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Even if you consider your style to be understated, knowing how to knot a tie is an essential adult skill. There’s more than one option here, too, and understanding the full range of knots (both the “how” and the “when”) is key to achieving a dressed-up look. Sure, personal preference plays a role - but so does the occasion, your face shape, and shirt and necktie styles.

Four-In-Hand Knot

This everyday knot can be executed in seconds. It’s the go-to approach for the collegiate look seen on Ivy League campuses, a great way to knot a knit tie and the best mode for neckwear being paired with a button-down collar.

  1. With the ties around your neck, the wider end wider end should be the same lenght as your outstretched arm.
  2. Cross the wider end over the narrow end just below the neck, making an ‘X.’
  3. Pinch the wider end against the narrower end where they cross, then pull it over.
  4. Now pass the wider end back the other way and under the narrower end.
  5. Pull the tie up through the opening, letting it fall straight down.
  6. Push the the wide end down through the knot, tip first.
  7. Tighten and adjust.

Half-Windsor Knot

This knot is more standard in its proportions than the slightly asymmetrical four-in-hand. Once you get the hang of it, it’s just as easy to tie.

  1. Hang the tie around your neck, with the wider end hanging a few inches lower.
  2. Cross the wider end over the front of the narrower end and around again.
  3. Pull the wider end out to the side. Then pass it back to the middle and down through the loop that’s now between your neck and the front of the tie. You should see a triangular shape starting to form now.
  4. Pull the wider end back out to the side, then back over the front of the knot and up through the loop. Adjust the knot by holding onto the slim end, making sure to finesse a little dimple just below the knot.

Pratt Knot

Also known as the Shelby, this is a lesser-known knot with US military roots and a distinct tapered triangle shape. Due to its extreme width at the top, it’s much more appropriate with a spread collar. Since it uses less fabric than a full Windsor, it’s a good option for shorter ties.

  1. Drape the tie ends down your chest with the seam sides facing up. Leave the narrow end dangling above the waist.
  2. For the first twist, pass the slim end of the tie over the wide end, forming an X below your neck.
  3. Take the tip of the wide end in your right hand and bring it back over the narrow end at your neck and down through. Then pull it out again, just right of the X.
  4. Keep it just right of centre, pulling on the tie end to keep it tight.
  5. Take the wide end in your right hand. Pull it out to the left, across the knot.
  6. Twist the wide end back around the slim end, then tuck it up through the hole from underneath.
  7. Push the wide end down through the knot, tip first. Tighten and adjust.
 

Bowtie

Learning this knot can be tricky, but it’s still one worth learning, especially for wedding season. Unless you’re using a larger bowtie (normally reserved for special occasions) you’ll want to use this particular piece of neckwear with discreet collars, such as a traditional button-down (for a professorial vibe) or a smaller spread collar. For formal events you might also consider a wing collar, which is the only true way to do classic black tie.

Take a breath and prepare yourself for a few tries. Chances are you’ll have to start over a few times either to work out the handiwork or, at the very least, do some length adjusting on the bowtie.

  1. Drape the tie around your neck, leaving the right end slightly longer. (These instructions assume right-handedness. If you’re a lefty, reverse the first part.)
  2. Pass the longer end over the shorter end, forming an ‘X’ just below your neck.
  3. Pinch the shorter end in place as you pass the long end underneath the loop you’ve got around your neck and back up through.
  4. Take the shorter end and bring it up just below your neck, in a horizontal position. The middle of the ‘hourglass’ should be exactly in the center and lay flat against your chest.
  5. Now pull the longer end back down from your shoulder and let it hang vertically over the horizontal end.
  6. Here’s the key move: Take the long end in your right hand, bring it up behind the work-in-progress center knot, very gently, and back through the loop you can feel behind it.
  7. Pull the front right tip while holding onto the rear left end. Do the same with left-front and rear-right.

Your goal is a bowtie that’s not tilting up or down - but only about 70-90% symmetrical in terms of front bulge and back, left end and right. Wear these imperfections with pride; after all, they let everyone around you know that your bowtie did not come pre-tied.

Full Windsor Knot

A richer, sturdier tie knot with a distinctly British flavor to it. This more formal approach is best employed using a silk tie of a certain thickness. It looks particularly debonair with a spread collar. A bigger knot like this one requires a bigger collar – and perhaps a wider face – for purposes of proportion. Your jacket’s lapel width should also follow suit.

  1. Select a longer tie. (The Full Windsor’s extra folds require extra fabric.)
  2. Wrap the tie around your neck so that the ends hang down your chest. Leave an extra 30 cm or so at the wide end.
  3. Cross the wider side across the short end, then back up through the loop around your neck.
  4. Wrap this wider end underneath the middle knot-in-progress and pull it out to the side.
  5. Pass the wider end horizontally over the front of things, forming a wide bar.
  6. Pass the wider end up under the collar again and back over.
  7. Leave the wider end hanging down the front of the shirt. Pull it back up and then down through the hole you’ve now got in the middle of the knot.
  8. Holding the narrow end of the tie with your thumb and forefinger, push the sliding knot up so that it’s snug against your neck.
  9. Make some minor tugs to cinch the knot and finish by pinching it perfectly into place.
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