Many men grew up being taught the Full-Windsor tie knot. This was the first knot taught to me. I’m not entirely sure why this is, but my guess would be that the ties in the 1980’s and 1970’s were generally fairly thin in terms of their material. Whereas today, most ties are much more substantially constructed, even those that are narrow in width. The thicker a tie’s material, the thicker your knot will be. This means that ties from the 80’s and 70’s required more substantial knots in light of their thin construction than today’s knots. Gentlemen, it’s time to leave the Full-Windsor behind.
The three most common tie knots, from least substantial to most substantial are: the Four-in-Hand, the Half-Windsor and the Full-Windsor. The Four-in-Hand is slightly asymmetrical, while the Half-Windsor and Full-Windsor are meant to be symmetrical.
There are a number of considerations when tying a tie: first is the spread of your shirt collar (the bigger the spread, the more substantial the knot, generally speaking – that said, Prince Charles regularly ties a Four-in-Hand with a highly spread Cutaway Collar and looks very dashing). Second is the thickness of the material used in the tie. Third is the width of the lapels of your suit. Finally, there’s the size of knot that you’d like to end up with. Currently, most suits have fairly narrow lapels, meaning that it would look out of place to have a really substantial tie knot. Furthermore, as mentioned above, most ties are thickly constructed, meaning that a less substantial knot is required. Finally, I would suggest that the Full-Windsor (featured in the picture above) is far and away the least aesthetically pleasing of the tie knots. This is because it is often far too large when tied with a modern tie and is generally wider than it is long, which serves to widen the look of one’s face much like wearing horizontal stripes do to one’s body. (More after the jump)
In Britain, the Full Windsor has become known colloquially as the “Footballer’s Knot”, which associates the massive Full-Windsor with the often garish style of professional athletes (seen below on former NFL wide receiver Michael Irvin). In many cases, a Full-Windsor most closely resembles a silk fist below your chin (see the photo of the gentleman in the orange tie above). It is not an aesthetically pleasing choice, and, since it requires so much fabric to tie, often leaves one’s tie too short.
If you like the symmetric look of the Full-Windsor, I would highly recommend tying a Half-Windsor (which is tied precisely like the Full-Windsor, except with half the steps – more can be found on that here: ). If you like the more asymmetric, visually interesting Four-in-Hand, it will always be an appropriate choice (as I mentioned, it’s Prince Charles’ knot of choice, and few people are required to be more proper and appropriate than him). But, I would suggest not tying a Full-Windsor – you really don’t want to be in the same sartorial category as loutish professional athletes (and I’m saying this as a big sports fan; they just don’t dress well as a group) or a mafioso.
Instead, do yourself a favour and tie a Four-in-Hand (below on the left), or probably make the easier transition to the Half Windsor (below on the right). I’ll leave you with a passage from Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel, From Russia, With Love: “Bond mistrusted anyone who tied his tie with a Windsor Knot. It showed too much vanity. It was often the mark of a cad.” Well stated Mr. Fleming.
Until next time, gentlemen…