attention to finer details such as tipping, there is a strong chance that they haven’t skimped on the rest of the product!

Neckties for Shorter Men

Now that we have covered tie fabrics and quality in great detail, what specifically should men of modest height look for when making that necktie purchase?

The most pressing need that comes to mind is ensuring a tie of adequate length. Other considerations include pattern selection (maximizing perceived vertical lines / height) and the type of occasion that you are dressing for.

Tie Knot

The first consideration in attaining the right tie length should be the type of knot that you are tying.

While four in hand knots may be preferred by many due to its simplicity and that it can often help complement shorter men, tying a half windsor or full windsor will allow you to use up more tie fabric, thereby helping you attain the proper tie length.

Gold tie

A half windsor knot can go a long way (no pun intended!) towards creating an appropriate tie length for modest men. Courtesy of www.parisiangentleman.co.uk

A half windsor will look best if you are slightly skinnier and are wearing a narrow or medium spread collar, whereas a full windsor will look best if you are broader shouldered, and are wearing a spread collar.

Tie Fabric

Given that you will be wearing a half or full windsor knot to ensure that your tie length is appropriate, it is best to go for a silk tie. Wearing these knots with a cotton, linen or knitted tie will look out of place.

If you do have a tie that is of shorter length, than the fabric considerations won’t matter as much as you will be able to tie a tie with the appropriate length using a four in hand knot, irrespective of fabric choice.

Tie Pattern

In order to maximize perceived vertical lines (perceived height), it is best to opt for tie patterns that help elongate your frame. Hence, patterns such as striped or solid ties will work particularly well, especially if you are on the slim side.

For shorter men who are more stout, striped ties can still work extremely well, but replace the solid ties with foulard (geometric / repeating patterns) patterns that are smaller. Larger foulard patterns will make you look more stocky and detract from what we are trying to do here!

Type Of Occasion

If you looking to dress casual dapper, with your tie knot not pulled all the way up, it is almost imperative that you go for a tie specifically made for shorter men.

Dressing casually with a tie usually entails wearing a four in hand knot, which is using even less fabric in the tie. Therefore, a regular length tie will almost certainly not be worn with an appropriate length.

While there is some leeway on your tie length if you are dressing casually, you do not want your tie hanging too far below your waist line!

Skinny Ties

These ties are ideal for shorter, slimmer men, given that they will adequately reflect your body proportions. Skinny ties can really make a shorter, slimmer man look incredibly dapper.

Blue tie and shirt

Skinny Ties help to maintain proportion for shorter men with slimmer frames. Courtesy of www.thedarkknot.com

Furthermore, wearing them with a four in hand knot will have you looking extremely well put together (reflecting body proportions), provided that you can get a shorter length tie or are willing to utilize some of the tricks below (please read further!).

Custom Made Ties

With the lack of shorter ties out there in the market a clear problem for men of modest height, custom made ties are a great option, albeit significantly more expensive. While these neckties will be costly, there are tailored specifically for your height and frame (length and width considerations).

Novelty Tie Knots

If you are into wearing novelty knots such as The Eldredge or Trinity Knot, tie length should not be as much of a concern, as these unique knots will utilize a considerable portion of your tie fabrics!

What if, after all these suggestions, you just want to simply tie a four in hand with a standard sized necktie? Fear not, there are a couple of options for you here that will still have you looking dapper:

  • Tuck the skinny end of your tie into your shirt! This works best if you tuck it into the first button above your waistline, so as best to disguise the longer skinny end of the tie. This works particularly well if you are wearing a jacket all night.
  • Slip skinny end of the tie under your shirt collar, so that it stays out of the way. While this will take some adjusting to ensure that it does not bunch up behind your collar, it will help provide a cleaner, more elegant look.

And that’s a wrap for this one! I hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as I have writing it!

Questions about ties? Leave a comment below!

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Comments

  1. Those of us who work in occupations that require formal business dress or who have lived long enough to remember when every white-collar job required ties (hence the name of the job category) may remember how to tie four in hand and Windsor knots, but many of the younger men never learned how to do this. Even the older men may be confused as to the “novelty knots.” I suggest a blog with diagrams and/or a video demonstrating this skill.

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