The average guy usually learns one or two types of knots. There's nothing wrong with that, but as we discussed in a previous article, some collar types pair poorly with certain types of tie knots. You also need to consider tie length and width when wearing your tie.

Main Points

  • Your tie knot should fit comfortably within your collar, without the edges of the knot being cut off.
  • Four-in-hand is a great knot type that works in virtually all outfits.
  • The ideal width for your tie will vary a bit based on your suit, height, and build.
  • The point of your tie should always end at your belt buckle or just above it -- never below your buckle or far above it.

Tie knots

Most men are familiar with a four-in-hand or half-windsor knot (even if they didn't know the names for those knots). Both of these are fairly small, fairly versatile knots that work well in a variety of situations. A half-windsor is a little bit wider and more triangular, and can look better on wide spread collars; meanwhile, the four-in-hand is narrower and uneven and fits nicely with a point collar shirt. If you don't want to learn how to tie any other knots, you could probably stick to these two and be set for life.

If you're looking for a knot of middling size, the Pratt or Shelby Knot is a bit bigger than the four-in-hand while still being smaller than a half-windsor. This knot is not nearly as common as the two mentioned above and can be used to add a bit of flair to an otherwise boring outfit.

The windsor knot, another popular tie knot that is a bit bigger than the half-windsor, pairs well with wide spread collars. However, a windsor knot can look disproportionate on shorter men or men with slighter builds.

Some of the more adventurous readers might have seen things like the Eldredge Knot or similar uncommon knots and thought they looked neat -- for most business occassions, it is not advisable to flaunt your newly acquired knot knowledge. The obvious exception might be for people working in the arts or other less conservative industries.

For a summary of tie knots (and how to tie them), check here.

Tie length and width

Reserve skinny ties for business casual occasions or less formal workplaces; wider ties are a safer bet for most professionals. Be careful that your tie does not look disproprtionately wide on you though. Don't listen to whatever advice you've heard online that a tie must be "x" width -- the ideal width will vary from person to person. Someone like Dwayne Johnson, for instance, can get away with a much wider tie because of his height and build.

Additionally, your tie width must be considered in the context of your lapel width. One quick rule of thumb: your tie at its widest width should roughly match the width of your lapel at its widest point.

Having a hard time judging whether a tie looks good on you? Look at what men who share your build and height are wearing -- what looks good on them will probably look good on you. If you're really conflicted, ask other people how the tie looks on you while wearing your favorite suit; try a couple of sizes and ask which looks best.

Tie length is a much easier problem to tackle. You just have to make sure that the point of the tie is at or barely above your belt buckle.


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About James Royce Threadgill

Founder of UbiquiTools LLC. Coder/creator of REALToDo real estate CRM. Chemical engineer that previously worked in gene therapy and green plastics before founding UbiquiTools.