At this moment in history, the Half-Windsor is by far the most popular knot. It’s a question of like going with like. Lapels of a certain width require ties of the same measure, which necessitate collar-spreads that are similar, which, in turn, demand knots that are likewise. The thing is, there are only so many ways to tie a tie, so the Half-Windsor wins by default. It’s the knot that best fits today’s lapel widths.

From smallest to biggest, the Four-in-hand, Half-Windsor and Full-Windsor are the three basic knots used throughout the western world. (There are multiple variations, but none bear mentioning in this context.) The Bow Tie is less standard, but more and more often you’ll see them out and about. The Ascot is also gaining in popularity. It’s no longer reserved exclusively for the yacht clubs of the rich and famous.

And, in case you didn’t know, some of the nicer dress shirts have a thing called a tie loop. It’s sewn into the back of the neckband, under the collar, and it keeps your tie from sliding down and exposing itself. In the interests of common decency, we urge you to use one whenever possible.


KNOT QUITE PERFECT

Every perfectly tied tie has a dimple. That’s the little oval-shaped indentation in the fabric that forms just below the knot. If your dimple won’t form naturally, try poking a furrow in the fabric with your forefinger as you tighten.

The correct starting position for tying a tie can only be determined through trial and error. In other words, it’s something you’ll have to figure out on your lone and onesome. The ideal result, the thing you’re looking to achieve, is ending with the tip of the wide end at your beltline, without ever going past your belt.

THE HALF-WINDSOR KNOT

  1. Start with the wide end of the tie on your right, extending a foot below the narrow end.
  2. Cross the wide end over and circle it back underneath.
  3. Bring the wide end up around the other side and push it down through the loop around your neck.
  4. Pass the wide end from left to right around in front of the narrow end.
  5. Pull it up through the loop around your neck and then down through the knot, so it hangs down in front.
  6. Grip the narrow end of the tie and work the knot upwards. Slide it up, snug, against your collar.

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THE FULL-WINDSOR KNOT

  1. Start with the wide end on your right, extending a foot below the narrow end.
  2. Cross the wide end over in front and bring it up through the loop around your neck.
  3. Bring the wide end down and around behind the narrow and then up on the right-hand side.
  4. Pull the wide end through the loop around your neck and then around and across the front of the narrow end, forming the knot.
  5. Pull the wide end up through the loop around your neck. Pull it down through the knot so it hangs down in front.
  6. Grip the narrow end of the tie and work the knot upwards. Slide it up, snug, against your collar.

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THE FOUR-IN-HAND KNOT

  1. Start with the wide end of the tie on your right, extending a foot or so below the narrow end.
  2. Cross the wide end over the narrow and circle it back underneath.
  3. Bring it around once more. Circle the wide end around in front.
  4. Pull the wide end up through the loop around your neck.
  5. Keep the knot open and loose. Pull the wide end through so it hangs down in front.
  6. Grip the narrow end of the tie and work the knot upwards. Slide it up, snug, against your collar.

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THE BOW TIE

  1. Start with the left-hand end extending an inch and a half below the right-hand end.
  2. Cross the longer end over the shorter and pass it up through the loop around your neck.
  3. Form the front part of the bow by doubling up the shorter end. It should measure a little longer than the distance from one collar point to the other.
  4. Hold the front part of the bow between your finger and thumb and drop the long end of the tie in front.
  5. Pinch the place where the ends cross and hold things together. Pull the hanging end up through the loop around your neck and let it fall down in front.
  6. Bring it around and behind the front half of the bow, then fold it and poke the folded end in through the knot, forming the back half of the bow. Even up the ends and snug it up against your collar.

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THE ASCOT

  1. Start with right end extending six inches below the left end.
  2. Cross the longer end over the shorter and back underneath.
  3. Continue around, once more passing the longer end in front of the shorter.
  4. Pull the longer end up through the loop around your neck.
  5. Allow the longer end to fall down overtop of the knot, forming something like a bib.
  6. Adjust the bib so it covers your throat. Tuck the whole thing inside your shirt, leaving the puff of fabric showing. Leave your collar open.

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PROPER CARE AND FEEDING FOR YOUR TIE

Leaving a tie tied when you’re not wearing it can cause permanent wrinkles. Untie the knot and, when doing so, reverse the procedure. Don’t just pull the small end out, and always hang them on a covered hanger or tie rack. That way, they’ll survive intact until their next use.

Never, ever press a tie. Hot irons should never touch dainty, delicate silk. If there are wrinkles, hold it up, vertically, over a boiling kettle and give it a measured dose of steam.

When it comes to stains, however, prevention is your first and best line of defense. If you’re eating something messy and you doubt the utter impeccability of your eating skills, then, by all means, use a napkin. Tuck it in like a bib. It’s never dorky to be smart about things.

Dry Cleaning
Silk ties should never be cleaned commercially. The material can’t handle the chemistry. It’s a disaster in the offing.

Water Spots
Let the spot dry and then rub it with the small end of the tie, eradicating it. Or scrape it off with a fingernail.

Other Stains and Spots
Apply steam. Do the vertical hang trick over the kettle and use a powdered or aerosol dry spot remover. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, hold your tongue funny and hope like hell. Be advised, however, sometimes water or rusty steam can be the end of a tie.