If ever there was an emblem for gentlemanly dress, it’s the humble tie. First appearing in the armies and court of Louis XIII, ties have been around for hundreds of years, serving minimal practical purpose but the ultimate sartorial one. Whether it be adding a splash of colour to the everyday business suit, dressing up a sports coat and chinos or polishing off a tuxedo, ties are the modern gent’s winning touch.
However, with so many versions to choose from, it’s easy to be overwhelmed or simply make the wrong selection. Here, we explain the dos and do knots (get it?) of neck tie etiquette.
How To Wear Bow Ties
Despite a commonly held preconception that bow ties are a formal thing, these nifty suckers can be worn for a whole suite of different occasions. But let’s start with the most common – black tie. Every gent worth his salt should have a black satin bow tie. And a proper one at that. There’s nothing more elegant than an imperfectly knotted bow tie with a tuxedo or dinner suit. Yes, they can be an absolute pain in the neck (sometimes literally) but you can tell a pre-tied one from a mile away. Convenience doesn’t trump the finished effect so sit yourself down with plenty of time and figure out how to tie it.
Veering left of centre, bow ties can also be added to a range of more casual looks to spectacular effect. For style cues, think of a very chicly dressed college professor meets a weekend of hunting in an English estate. Waist coats, sports jackets and brogues. The tie itself should be colourful and play with patterns. If this is your first time dabbling, I’d suggest sticking to earthy, Autumnal tones like bronze, mustard and forest green – these ensure that your look remains day time appropriate and you haven’t just whacked a dinner tie on top.
How To Wear Knitted Ties
The knitted tie is a grossly under utilised part of the male wardrobe. Subtle in comparison to the more immediately luxurious silk neck tie but wildly versatile, this is an accessory that will hold you in good stead. For me, the knitted tie really comes into its own for events like the races or weddings. Formal without being stuffy, it compliments a more relaxed suit or can even dress down your more standard corporate fare.
My personal preference is to look for a silk knitted tie with a square bottom. It’s a quirky point of different from regular ties and also has a slightly more fun and casual feel. Try Oscar Hunt Tailors or Thom Browne for starters. The chicest combination colour wise is a block coloured suit with a contrasting tie – take the gent below with the olive knit and Neapolitan tailored two piece as your style reference. It’s the perfect mixture of devil may care nonchalance and sartorial splendour.
How To Wear Neck Ties
The bread and butter of the tie world, neck ties are synonymous with the 9 – 5 grind. This being said, they also have the potential to provide welcome respite from it, being a means to stand out from the crowd. When it comes to picking out your favourite though, I’d advise a level of discernment and even slight snobbishness if it comes to that.
First and foremost, a 100% silk, hand stitched tie is a treasure and point of pride for any modern-day gent. Choose carefully and it’ll be a long-lasting piece that you wear time and time again. Look at colours and patterns that have versatility across your suiting as well. Classics like stripes or even dots in navy are relatively timeless and can be equally at home in a board room as they are at a dinner. Finally, when it comes to seasons, don’t be afraid to dabble with alternative fabrics like worsted wool or even cashmere. These ties require delicate handling but are an elegant contrast in the cooler months. Look at dove greys and earthy tones that reflect the weather outdoors for the ultimate Autumn/Winter look. They can pair up perfectly with navy suits, grey suits of double breasted suits.
How To Wear Skinny Ties
I’ll be frank, skinny ties aren’t a personal favourite. They remind me of ill-fitting suits and school formals. It was a time and a place that it’s best we don’t revisit. However, recognising that there are some that still have a penchant for this British mod inspired look, here are a few pointers.
If you’re wearing a skinny tie, keep it simple. Opt for dark block colours and either a knitted or silk version. The more matte the fabric the better. Ryan Reynolds in La La Land is an ideal reference. Like all the gentleman below, this tie tends to work best off a starchy plain white shirt. Keep accessories minimal and stick with greys and blues. Last but not least, don’t be tempted by the colourful lure of a floral skinny tie. This look is universally unflattering, drawing attention to your waist line and making your torso look bigger than it actually is. If you’re keen to play with more vibrant hues, opt for a slightly fatter tie as it gives your body more shape and shows off the print without cutting it off.
How To Wear Big ol’ Fat Ties
If you’re anything like me and spend a fair amount of time drooling over photos from Pitti, you’ll notice that fat ties are having a resurgence. After finding popularity in the 70s and 80s, these big suckers are back with a vengeance in a whole host of patterns and fabrics.
Generally worn with softer tailoring and high-waisted trousers, this version of the neck tie needs to be knotted tightly to ensure your look remains sharp and doesn’t slip into becoming baggy. Adding a dimple below the knot is a nice touch and shows that you know your double four-in-hand from your Windsor. Having the thin end of your tie showing from behind is also a must as it shows off the craftsmanship of your piece whilst also adding a degree of nonchalance and ease to a look that can otherwise become terribly big wig corporate. If you’re looking to dabble with this broader style of the accessory, look at stockists like Drake’s, Berg & Berg or, closer to home, Calder Sartoria offers a range of exceptional options.
Ties With Jeans
A tie with jeans sounds kind of crazy when you first mention it, but it can actually be a great way to dress up your denim – particularly if you’ve got a big meeting or function. Pair jeans that have a mid-blue wash with a tweed or linen blazer, pop on a plain poplin shirt and use a knitted or patterned silk tie to top it all off.
If possible, move away from glossier ties as these are more suited to a woollen suit. It’s worth remembering that denim with a tie is a hybrid look and your tie should reflect this. The unfailingly stylish Johannes Huebel is a prime example, pairing a dark brown tie with camel blazer and worn denim.