Everyone knows how to tie a tie, but choosing the right kind of men’s tie can make all the difference between looking stylish and appearing awkward. From the fabric to the cut to the stitching, this guide lays out six indispensable rules to follow when selecting a quality necktie.
- The fabric
Silk is the classic high-end material for ties. While relatively thin, silk is durable and attractive. Woven silk works well with standard knots. Silk keeps its shape, drapes well, and is naturally wrinkle-resistant. The best tie silks usually come from Italy and England.
Wool is also recommended, particularly for cooler months. The thicker material works well with larger knots and adds visual texture. Cashmere, while technically wool, deserves special consideration too, due to its unique softness and warmth. However, cashmere is rather delicate and difficult to clean.
- The bias cut
This diagonal cut gives the fabric more natural elasticity allowing for better knots and a nicer shape. Bias-cut ties will only stretch downwards, allowing them to move more naturally with the wearer. Poorly-cut ties, on the other hand, will quickly become twisted and distort sideways.
A quick way to determine if a fabric is cut on the bias is the “pull test.” Gently tug the necktie downwards to ensure that it stretches vertically. Then pull against the fabric at a 45-degree angle. A bias-cut tie should not stretch diagonally when pulled in this manner.
- The stitch
Quality custom neckties are always handstitched rather than machine-made. The slip stitches, which go vertically up the back of the tie and hold the folded material together, need to be slightly loose for the tie to flex and fall properly. Hand-stitching ensures this. Tight machine-stitching prevents the tie from returning to its original shape easily and can cause tearing from the stresses of repeated tying and untying.
Examine the stitches at the back of the necktie, if they are visible. Sometimes the vertical slip stitches can’t be seen, but handmade ties should always feature a “bar tack” ― a large horizontal stitch ― at both ends of the tie. Skilled tie-makers will also use durable material such as silk for their thread.
- The sizing
Skinny ties work well with smaller knots like the four-in-hand, also known as the “schoolboy knot”. Wider ties feature more material, allowing for larger knots such as the Windsor. Remember, tie width and knot size should match the proportions of your suit and shirt ― wider lapels call for a thicker tie, wider knot, and larger collar, whereas thinner lapels work better with a slimmer tie, smaller knot, and narrower collar. For more details, see our guide to tie widths.
- The design
A necktie should create contrast with your shirt. Collars and jacket lapels frame the wearer’s head, whereas a tie draws attention upwards towards your face. Ties should also add flair to your ensemble, not distract the viewer’s eye by being overtly loud.
Solid colour ties are the classic way of keeping things simple and timeless. Dark colours never go out of style. They can be paired with almost any shirt or suit, and are appropriate for any situation. Lively colours such as racing green, walnut or camel also have appeal. When building your necktie collection, always start with solids.