Guest Posts

    Tie It Together: How Guys Can Improve Their Neckwear

    16th January 2013
    Megan says:
    Gabi’s going to start taking the wheel on Wednesdays this semester. She’ll be giving us her take on college style…though I have a feeling guys who have already graduated will still find her advice useful. So fellas, listen up! – SG

    I hadn’t really seen the trouble with ties until it was time to ring in the New Year. The mash-ups I saw that night inspired me to make my own New Year’s Style Resolution: Help every guy I run into fine tune their style, starting with the little things. Beginning with: how best to wear a tie with a dress shirt. That’s because 1) the combo is very prevalent, even for guys my age and b) it can be somewhat challenging to do well.

    I SO appreciate the effort to pair a tie with your button-up, and I now understand what a hassle it can be to actually tie it (I recently tried to teach myself how to tie a Trinity knot. Conclusion: not an easy knot) and to match it to your shirt.

    There are so many fabrics, patterns and colors to choose from for both elements…you’re just jumping into a sea of confusion. I get it. So I’ve decided to put together a quick list of tie/shirt rules to make it easier for you guys to look good. Here’s what you need to know:

    1) Your tie should hit the top of  your belt buckle

    I’ve seen a few that stop midway down the shirt, and it just doesn’t look quite right. It may seem like it hangs low and gets in the way, swinging around all willy-nilly, in which case you should definitely consider getting a tie clip. You should consider this anyway, just because it looks good.

    See that last button? You shouldn’t. But the guy on the right has got it right, and he’s got the girl!

    2) Don’t wear a tie with a flannel shirt

    Just because it has buttons doesn’t mean you can wear a tie. Flannel shirts (in the Nirvana sense) have soft collars, which don’t stay in place like the stiffer collars of dress shirts. And if you do find a nice, slimmer cut of a flannel that mimics a dress shirt, I think you will look just fine with or without a tie. Like a beautiful lumberjack.

    Abandon the formal neckwear (left) in favor of the perfect tee (right).

    3) Be cautious with stripes

    I love mixing and matching patterns, but watch out when it comes to wearing stripes with stripes. You could potentially wear a thin-striped shirt with a wide stripe tie, as long as there is a visible contrast, such as in the colors or direction of the stripes. But definitely feel free to wear stripes with solids, polka dots, plaids and other patterns!

    The stripes on left are too close in size, and compete for attention.

    The combo on the right from Brooks Brothers has enough variation in the stripe sizes to make it work.

    4) Some ties are too formal for some shirts

    There is something I just love a chambray shirt, but I think it wouldn’t look quite right with a silk tie. A tie in a less formal fabric, like cotton, would make for a more fluid look. A knitted tie is cool and can be used in a casual office setting, but probably not with a formal suit. And that lime green silk tie you wore to prom? I think we all know what to do with that one.

    This chambray tie (Tie Bar, $15) would look better with this casual shirt.

    …Of course, for you grown-up guys most of these rules may come as no surprise to you, but I think this might prove helpful for the guys my age, in college, where “going out clothes” means jeans, a clean tee and (HOPEFULLY) not your gym sneakers. We live in a bubble of our peers who agree that there isn’t any occasion where you can’t wear sweats, UGG boots and/or something “comfortable,” and we have yet to be thrust into the real world where you have different occasions that require different formalities. I just want to help out my fellow man, man.

    Tell us:

    Are there any secrets to the world beyond clip-on ties you’re willing to share? Share them in the comments below!

    • Chris Rogers

      Great write up. A resource I’ll recommend is I purchase most of my ties and pocket squares on this site. It is great not only because of their cheap ties but they also have a nice guide on different knots and which collar types and ties to use each knot with (this is definitely an important factor to consider with ties) . The other nice feature is they allow you a selection of basic suit and shirt colors to put with your tie to give you an idea of what the combo will look like.

      • Enrique Ollero

        Love A great resource.

        A quick note on tie clips:

        1. Never have a tie clip wider than your tie

        2. Be careful how you pair them. Not in terms of color or texture (I don’t really believe there are hard and fast rules in that regard) but in terms of the type of tie and the type of clip. For example I wouldn’t wear a knit tie with a pinch clasp tie clip. Take it off to quickly or carelessly and the jagged edge of the clasp WILL catch the weave of the tie and pull threads loose. It’s an inevitability and a lesson I learned the hard way. Use a slide clasp for knit ties and others that might catch on a jagged clasp

        • Adam Wyatt

          Definitely agree with everyone’s recommendation of and agree with those notes on tie bars/clips Enrique.

          Also, you mentioned it but thought it should be mentioned again: a tie bar/clip is a great accessory to help pull a more formal look together! It’s cheap ($15 at, easy to wear (between the 3rd and 4th button usually), and adds a lot to the look. Just graduated college and girls always complement me on wearing a tie bar.

    • Jim Alrutz

      Learn more than one knot. Some knots are going to be difficult to work with if you’re very tall, even if you buy ties to compensate. I almost never use a full Windsor because it eats up too much of the tie and leaves me short. Also, the shape of the knot should depend on the collar of the shirt and just generally the shape of your face. A four-in-Hand and Pratt are both essential and easy knots of varied size, and you should have at least one bulkier knot like a Half-Windsor. Once you get used to wearing a tie more you can start to pick up funky things like the Atlantic or Trinity knots.

      • average joe

        true dat on the full windsor

      • hornsup84

        Never trust a man in a full Windsor…

        • Michael Bailey

          “It was tied with a Windsor knot. Bond
          mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor knot. It showed too
          much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.” :)

        • qu1ck

          i’ve heard the opposite: never trust a man in a half-windsor… it reflects laziness and indicates pretense.

      • Jonathan Brown

        Couldn’t have said it any better…particularly about how different knots work for different shirt collars.

        • Style Girlfriend


      • gabi meyers

        I love the trinity knot! I’m also a big fan of the cross knot.

      • JJ

        I completely agree. Versatility is key because the same knot can come out very differently depending on the weight of the fabric. Being able to pair the right knot, collar, and tie can make or break your look. Personally, I use a half-Windsor most of the time because it is substantial enough to fill most collars without being ostentatious (and I love the symmetry).

    • Derric

      I enjoy the recurring theme of “You guys should try to look more like lumberjacks!” from both Megan and Gabi.

      Of course, I had to watch this clip a few times:

      • gabi meyers

        After the Brawny man, Will Ferrell is my absolute favorite lumberjack.

    • Chris Thompson

      The key for tie length is that the widest part of the tie, the two side points, should rest right at the top of the pants.

      My height is all torso (I’m six foot tall but only have about a 29-30″ inseam) which makes this a bit hard, even with long ties.

      Because of that I only tie a four in hand. Any other knot simply takes up too much length out of the tie.

      • K to the Poon

        I’m in the same boat, I’m 6’2″ but i have a 31″ inseam. I usually use a a four in hand or sometimes a half windsor, but when I use a half windsor the short end i tuck into my shirt under a button so it’s not loosely flapping around. It just makes for a better presentation.

    • ilyac

      Great article, thanks! Learning a few knots is important but more so (in my opinion) is learning to tie the knots you know neatly, particularly getting a good dimple.

      Like Jim said, four in hand, Pratt, half-Windsor, but also the ‘simple knot’, it’s about as small as it gets, great for narrow or medium spread collar. I think it’s a little more symmetric than the 4 in hand, and maybe just a bit smaller.

      • Style Girlfriend

        I really need to practice all these knots!

    • Arkhangael

      More than often, I would take my most beautiful ties to the tailor, who would re-size them and shorten them if necessary. I would end up with ties of the perfect length and no excess fabric hanging from behind the front flap. Cool, handsome, and tidy.

      • ilyac

        I don’t know why I never thought of that. Being a shorty guy all my ties are too long, so taking them in to get shortened up a bit is brilliant. Thanks!

        • Arkhangael

          As strange as may seem, it’s not a difficult thing to do. I once read an online article, with the step by step process to do it, with the help of explanatory pictures. I always wished I wasn’t that lazy and had at least tried once.
          Now, I don’t need to wear ties anymore. Luckily or unluckily..

    • Bronello_Cucinelli

      Regarding rule #2 – I think I saw the guy on the left at the last Thom Browne runway show, so there’s that.

    • TJ

      All this advice is pretty spot on. I have to say one thing about patterns. I personally do not like geometric pattern ties at all. I think they look ugly. I stick to stripes, dots, plaid, and solids.
      Also don’t forget about a nice wool tie in the winter to go with your thicker fabrics.
      As far as knots go, I stick with a four in hand for more casual events and ties, and a half windsor for more formal events and ties and it has served me well.
      As for the width I go with 3″ for formal ties and 2.5″ for casual ties.

    • Eric

      At 18, I think I can safely say that I’m a younger guy. This advice goes out to all those other younger guys that want to wear a tie on occasion, but are worried about looking like their dad: Just do it!
      When you put it on it may seem too formal and stuffy, but just go out there and wear it with confidence, and you’ll be glad you did (provided you are following the above advice by Intern Gabi, of course!)
      And who knows, maybe you’ll inspire those around you to class up their own styles. God knows society would be a better looking place.

      • Style Girlfriend

        yes, I concur that 18 is young.


    • Alain

      Great write-up. Another thing to note is the FIT of the button-down shirt. Make sure that you know your own size. Furthermore, make sure the collar fits. That is, your index and middle fingers should be able to fit into your collar comfortably when you button the shirt up.

      • Style Girlfriend

        right, but no more than that!

    • Jim

      If you’re going to wear a tie without a jacket, I think your shirt should be on the casual side — not flannel, but a button-down oxford or maybe a plaid or tattersall pattern. But if you are wearing a suit or sportcoat, make sure the width of your tie is close to the width of your lapels.

      Ive picked up most of my ties at thrift stores for about $3 apiece. Just check for stains or snags, and watch out for vintage ties that are way too short because people used to wear their pants up to their belly buttons.

      • Style Girlfriend

        ha! good call out Jim, thanks!

    • Joe Colucci

      Tie width is under-discussed, but like the material & length, it’s crucial for gauging the level of formality & getting the right fit. In general, a skinnier tie is more casual, & wider is more formal. All of those too-short ties above are also too wide to be worn without a jacket.

      In general:
      Don’t go skinnier than 2.5″ unless you’re going for a hyper-casual, sort of trendy look, or you’re a stick. Remember that the upper part of the tie (that people see more, since it’s near your face & not covered by a buttoned jacket) is narrower than the bottom, so even a 2.5″ tie looks pretty skinny.

      I think 2.75″-3″ is perfect for just about everything–works with or without a jacket, and it’s a nice modern touch for a formal business outfit.

      3.5″ is as wide as you should go, again unless your body type absolutely demands it. (We’re talking linebacker here.) And save the wide ties for business wear (i.e. with a suit), unless it’s almost entirely covered by a sweater or something.

      Finding 3″ ties can be a challenge–many brands tend toward either the skinny or the wide–but I think it makes a huge difference. At The Tie Bar, you can sort their entire collection by width & get exactly the ones you want.

      And on the question of knots: always four-in-hand. Classic, simple, not too formal. If you’re short and need to burn some length, or just want a little extra heft without going half-Windsor, do a double four-in-hand.

      • Chris Rogers

        Great explanation and I completely agree on the width rule. It has gotten very difficult where I live to find ties 3″ and under at stores so I almost exclusively purchase online at now for the reasons you state.

    • Jeff

      The four-in-hand is the only knot I ever tie, and in my opinion, is the knot that’s versatile enough to be the only one I’ll ever need: it’s quick and easy to tie, and I can double the knot to make it more substantial for those spread and cutaway collars. I like my neckwear to look natural and unassuming, and the other knots just seem a little too symmetrical and affected for my tastes.

      Some other things to point out about ties:

      1. I see this way too often to not mention it. Put a dimple in it! You already learned to tie the damn thing already, take the extra two seconds and put a proper dimple in it. It’s all the difference between a flat, sloppy, and lifeless look and a much more put together one.
      2. Your tie, collar, and lapels should sync. So, smaller collars and narrower lapels = skinnier tie, while bigger collars and wider lapels = bigger knots and wider ties.

      In the “what’s wrong” pictures that Gabi posted above, it isn’t just the bad pattern mixing that’s messing up the looks, but all of those ties are way too wide for the collars those guys are sporting. And, no dimples!

      Also, I don’t mind ties with flannel shirts, as long as you keep the tie a solid color (the flannel is likely already too busy for anything else) and a similar weight fabric, like wool or tweed.

      • Style Girlfriend

        Just want to make sure you’re noting the difference between plaid and flannel – plaid is a pattern, but flannel is a fabric…and a very cozy, casual one at that (as Gabi called out above)

        • Jeff

          Good call! I neglected to note the difference. Although when I think of flannel, it’s usually with a plaid pattern. As for the shirt/tie combination (in this case a flannel shirt in buffalo plaid), I think something like this looks pretty great:

          I know how much you love the buffalo plaid on us guys :)

          • Style Girlfriend

            Y’all are too good to me!

    • Chris

      I disagree with the no silk knit ties with a formal suit. I wear skinny silk knits all the time with my suits and it’s looks great. Just need to know now to wear it.

      • James

        I wondered about that too, whether Gabi meant silk knit ties or other less formal options like wool knits. There are plenty of examples of silk knit ties paired with formal suits and can look quite stylish adding interesting texture when used well. You can look no farther than James Bond throughout the years, especially Sean Connery, to see how great it can look.

    • Kevin Reed

      I wish I could sit down with every other guy on my college campus that “dresses up” and show them this. I’m all for guys wearing ties (and to a bigger degree, suits and blazers) on a regular basis in less formal situation, which I have been doing for years now. But not a single one of them knows how to do it right.

      They all wear their big “dad and grandpa” ties, and it kills me, because the world could use more guys that know their way around men’s wear. But they just do it wrong.

    • TJ from ‘hooville

      This article might have benefited from some discussion of wool ties, which are less formal than the usual silk ties, but are very handy to have in one’s wardrobe for informal situations. Of course, wool ties are only worn during the winter months, and subdued natural colours work best.

      • Style Girlfriend

        the whole topic of ties definitely deserves more attention. this was just a primer, but we hope it was helpful!

    • Neil Sobel

      If you know how to tie a tie, do it (I.e. Bowtie, necktie, ascot, etc). If you can’t, or are only using this tie for a special occasion and HAVE to wear a clip on, make sure the clip doesn’t show. I love my ties and bow ties. People come up to me and ask if my bow ties are clip-one. Oh how I love proving them wrong.