Your Guide to Buying and Tying Ties

Your Guide to Buying and Tying Ties

It's a shame that ties don't come with a manual. They really should as they raise such dilemmas as necktie or bow tie? Knit or silk? What is the correct length or width? What to pair it with? And then there's the all time favourite conundrum of the nailing the knot. Whether you're a tie newbie or jut wondering if you've been doing this right all along, this is your complete guide into the world of ties.

Read more Men’s Style Guide features.

How To Tie A Tie

So you've made it through the arduous task of purchasing the perfect tie. Congrats! Now it's up to the tying process to make your formal outfit the ultimate success. This is your guide on how to tie a tie step by step.

Now you may want to know how to tie a necktie, for many reasons. Maybe your father didn't have the time to show you, maybe you were too busy with Need For Speed II to care, but now you're off to job interviews, formal parties and meeting the parents and there's no one around to show you how. Fear not the Idle Man team is here to show you how.

Man with beard in dotted ascot tie | PHOTO CREDIT : Pinterest

Your Guide to Tying A Windsor Knot

This neck tie guide wouldn't be complete without your step by step hand holding on how to tie a windsor knot:

  • Start with the wide end on the right, and the small end on the left. The tip of the small end should rest slightly above your belly-button, or the centre of the tie should sit perfectly central at the back of the neck.
  • Pull the wide end over the small end.
  • Bring the wide end up into the neck loop from underneath, and pull straight.
  • Pull the wide end around the back of the small end, and then over the top, bringing it down through the loop again.
  • Pull the wide end around to the front, and underneath the back of the loop.
  • Finish off by sliding the wide end through the knot.
  • Tighten the knot by pulling down the wide end. Slide the knot up & adjust.

You're done!

Your Guide to Tying a Four in Hand Knot

The best way to wear a knit tie is with a Four in Hand Knot. It is one of the most common types of knots and it works great on medium to tall men. Here's how to deploy it perfectly:

  • Turn up the collar of your shirt, buttoning the top button, and place the tie around your neck.
  • Lay the wide end over the narrow end, just below the collar.
  • Pull the wide end around the back of the narrow end and bring the wide end across the layover.
  • Holding a finger in the loop, bring the wide end up, and then down through the loop.
  • Hold the narrow end, and pull the knot up to the top shirt button.
  • When finished, the narrow end should be covered and the wide end should be level with your belt.

But if thats still too confusing then just watch this simple video below:

Your Guide to Tying a Double Knot Windsor

Although the Double knot is almost identical to the Four in Hand, it does feature one more layover. In order to nail this knot you will need a tie that features two different end lengths. The wide end must hang much lower than the narrow end.

Here's how to rock the Double Knot in 4 simple steps:

  1. Place the wide end over the narrow end of the tie, just below the collar.
  2. Again, bring the wide end behind the narrow end.
  3. Pull the wide end up and under the layover, and then pull into the loop formed by the first or second layer.
  4. To finish, adjust the knot and pull it up to the centre of your collar.

Watch this video on how to perfect the Double Knot:

How to Wear a Tie: Looks

You've nailed all the possible knot combinations and now it's time to look into your wardrobe and strategically add elements to create your outfit.

A Suit Without Tie

Or how to Clooney it.

So you want to nail the suit no tie. First off there is a time and a place to do that. The reasoning behind going tieless is opting for a laid-back, relaxed look, that remains sleek and tailored. Although cool this look wouldn't fly at a wedding, special occasion, job interview, formal event or any type of business meeting. Cross those occasions off your tieless suit options, and your world is a fine oyster that doesn't need a tie.

  1. Collars

If you're ditching the tie, you need at least something that will frame your face, This can be a good vertical collar. Great wurkin stiffs and collar stays will keep the collar in place. Mind proportions. Opt out of tiny or full spread collars that look like toddler bibs.

  1. About the Fit

Going tie-less may leave you feeling a bit exposed. Which is more the reason why you should pay attention to the fit of your suit, mind your sleeve length and show the cuff.

  1. Mind the Suit

Keep your suit patterns demure, and by that I mean opt out of them completely or at least keep them at a hardly noticeable minimum. Go for a cool camel color, or solids like navy, light grey, and khaki.

  1. Shirt Unbuttoned

The shirt has got to be crisp, ironed and well fitted. Again as you bare your core without the tie, any faults are even more noticeable.

Now you may want to unbutton the second button of the shirt, to get this look following in the footsteps of Jason Statham, and George Clooney. Make sure that is 1 or 2 buttons maximum and not a 70's inspired chest hair fest.

Buttoned Up Shirt

Go in the complete opposite direction for a statement look by buttoning up the shirt. This look will give more attention to your face and will look great in slim fit figures.

Suit and tieless buttoned up shirt | PHOTO CREDIT: Tumblr

Shirt Without Tie Top Tips

  • Let your self go

Well not completely. But this look will look great with a woodsman ex hipster sort of grooming

  • Footwear

Go for formal monkstraps, suede boots or sock less trainers for summer. Try a pocket square if you really miss a piece of fabric in the chest area.

How To Wear a Tie Clip & The Tie Clip Rules

Many men find themselves confused as with where to wear a tie clip. So they end up wearing the tie clip way too low or too high. Yet, tie clip placement is really simple. To kick things off, the correct tie clip location lies between the third and fourth button of your dress shirt. As simple as that. If you have trouble fastening the clip, remember it clasps both ways, And finally always opt for a narrow clip. You don't want anything larger than your tie hanging from the sides.



How To Wear a Bow Tie

Let's start off with the different types of bow-ties: Self-tied, pre-tied, and clip-ons. From those three scratch the last two as they're mainly targeted for children.

Don't know how to tie a bow tie?

The thing with bow ties today is that they can be worn formally, but also in a more personal, casual way so it's up to your unique taste to do it right. If you're after a formal event then keep the rest of the outfit muted, sleek, and tailored. Don a navy, black or grey suit and match it with a blue or white crisp shirt. Stay away from patterns and stripes, but if you have to choose the most subtle one.

Once you've chosen the rest of the outfit and you're happy with it it's time to experiment with bow-tie patterns. If you're working with a demure outfit/ canvas you can get away with almost everything: from stripes, to paisley, or polka dots embrace the bow tie the way you want it. Just be wary of occasion, as loud patterns are best kept for less formal occasions.

Bow Tie Looks

Now we all know that a bow tie can be worn in a smart way, but have you ever thought about putting one on for a smart casual look? Its simple just keep the top half smart by doing the button up shirt with bow tie look, and go wild with what you do on your bottom half. Though I would avoid wearing trainers.

Casual outfits for bow ties
SHOP: Accessories | Shirts | Trousers

How To Wear a Knit Tie

Knitted ties are made of soft or crunchy material. Soft knit ties work great with casual outfits  while crunchy knits are stiffer and made of a special silk yarn that was originally used for socks. More specifically the knit tie is made from nubby silk, wool, or linen. They've become the ultimate anti-power statement item lately, as they express a looser more casual type of guy that is polished, but not overdone or full of himself. Laid-back cool would be a great way to label this look.

Knit Tie outfit grid
SHOP: Ties | Shirts | Shorts | Blazers | Sunglasses

How to Buy a Tie

If you brace the unknown world of ties without the help of a nagging girlfriend or mother, here are a few rules to keep in mind when you hit the stores.

PHOTO CREDIT [] 8 Colorful, patterned, dotted, stripped ties


Contrary to popular belief, you don't need 3 rails of ties hanging from you wardrobe in order to perfect the look. 8 quality ties is all you need given that you've avoided wine related stains.


Like it or not, ties come in many shapes and sizes. And as much as we're fans of variety this wide array of choice can end up being just plain confusing.

Here are a few tips on how to do it right:

Think of the tie as an accessory that will compliment your body frame and your outfit. Start with your blazer. The width of you tie should be proportionate to the size of the lapels of your jacket. If the distance between the tie and the lapel is too wide you'll draw attention to your chest and belly if the tie is too thick you'll end up looking frumpy. Get your geometry goggles on and measure the distance to perfect your outfit.

The Stitch

Have you ever thought why great quality ties have this triangle type of stitching in the back? It's to keep your tie looking stretched, ironed and faultless. There are many out there not following this rule, but now you know better so you don't have any excuses. Just turn the tie over and make sure the reinforced stitch is horizontal so that the first stitching is secured and so that the tie keeps its formal shape.

The bar tack is an essential component when choosing a tie. If it's misplaced or simply non-existent you'll get that oh-so-charming bubbling effect on your tie. And no one thinks a balloon tie is cool. Unless the tie is dotted and you're playing Charlie the Clown for your niece's birthday party.

PHOTO CREDIT []: The stitch of the tie

The Fabric

When it comes to choosing a fabric for your tie, the answer is pretty simple: Silk.

Why you ask? Well to ice things off, silk is one of the most durable fabrics around. And I bet if you invest in a quality tie you want to keep it in your closet for a while. Although it's soft the tensile strength is extremely high due to its elasticity. Another important factor is maintaining a desired shape. You really don't want to get your hands on a tie that will end up shriveled, or bumpy as it will definitely and very effectively ruin your entire outfit. Silk ties are meant to drape perfectly, so it doesn't matter how many times you attempt to do the knot, the tie will retain its original shape.

PHOTO CREDIT []: Silk Ties
If you feel that you want to delve into another type of fabric here are a few to consider:


This type of fabric will give you the versatility to wear it into different types of climates and it comes in a wide variety of styles.


This is probably your best bet if you're not going for silk, but considering the cost and the not-so attractive finish in comparison to the silk tie, we would leave this one up to you.

The Slip Knot

Not the band, but a tie detail. Great quality handmade ties always include a slip knot this is the little piece of fabric peeking out from the blade tip and it works. With this detail you can adjust the tension of your tie after endless tying and untying "abuse". It will also keep your tie perfectly in place and thus adding to your overall sleek looking outfit.

PHOTO CREDIT []: The Slip Knot

The Body

You can recognise a well-made tie instantly if it includes 3 simple features:

The large end of the tie (The Blade) the smaller thinner portion of the tie (The Tail) and the Gusset which is the necktie piece joining the two together. This is pretty self-explanatory yet you would be amazed as the amount of fabrics out there mascara ding as ties that have no silhouette, are too boxy, too short or too long. Look for those 3 components in proportion with each other and you've just bogged yourself the perfect tie.

Bias Cut

This sounds a lot more pompous than it really is. A Bias Cut basically means any type of fabric cut diagonally across the grain of the fabric. This will allow the tie to assume its original shape after knotting and to resist turning over to the side.

PHOTO CREDIT []: Tie Cut on the Bias

The Details

Now that you're unfazed by the basics let's get down to the details.

Keeper - Important part of the tie, as it will keep the tail in place.

Patterns - Make sure that the lineup results in a continuous pattern and not randomly.

Edges - Look for well pressed and ironed edges. This will ensure that your tie and you are in it for the long haul.

3 Tests

It doesn't matter if the sales person starts looking at you funny, just follow this 3 simple rules and test your potential tie to the limits.

  • Lay the tie on a flat surface and place your palms over the body of the tie, if the tie gains its original shape after you remove your hands, you're good to go.
  • Hold the tie horizontally by the tail and check if it twists. This is the ultimate test to check the effectiveness of its bias cut.
  • Turn the tie over and check the slip stitching i.e. where the the two parts of the tie meet in the back and look for a single stitching.

A Brief History Lesson on Ties

Did you know that the neckties date back to the early days of weaving and spinning as a scarf alternative? The necktie will not probably protect you from the cold but that was its original function.

The Croats took it to the purely decorative level as they used to tie a piece of cloth around their necks on top of their uniforms. During the 1618 war in France, as their troops were supporting King Louis XIV, he adopted this pice of cloth as a mandatory clothing accessory for Royal gatherings and the Croats named it "La Cravate", in his honour. And voila! The tie is born.

Those first hybrids of ties looked more like your modern day bowtie rather than a necktie. It wasn't until the 19th century that British horsemen "invented" the famous necktie knot (for info on how to tie your necktie look below) to tie their scarf around their neck while holding the reigns of four horses. Around the same era the ascot tie was born, or in other words the formal forefather of the necktie.

PHOTO CREDIT [Pinterest] King Louis XIV sporting la cravate.

A Brief History Lesson on the Ascot Tie

The predecessor of the necktie, looks like a cross between a modern necktie and a silk scarf, and unlike your basic tie both ends have the same width. This type of know is much looser and secured with a decorative pin.

The name came from the exclusive horserace "The Royal Ascot", where modern gentlemen would combine it with a tailcoat jacket. You probably won't wear this type of tie, unless you're attending some type of formal event or wedding.

Ascot tie outfit grid
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A Brief History Lesson on the Bolo Tie

If you want to channel a bit of  John Wayne, or early Clint Eastwood charm, this might be a great item for you. The Bolo Tie, or in other words the Cowboy's go-to-accessory is made of graded pieces of leather that are fastened around the neck with a clasp. It was invented by silversmith Victor Cedarstaff in Arizona in the early 40's. This invention was a result of a typical cowboy problem: as the wind kept blowing away his hat that featured an expensive silver band, he decided to take it off and wear it around his neck. He grew to like the way it looked and started making this type of "necklace"that he then named: The Bolo Tie.If you find yourself in Arizona, or New Mexico you will find may officials sporting the bolo, as it's been the official neckwear since 1971.

How to wear bolo ties PHOTO CREDIT: Birch Box

On That Note...

If you've made it through the end of this post, you should now be a tie pro. Now, it's is up to you to incorporate this newly found knowledge into your wardrobe. Think of the key pieces that lie in your closet. Are you more inclined to wear casual wear, or business attire? Are you dressing for a laid back Saturday lunch or for a dinner with the future in-laws? Once you have determined the occasion, personal style and key pieces to accompany your look you can confidently pick a tie, that will perfectly match your needs and complete your outfit.


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