Knot choice all tied up

As Oscar Wilde once said, "a well tied tie is the first serious step in life". How do you tie yours?

There are lots of different ways to tie a knot, just as there are many misconceptions about which knots are best.

Many will tell you the half and full Windsor are the only way to go, but truth be told, the mother of all knots is the four-in-hand. It has a simple and somewhat asymmetrical finish identified by a characteristic dimple below a small knot.  Most of us would have trained on this knot and I still use it 90 per cent of the time.  I find other knots too gratuitous and quite frankly, too big and gaudy.

Have you seen the knots Craig Foster sports on SBS?  He's a stylish guy but in my mind, the gargantuan knot undoes all of his hard work.

The truth is this: the full-Windsor is a formal knot and, with its scale and dominating characteristics, is really only suitable for such an occasion.  They're too much for everyday use and look it.  I'm not saying don't, but you need the attitude as well. Too many times I have seen 'kids' with a knot as big as their face, in a collar that's all wrong for them. They may have all the fresh-faced confidence in the world but the knot is wearing them.  You'll need a heavy cut-away collar for this one, but better yet, play it safe and be aware that there are better knots for the day than the pretension and requirements of the full-Windsor.

The half-Windsor is not as formal or as big, but is just as assertive and still packs a punch. Most guys in business will have this as their knot of choice and for good reason; it fits most collars, is symmetrical (to avoid any sartorial confusion) and works for a standard width tie.  This is the Pat Rafter of ties, popular, practical and inoffensive, the all round 'good tie'.

There are loads of knots and really they just end up being variations on a theme and basically unnecessary. Although I think more guys should try their hands at the small knot and the Prince Albert, both of which offer a small and neat finish. The Prince Albert, not to be confused with the body piercing of the same name, works well with narrower ties of softer cloth and the small knot fits well under closer fitting collars. They are subtly different to the all-rounders and offer an alternative when the four-in-hand may be considered boyish or naïve. Prince Charles wears the small knot or Kent knot with comfortable aplomb, evidence that even a Windsor is not the choice for a Windsor.

Did you know the four-in-hand was named so because 19th century English etiquette called for a slim, vertical tie for carriage drivers?  The four refers to the carriage drawn by four horses. Thanks to the four-in-hand, the tie came to be accepted as the classic fashion accessory for men. 

My parting tip to you is this. Never, ever wear a pre-tied knot.  If you don't know how to tie one, make the time to learn.

What is the hierarchy of the knot?  Do those in power wield the Windsor like their position at the head of the company?  What do you consider the best knot and how do you use it?

Do you change for occasion or stick to what you know?

This article Knot choice all tied up was originally published in The Age.