How to Tie a Tie
Simple instructions for tying the most common knots, featuring videos and pictures
Follow the links above to find instructions for tying the four most common necktie knots.
“Oh well that’s just great,” I hear you say, “I didn’t know there were four different ways to tie a tie! Life is confusing and complicated…”
Well, actually it has been proven mathematically by two Cambridge research fellows that there are eighty-five different ways to tie a tie, including the four in hand and half Windsor knot. The proof involves topology and models and random walks and these guys really must have had other things they should have been working on, don’t you think?
Anyway, they say that only thirteen of the eighty-five knots are “aesthetic”, and we’re pretty sure you can get away with knowing the four big ones.
“Super,” you say, “but how do I decide which one to use?!”
That's a great question. You can decide which knot to use by answering the following questions:
- How big am I?
- How tall am I?
- How long is the tie I’m tying?
- Is the thing I’m dressing for formal or casual?
- Do I want to do the traditional thing, or be quirky?
- What kind of a shirt collar am I wearing?
Bigness and Tallness and the Length of the Tie
If you are big or tall, and the tie you are tying is not extra long, then your choice has been made for you. You should use a four-in-hand, because it is the simplest knot. (You might also get away with a Pratt). More complicated knots use up too much of the tie, leaving it comically short, especially on tall people.
However, if you are a wide person, and you have a tie long enough that it won’t hike up and look like a bib if you tie a big knot in it, a larger knot would serve you well, because it’s better proportioned to your size. A small knot on a big guy looks a little goofy.
Similarly, if you are smaller than average size you might consider going with a simple knot because simpler knots are smaller. A big knot on a small frame looks a little goofy.
Formal, Casual, Traditional, or Quirky?
Simpler knots are generally considered more casual. If you want to look formal and traditional, consider rocking a full Windsor or Pratt knott. However, sometimes wearing a tie in a casual way to a formal event can be striking and quirky, especially if the event is artsy. Just ask Prince Charles who is famous in tie circles (yes, they exist) for using four-in-hands in unusual ways.
What Type of Shirt Collar Goes With This Knot?
“What? There is more than one kind of shirt collar, too?”
Yes. But everything’s going to be ok. Take a deep breath, crawl out from under your bed, get a nice glass of milk and take a look at our guide to matching knots with shirt collars.