Tying the knot


Choosing and tying your tie doesn’t have to be scary

Haute Topic
Ashley Kilback

The end of the semester is fast approaching, and you’ve realized that a job interview or important formal event is coming up in the near future. You have one problem: your selection of formal attire is lacking.

It’s been a while since you’ve had to worry about throwing on a suit or even tying a tie. You’re a grown-up now, so your mom won’t be able to choose and tie your tie for you any more.

So let’s be honest – you’re in need of a refresher. Here’s a style guide that will help you pick and tie the right tie for any occasion.

Choosing your tie

When choosing a tie for any occasion, there are three main elements to consider: proportion, colour, and pattern. In short, proportion is all about width and length of the tie and matching it to the size and build of your body, colour is about finding a tie that adds versatility to an outfit, and pattern is used to create a statement piece that becomes the focus point to an outfit. Sounds complicated? It isn’t.


Think of the tie as a representation of your body structure; if you have a larger build you are going to want to stick with a tie that is wider and if you have a slimmer build you want to stick with a skinnier tie.  The knot of your tie should fill the gap between the collar of your shirt and hang in the centre of your belt buckle. If your tie hangs above or below your belt buckle it may look disproportionate.  A good rule to keep in mind when choosing a tie is, the narrower the size of the lapel on your suit, the narrower your tie should be.


Matching colours can be a tricky task, but it’s safe to say that sometimes being bold is better. Still, it’s important to keep in the mind the type of occasion you are attending, so you don’t commit the fashion faux-pas equivalent of dancing on someone’s grave. If it’s a formal blacktie event, you want avoid bright colours and patterns.  Semi-formal events allow for a little mix and match, so choose a tie from a bolder colour palette such a blue and red or try a subtle print. The casual approach is where the rules can be broken, which gives you the perfect opportunity to play around with colours and prints that are outside of the professional world.  Florescent colours and mixing patterns are the best ways to adding personality to your tie this season.


Once you’ve been able to master colour choice, you’re now ready to step your style up a notch with patterned ties. Patterned ties are great for making a standout impression, but could go from good to bad to ugly if not done right. If you plan to pair up two different types of patterns, you’ll want to avoid clutter by making sure to combine large prints with a subtle pattern. If you’re pairing striped patterns together, combine wider and narrow stripes to balance the patterns out. Or, if you want to avoid the tricky task of matching patterns all together, stick to a solid colour shirt with a matching patterned tie.

Tying your tie

Now that we’ve covered the basics of choosing the right tie, it’s time to move on to what will make or break the appearance of your tie: the knot. When determining the style of your knot it can sometimes be difficult to choose which knot and when.

The Knotty List

Windsor: At the top of the list, we have the bad boy of knots. This is the knot of choice for a presentation or a job interview. This is a thick, wide, and triangular knot that works best with a wide firm collar. If you’re a guy with a larger neck, this knot is for you:  its wide form helps to shorten the perceived height of the neck.

The Half-Windsor: This is the Windsor’s sidekick. This is a small, symmetrical, and triangular knot that can be worn with any type of dress shirt. Like the Windsor, it also is meant to be worn with a wider necktie. The knot is best suited for a formal or semi-formal occasion. 

Four-in-hand: This knot is best used with a skinny tie. This is a more of a laid-back style that is simple and more casual than the above-mentioned. This style can be used for a less professional occasion and be the perfect choice for a good impression on a hot date. If you’re a guy with a shorter neck, this is the knot for you – its narrow form helps to elongate the height of the neck.

Pratt: This knot means business. This is also a wide knot that is similar to the Windsor for the big and tall. It can also be paired with any style of dress shirt and should be worn with a wider necktie.

The Bowtie: This is where the modern man meets the modern gentleman. It’s the perfect addition to a formal event that gives you an elegant appearance. The bowtie is best paired with a tuxedo, but can also be a tailored to your own personal style. This knot should never be broader than the widest part of your neck and should never extend past the tips of the shirt collar.

Bonus tie: the neckerchief

If you want to avoid the stuffy formality of the traditional necktie, accessory neckties are the latest twist in that fashion. It is also referred to as the neckerchief and can be compared to the similar style of a bandana. It’s a great piece for a rugged urban look that can be styled to your own preference. Pair the neckerchief with a cardigan, leather jacket, or even just a T-shirt and jeans. The knot looks best when it’s twisted around itself, tied tightly around the throat or placed slightly off center. It’s the next best piece to add to your spring wardrobe.

1 comment

  1. Bart Soroka 15 March, 2012 at 12:05

    And don't forget, match your pocket square to your tie.

    Also, don't forget to buy a pocket square!

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