Most men, it seems, have a default necktie knot (if they know how to tie one at all; my wife had to teach me.) The most common knots were taught, most likely, by fathers who had been doing their default method for decades and had whittled it down to a mechanic and automatic function of getting ready for work (odds point to the Four-In-Hand.) But, unless you’ve resigned yourself to stocking your closet with one type of dress shirt, eliminated the depth of your wardrobe, then it’s useful to at least keep on hand the basic rules for necktie knots.

Four In Hand

Let’s begin with the most basic of distinctions: which knot is appropriate? The answer is pretty basic: Large and symmetrical is for formal occasions, while small and asymmetrical is casual. However, as with all things fashion, these are traditional rules with modern exceptions. For example, a thin black tie (with a narrow symmetrical knot like the Oriental or Nicky Knot) on a tux or black suit can be the perfect finishing touch.

This leads us to the next important consideration: collar spread. In the example above, a thin black tie with tuxedo or suit, only works if the shirt has the correct collar width. If you have a wide space and a small knot in-between, it will look vacant and draw attention to the sparsity of the arrangement. With a wide collar, it’s better to stick with the classic wide knots like the Windsor or St. Andrew’s.

The final consideration is face shape and neck. To be honest, I think that these should be on the bottom of most people’s list. These are aesthetic details that can be very subjective while trying out different knots and different collars. If we tried hard enough, I’m sure there could be an infinite digression of things to keep in mind while choosing a knot. Consider the first two points analogous to Newtonian physics: they may not be the total picture, but they’re good enough for us to navigate the world with reasonable confidence.

Basic Knots

While knot and tie enthusiasts will find this sacrilege, I contend that you don’t need to know more than three knots: one wide formal, one casual, and one thin. I realize that even that is unlikely for most men, but I think it is worth pursuing. WhileI doubt that a perspective boss is going to ogle your knot choice, or that a woman of interest is really going to love your Nicky Knot over the fact that your wearing a knit tie with a tailored suit, it’s the details that make the outfit complete. When your tie works perfectly with your shirt and suit, it blends in to the total look.

Check out for step-by-step directions on all the knots listed above

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