Pats on the back if you want to go the whole hog with a tie! A rundown, then, to get you to dress like a GQMF look like a man among men?
Technically, you’re supposed to start off by choosing the shirt collar that best suit your face and neck length. But I say cut corners and skip this step altogether. Though the semi-spread collar, I feel, works for all ages and neck shapes. The shirt-tie colours and patterns should be complementary. Pair: contrasting but near solid colours; soft-shaded shirts with striking, oversized patterns; contrast collars with striped (regimental/repp) ties of the same colour palette; micro ginghams with plain ties. I particularly love restricting the colour palette, but without matching the shirt to the tie: say, a pale blue shirt with a solid, textured navy blue tie. But, but, but the shirts should never be darker than the ties. Then what about the oft-seen black shirt/silver tie combo? Hell NO!
Would you believe it that the pesky logic of proportion comes into play when picking a tie? The width of your tie should be proportional to the size of your shirt collar and the width of your jacket lapels. (The maths geek in me is very tempted to play around with that equation!) For instance, a skinny tie with big collar and six-buttoned double-breasted jacket ‒ you get the drift? So yeah, a skinny tie with small collar, a wide tie with big collar, and the tie at its widest point should equal the lapel at its widest point.
The standard width of ties is 9cm and anything between 9-6cm goes. With printed cloth, the tie needs to be wider ‒ or else the amount of material looks a tad mean. FYI, the skinny tie (< 5cm) IS dead. Hedi Slimane, the man responsible for its recrudescence at the *beginning of last decade* has long walked away from fashion, so, it’s time ‒ to let go of that whim.
If you’re panicking that its antithesis (the fat tie :-p) will take you to the granddad territory ‒ pipe down! ‒ there’s the not-faddish-yet-contemporary slim tie. Now I’m going to shepherd you towards my favourite, the knitted tie… It works best with a slimmer width of 6cm, can be worn from day to night, and gives off that lived-in, sophisticated vibe ‒ you can’t ask for more! Charvet is the gold standard (the financier in me puts them in the investment grade category, AA- to be specific), though others do decent quality ones at reasonable prices.
They say the debonair is in the details, so why not match the tie knot to your shirt collar? You’ll be surprised by how much it flatters your whole look. Did you know that there are, 85, bleeding, ways, to knot a tie? Yes, a couple of physics saddos worked it out. Fret not, you only need to know of three ways: Windsor, half-Windsor and four-in-hand.
Windsor knot is the big fat one (Jay-Z!), and it creates a perfectly symmetrical shape. Although James Bond doesn’t trust a man with a Windsor knot (says it’s “the mark of a cad” in From Russia with Love), I say go for it in formal occasions with wide/big, sharp cutaway collars, as it gives off a very neat, polished and assured appearance.
The half-Windsor knot (José Mourinho!) is one loop slimmer than the Windsor, though with the same symmetry. It is good for all occasions and goes particularly well with regular cutaways and tall collars.
The four-in-hand (which you probably already use) is the simplest knot of all, and is suitable for slim ties and small and soft collars. Asymmetrical and, hence unlike the other two knots, does not look too perfect painstakingly done.
Never use the “keeper” on the back of the larger blade of the tie. And oh, the tie’s point should reach the waist of your trousers, no farther.
Curse Mad Men, but precisely folding a white cotton/linen hankie into a rectangle and sticking it into your left breast pocket when sporting the tie+suit combo has become a *given* to be considered stylishly dressed. You can’t go wrong with that, ever.
Beyond that, things are tricky, because the pocket square *should not* match anything else you’ve on, yet the contrast has to look harmonious. That presents a challenge if the jacket, shirt and tie are already contrasting. Judging how to bring a third/fourth colour into the mix is the mark of a man with a flair for the visuals.
But I say throw caution to the wind and go for big bold patterns, in folds *other* than the “presidential” (à la Don Draper/Cary Grant) style. And always, wear it with *nonchalance*.
That Mad Men really is bit of a pest: along with the pocket square it has brought the tie bar/clip to the fore. The tiepin, too, is having bit of a moment, thanks to Boardwalk Empire ( stylish kingpin “Nucky” Thompson‘s signature!) bringing it out of the crypt. Pins work best with satin ties, while bars/clips look good with knitted ones, I feel. To wear a pin, attach it to the tie two inches above the jacket’s top button so that only the very top ornament is visible. As for the bar/clip, it’s worn halfway between the collar of the shirt and the waistband of the trousers, which would be the third and fourth button on the shirt’s placket; and it is never wider than the tie.
Well, that’s all the bases covered. Quite a broad range of style nuances, no? And to think men have a limited menu of options. Always remember, the best way to look effortless is to work hard at it. Hang on to every word (!!!!) from here, here and here ‒ and you’ll be sorted for life :-D