(Editor’s note: This is part of a series called The Perfect Fit. Explore the other articles here.)
Let’s chat about ties.
There’s a good chance, at some point in your life, you’ll have to wear one. Even if you’re that guy who hates wearing them.
In this situation, it could go one of two ways.
You’ve either read this article and did your research, which resulted in you looking fully-prepared and dapper to the extreme… or you look like you swiped a tie off the bum down the street and haphazardly knotted it around your neck.
Even if you don’t wear ties every day, let’s make sure you know what you’re doing, on those rare occasions you must wear one.
The traditional width for men’s ties are around 3 1/4″ – 3 1/2″ (8.25cm – 8.9cm) across, at the widest point. There are plenty of arguments regarding tie width and how today’s ties are too narrow. I personally feel that 3 1/2″ is too wide. I think for a modern man, the sweet spot is anywhere from 2 3/4″ – 3″ (7cm – 7.6cm).
There are plenty of factors that affect this, however. One major factor is the tie’s width compared to to the suit jacket’s lapels. In general, if your lapels are slimmer, your tie should also be slimmer. If your lapels are a bit wider, your tie should be too.
Another factor is your general build. Do you have a slim, small stature? Slimmer ties and lapels will look better on you. If you have a broad shoulders and chest, you want to wear something wider.
Yet another factor is your personal preference. I hardly ever wear that wide tie on the right, but I do rock that Hawaiian floral one. So, sometimes, it just depends on what you like and what makes you feel good.
If you’re concerned about what’s classic versus trendy, I think you’re safe with something around 3″.
Again, take all this with a grain of salt and first evaluate your lapels (and your build) to determine the right width for you.
The standard tie length is around 57″ (144cm). If you’re a taller dude and you find that regular ties are too short when you knot them, you may need extra long ties, which are around 61″ – 63″ (155cm – 160cm).
Knotting the tie
There are a multitude of knots out there; just do a simple Google search and you’ll see what I mean.
If you’re so inclined, go ahead and explore the others out there. You might find one you like better.
“Where should my tie end?”
The wide end of your tie should hit the belt buckle, or right at the waistband. That’s the classic sweet spot. Neil and Peter (from White Collar, above in the photo) got it right.
Personally, I like mine a little shorter, when the tip of the tie hits the middle or the top of the belt. If your ties are narrower, this looks fine. If you’re approaching 3.5″+ tie widths, a shorter length isn’t a good look, like this stock photography guy.
“Are all ties made of the same stuff?”
You’ll find ties made of different materials such as silk, cotton, and wool. Silks can be worn year-round. I like wearing my wool ties in the winter and my lighter cotton ties during the warmer months.
“Which tie do I wear with this shirt?”
This is a tough one, simply because there is no one correct answer for every color combination out there. It depends a lot on the rest of the outfit.
Here are some tips, though.
Think opposites for foolproof pairing. When it comes to patterns, if you’re going with a bold tie, make sure your shirt is plain or very subtly patterned. If you have a patterned shirt (bright gingham, plaid, etc.), stick with a solid or subtly patterned tie.
Create contrast. Study the images above and figure out why these work. Contrast, for one, but also the colors complement each other well.
By the way, complementing colors can best be explained using the color wheel, but I know that’s not always the easiest to comprehend. This article does a good job getting you started. Here’s another good one.
Yes, those articles are tailored to the ladies, but if you look past that, you’ll see that the info is legit and should make putting together colors much easier.
Start with a neutral or light-colored base. If you wear a white or pastel shirt, it’s much easier to pair with practically any tie. If you’re throwing on something like Jerry’s party shirt, I’m not sure I can really help you there.
Further reading from the guys at Put This On – The Most Basic Ties
Clearly we didn’t cover EVERYTHING about neckwear. If you want a full history, Wikipedia can get you started. These are the absolute basics and should get you started on the right foot.
Questions about the basics and necessities? Need for further explanation? Leave em below.