As you have perused our articles and style guides, you probably think that by now you have this whole suit thing down. But as we have mentioned before, it's not just the suit itself that people notice. Your shirt, your cufflinks, your shoes, and even your pocket squares and lapel pins can say a lot about your personality. Neckties and bow ties are no different. In fact, the tie you decide to wear with a suit has the potential to make or break your entire formal ensemble. While bow ties are generally reserved for the most formal occasions such as black-tie dinners and weddings, the necktie is by far the most common form of neckwear in both formal and professional worlds. And believe us when we say that this is an absolute godsend. A necktie can be fastened and tied within minutes, while even the most skilled and worldly gentlemen may struggle with getting a bow tie just right for up to an hour, if not longer. So whoever is responsible for keeping the necktie at the top of the fashion food chain for decades, we'd like to take a brief moment of reverence to say thank you, wherever you are. As a result of being more popular, neckties are pretty much available everywhere in a vast array of different colors, so even if you're rushing to your next meeting at the last minute, you can always get one with relative ease. Even if a necktie is not required for your office dress code or casual evening event, a tie will always add an extra tinge of class and elegance to your outfit, as you will always come out ahead by dressing up a notch in contrast to dressing down.
But many of us have become accustomed to putting on a tie only one way, not realizing that there are several different knots out there that fare better with different suit styles or different events. By knowing some of the knots that go above and beyond the common four-in-hand standard, you will for certain get more mileage out of your wardrobe without too much effort at all. In this guide, we'll give you all the tools you'll need to increase your style sensibilities by using nuanced subtleties in the way you knot your neckties. As we've explained before, the devil is almost always in the details.
The Full Windsor Knot
The Windsor knot, in its full bona fide form, is usually considered the most formal and most prominent of all necktie knot styles. The knot is very wide and also has the benefit of being even and symmetrical when it is tied properly. The Windsor knot looks best with spread and cutaway collars paired with suits that are on the more formal side of dress attire. The prominence and symmetry that this knot provides may even give you a slight advantage over your colleagues when you're going for a promotion or a job interview, as it not only shows an elevated sense of fashion but also conveys that you can actually tie this slightly more complicated knot. Now for the tricky part...
Tying a Windsor knot is a little bit more difficult than the standard four-in-hand knot that most gentlemen are used to. When tying this knot, you'll want to leave a little extra slack on the wider side of the tie. Cross both ends and pull the wide end back through the space between the loop of the tie and your neck. Take the wide end of the tie, cross it underneath the skinny part again, and then pull it back over the other side of the top of the loop. Wrap the wide end of the tie around the forming knot, pull the wide end back through the loop around your neck, and then pull it through the very front now-formed loop around the knot. Once you pull the tie down and adjust it to your liking, you should have a symmetrical and wide standard full Windsor knot. Just like with all tie knots, it's easier than it sounds, and you may want to look at a few diagrams to get a better visual of how all the steps fall into place.
The Half Windsor Knot
Just like its namesake parent, the Half Windsor necktie knot will yield a symmetrical even knot. The only real differences are that the knot is smaller and involves fewer steps to tie. This style is ideal for business professionals who want an even look to their ensemble without the prominence of a Full Windsor. A Half Windsor knot exudes a sense of subtle elegance that isn't very achievable with its full bolder counterpart.
A Half Windsor will require more slack on the wider side of the tie, but not as much as a Full Windsor, so adjust accordingly. Cross both ends of the tie and pull the wide end over the loop around your neck. Unlike the Full Windsor, take the wide end of the tie, pull it over the forming knot, pull it back under the loop around your neck, and then take the wide end and pull it through the top loop of the knot. Voila! You should now have a Half Windsor. Many professionals in the business world prefer this knot as it is more versatile than the Full Windsor, and it will look just as good with spread or cutaway collars as it will with more informal forward-point collars. The other benefit to the Half Windsor is that it requires fewer steps, so it can be very convenient if you're in a hurry.
The Four-In-Hand Knot
This classic knot is likely one of the first ways in which you learned how to properly tie a necktie. If you're really running late, and we mean no-time-for-coffee-or-a-banana late, you can tie a four-in-hand knot in less than 30 seconds with no problems at all. One of the main drawbacks of the four-in-hand is that the knot is not symmetrical, nor is it very prominent. But many professionals prefer the smaller knot, and since each person may tie it a little bit differently, this can add a bit of charm to your ensemble that is otherwise absent in Windsor knots.
To tie a four-in-hand knot, you will need even less slack on the wide end than you would with a Half Windsor. If the wide end is too short, you'll end up with a tie that prominently displays the narrow end dangling way down past your belt line; if the wide end is too long, your entire tie might be visible when your suit is buttoned. A little trial and error might be necessary, but as a general rule, the narrow end should be about half as long as the wide part of the tie before you begin to form the knot. Cross both ends and loop the wide end over the point where the tie was originally crossed. Take the wide end and bring it underneath and over the loop around your neck. Then take the wide end and place it into the loop that has formed over the knot in the front. Pull the wide end downward and with a few adjustments, you should have a standard four-in-hand knot at the top of your necktie. Due to its relatively small knot, many gentlemen prefer this knot with the sleeker, more contoured fit of Italian-style suits, as bolder knots can sometimes take away from the sharply tapered look of the suit. For most practical applications, the four-in-hand knot is perfectly acceptable, but we would caution you to go with a more symmetrical knot for occasions that require or expect a little bit more formality than standard office attire or after-work functions.
The St. Andrew Knot
At first glance, there is almost no difference between the St. Andrew knot and the Half Windsor knot. The biggest change lies within how the knot is actually created, even though the result is pretty much the same. Unlike all the previous knots we've covered, the tie should be turned on its reverse side when you drape it around your neck in the beginning. As a result, the part of the tie that is normally invisible will be seen if the tie is not fastened all the way up to your neck, so it is important to only use this knot if you don't plan on loosening your tie at any point during the day.
With the reverse side of the tie facing out, cross both ends (with the wide end underneath) and then wrap the wide end around the front of the forming knot. Now that the wide end of the tie should be to your right, bring it over the loop around your neck. Take the wide end and bring it across the forming knot and pull it back upwards through the loop around your neck. Then take the wide end (that should be facing out) and bring it through the top part of the knot. This should give you a symmetrical St. Andrew knot. While this knot is less common than the other three we've already discussed, it's a perfectly good alternative to the Half Windsor, and if your tie stays all the way up throughout the day no one will know the difference.
Christensen, Kelvin, Balthus, Hanover, and Grantchester knots will all yield an even appearance similar to the Windsor variations as well as the St. Andrew knot, while Nicky, Oriental, Pratt, Plattsburgh, and Victoria knots are similar in appearance to the uneven four-in-hand knot. All of these are by far less common, but one feature throughout all of the different necktie knots is that even knots are slightly more difficult to tie than uneven ones. At the end of the day, it all really comes down to personal preference.
The few exceptions to this rule, however, are the Cafe, Eldredge, and Trinity knots. While they are technically even in the most rudimentary sense of the word, these three knots are by far the most difficult to tie; as a bonus, they are also not very common, so their practical uses are limited. Rather than a flat one-dimensional knot as most neckties tend to have, these styles have more intricate patterns in the knot itself. It is very rare to see these knots in the wild, and you should only attempt to pull off this very peculiar style if you feel like you're more confident with tie knots than you were on your wedding day. They can bring a sense of intrigue and sophistication to your formal attire when you execute them properly, but their real-world applications are relatively scarce.
Considering all of the different necktie styles available, by knowing a little bit about the various common knots you will be able to maximize the utility of your wardrobe. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and with some practice, you'll be able to ensure that you look your best for any occasion. As you're browsing our custom suit offerings, be sure to check out the various ties and accessories we have available so you'll stay sharp and sophisticated whether you're headed to the office or invited to be the next keynote speaker at a formal evening event.