Fit Lesson 7: Ties.

Posted on August 24, 2009 in Accessories, Basic Fit Lessons, Body Type, Dress, Fit Lesson, How To Dress For Work, Office Wear, Outfit Ideas, Popular.

If you couldn’t tell I love ties; there’s just something about them. Whether paired with jeans or a suit, I love the contrast that that little bit of color affords. It’s arguably the most masculine article of clothing you can wear regularly (spurs don’t count). And as a man’s style should be generally subtle, the tie offers that one bit of room for artistic liberty.

There are two main categories with regard to knowing how to wear a tie: width and type of fabric. Outlined below are the fit rules for ties, highlighting specific rules for occasion and body type.

Ties have been shrinking recently, a trend I wholeheartedly embrace. A normal tie width is approximately 3.0″ to 3.75″ at its widest point, whereas “skinny” ties, can range from 2.75″ to less.

The skinny tie look is great when executed properly and works for both formal and casual situations. I’m a big fan of wearing a slim tie with jeans, because the cut of the tie helps to distinguish it from its workwear brethren. However, for formal occasions, a thin black tie is classic and visually distinct.

The key to pulling off this look is proportion: if you’re larger an overly skinny tie can accentuate your size. That’s not to say that big dudes can’t wear skinnier ties, you just have to play with tie width as well as shirt color (darker is slimming) to see how it plays out. Another option is to opt for something slimmer than traditional, but not skinny, remember it’s all about proportion. Meaning, go for the updated 3.0-3.5″ ties that mass market brands like JCrew are beginning to sell.

That’s not to say that trim/athleticly built guys can go as skinny as they want. Wearing a tie less than 2″ should be saved for those attempting to make a style statement, as it really doesn’t look good. Note below, Pete from Mad Men (who is a thin guy) looks awkward in a wafer thin tie.

Photo credit: A&E.

Photo credit: A&E.

That being said, I think big and tall guys, can get away with super wide ties. Something that some Italians tend to favor. In this case, I think it punctuates a larger guys build, rather than attempting to hide from it. These ties can be almost 4″ wide. But keep in mind when tying such a tie, use a full windsor knot in order to match the extreme tie width. This look should not be attempted for those with slight builds; you’ll end up looking like a clown.

Less important are the fabrics, as the rules tend to be inherently obvious: coarser fabrics are for more casual settings. The only thing you need to know is when to wear a particular tie for the right occasion. I’ll just highlight three of the main types below.

You all know the classic finely woven silk ties. Odds are, these are the only types of ties that you own. Based on fabric alone, there is really no way to delineate between casual and dress wear, because the deciding factor really is the print of the tie. Since there are too many to name we’ll save that for a latter post.

Knit ties, popular in the eighties, have made a strong showing as brands like JCrew and Club Monaco have brought them to the masses. These typically are for casual situations, so pair them with a cotton suit, khaki pants, or jeans. They’re typically not to be worn with a formal suit.

Photo credit: JPress.

Photo credit: J. Press.

Wool ties, though less common, can be worn for both formal and casual occasions during the Fall and Winter seasons. These are coolly unique, and if you stumble onto some, purchase immediately.

Photo credit: Sovereign Beck.

Photo credit: Sovereign Beck.

Tie Length
I see a lot of guys get this wrong. When the tie is tied, the tip of the tie should extend between the top of your belt and the middle of your belt. Don’t let it extend 2″ below the belt (most common mistake), or ride up a few inches above.

Bow Ties
Bow ties have become more popular recently, and they can add a little bit of classic geek chic to your look. I sport a bow tie for formal occasions, as it’s a bit more formal than even a standard black tie.

As with a regular neck tie, slimmer is in (i.e. Harry’s tie in the above Mad Men picture). However, these can be difficult to find, so you really can’t go wrong with a classic Brooks Brothers bow tie. If you are going to rock this for non-blacktie events, ensure that the rest of your wardrobe is also suitably modern; both fit and style.

I would encourage those who attend black tie events to learn how to tie a bow tie and shun the pre-tied versions. Tying one is super easy, and totally worth it when you’ve got it untied and hanging around your collar after the event (like Bond). It’s those little things that make life fun.

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