Last Bit of Sermon on Spiffiness... ;-)

Zina Tasreen , 30 Dec 2011
Love of my life...
David Beckham: The leading man…

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?

From left to right: Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick) sporting eye-catching pattern over a soft shade; Becks & his regimental tie (repp ties have the stripes slanting down the other way - it's a Brit vs US thing); ever the sartorial train-wreck, Sergio Ramos sporting navy-silver combo - not to be imitated, ever
Shirt-tie combos (from left to right): Chuck Bass (Ed Westwick)  doing the eye-catching-pattern-over-soft-shade trick; Becks & his regimental ties (repp ties have the diagonal stripes running down the other way ‒ it’s a Brit vs US thing); NOT to be followed, under any condition, Sergio Ramos’s shirt-tie misstep

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!

Jude Law: The big contrast collar (on the right) was crying out for a wider tie to fill in the space, while the smaller collar-slim tie combo on the left looks nicely balanced
Jude Law: The big contrast collar on the right was crying out for a wider tie to fill in the space, while the smaller collar-slim tie combo on the left looks spatially balanced
Note how Jude Law's shirt collar, tie, jacket lapels are in perfect proportion to each other
Note how Jude Law’s shirt collar, tie, jacket lapels (everything, really!) are in perfect proportion to each other

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.

Hedi Slimane modelling his anorexic ties for Dior Homme
Hedi Slimane shilling his anorexic ties for Dior Homme

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.

Charvet knitted ties <3
Shirt-tie pairing (on the left) by restricting the colour palette and using textures to bring about variation; Charvet knitted ties

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.

See how Becks's fat knot with his relatively big collar flatters his neck area in comparison to Harry's limp knot, even though both are wearing more or less the same collars. And oh, the regimental ties - it's a quintessential Brit thing
See how Becks’s fat knot in comparison to Harry’s limp one with the relatively big collar flatters his neck area. Spot the regimental ties ‒ it’s a quintessential British thing

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.

Jay-Z and his signature Windsor knot
Windsor knot: Jay-Z’s made it his trademark!
Perfect execution of the Windsor knot
Perfect execution of the Windsor knot

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.

Loosely done half-Windsor has become Mou's signature; perfect demonstration of the half-Windsor knot, while in a Marks & Spencer (yep, not designer or bespoke, just good ol' M&S) suit by Becks
Half-Windsor’s not as spread out as the Windsor: The loosely done half-Windsor has become Mou’s signature; perfect demonstration of the half-Windsor knot by Becks, while in a Marks & Spencer (yep, not designer or bespoke, just good ol’ M&S) suit

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.

Four-in-hand knot as it should look (from left to right): James Bond with his preferred knot; Anderson Cooper; Barack Obama
Four-in-hand knot, as it should look (from left to right): James Bond (Sean Connery) with his preferred knot; Anderson Cooper; Barack Obama

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.

Donald Trump shows you how NOT to wear a tie. Quite a mystery why his tie lengths are *always* too long...
Donald Trump shows you how NOT to wear a tie. Quite a puzzle why his tie lengths are *always* too long…

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.

Elegantly done pocket sqaure: Rahul Khanna
Elegantly done pocket sqaure: Rahul Khanna

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.

It pains me to use Becks to illustrate this: the tie and pocket square should *never* be identical. This man can do wrong, too.
It *pains* me to use Becks to illustrate this point: the tie and pocket square should *never* be match, like this. This man can do wrong, too.
This IS how to do bring a third/fourth colour into the fray. Y-es, this man works the daylight out of that piece of cloth...
This IS how to do blend a third/fourth colour. Y-es, this man works the daylights out of that humble piece of cloth…

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.

The "winged puff" style of fold (courtesy: mrporter.com)
The “winged puff” style of fold (courtesy: mrporter.com)
The "one point" style of fold (courtesy: mrporter.com)
The “one point” style of fold (courtesy: mrporter.com)
The "pyramids" style of fold (courtesy: mrporter.com)
The “pyramids” style of fold (courtesy: mrporter.com)

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*.

This tie bar IS black - *not* silver!!
Subtle use of tie bar/clip. This IS black/onyx ‒ *not* “sterling”!!

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.

THE Spanish GQMF: Xabi Alonso
THE Spanish GQMF/James Bond/Don Draper: Xabi Alonso

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

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