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Sartorial Know-how30 January 2021

Five Tie Knots Every Man Should Know  

Our resident style shrink Lee Osborne, AKA Sartorialee gets together with the team at Serà Fine Silk in Milan to reveal their favourite tie knots, explaining how to secure them with style and elegance 

The immaculately-coutured Francesca Serafin greets me at the door of her studio in Milan’s leafy Ticinese suburb. Bedecked in a vintage Hermes skirt with shiny gold buttons, silk blouse and Louboutins she strikes a stylish silhouette. Serafin has turned what was initially a hobby creating pocket squares for friends into a fully-fledged business. Having graduated from the Bocconi Law School in Milan and initially working in law overseas, she soon realised the fashion side was more her forte and subsequently launched Sera Fine silk in 2015.

We’re here to narrow down our choice of top 5 tie knots, and who better to sit down with than Serafin who sells some of the finest ties on the market, procured from luxurious Como silk.  But before we delve deep into the elaborate nature of tie knot styles themselves and which ones rock our boat, it’s important to consider that the collar shape of your shirt has a bearing on how well your knot will fit once fastened. While style is important, comfort should not be compromised.

So once you’ve fastened the top button of your shirt, you want to be able to slip 1 or 2 fingers inside the neck line comfortably. You don’t want it to be too loose or equally too tight. If you’re hyperventilating you know you’ve gone too far. The collar gap on the shirt is designed for a specific reason so if it’s too big then there’s a risk that the collars crossover in the middle which is a sartorial no no.

Navy Blue Zig Zag V Point Knitted Tie Navy Blue Zig Zag V Point Knitted Tie

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Navy Blue Zig Zag V Point Knitted Tie

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There is nothing worse than a tie that is too short and flies at half-mast. So how is the correct length achieved and is it ok to have the back blade hanging slightly lower than the front like you see classic menswear dudes flaunt at Pitti, as though they’ve tied them the wrong way on purpose? Yes, it’s definitely ok – it’s a nuance of sprezzatura after all. I’d caveat that by recommending sporting a slightly high-waisted trouser. That way, even though the thinner side of your tie will appear longer, the wider side will still align with the top of your waistband, just as it should. And remember, the most aesthetic knots always possess a characteristic dimple which adds depth to the tie. A little tip, as you’re pulling the knot tight you can manipulate the shape of the dimple with your index finger.

As for the knots, the choice is endless – in fact it’s no exaggeration to define tying a tie as an artform. Whether you plump for an even or uneven shape tied with a small or large knot, largely speaking they can be categorised into two groups: those that have a greater deal of flair such as The Prince Albert, which is asymmetrical and those like the Half Windsor, which are symmetrical.

Sartorialee’s 5 favourite tie knots:

1. The Old Bertie 

I was a dedicated follower of the Four-in-hand, that was until I discovered the innate charms of The Old Bertie, said to have been the knot-du-jour of the Duke of Windsor who went on to become King Edward VII – but was affectionately known as Bertie to friends and family. You could be forgiven for mistaking it for a Half Windsor on first inspection. It’s a more complex knot to tie than initially meets the eye but with a little practice perfecting one will become second nature. The reason it gets top billing from me is that it’s more substantial than a Four-in-hand yet provides equal opportunities for symmetry and it works really well for sitting just on your waistband rather than too far below it.

2.  Four-in-hand

Second in line comes the Four-in-hand, which derives its name from the four-horse carriage. The knot resembles the way the carriage driver would knot his reins thus keeping four horses in hand or four in hand. It was popularised by the Four In Hand driving club in London which was founded in 1856. Often maligned as being the school kid knot, it produces a nicely-sized knot (which is neither too big or too small) and yields that essential dimple us sartorialists strive for. The Four-in-hand is a very versatile knot – I particularly like it when it’s teamed with a tab collar shirt but it’s equally at home with knitted ties.

3.  The Prince Albert

Sometimes referred to as the Double Four-in-hand, The Prince Albert is an asymmetrical knot which builds on the foundations of a Four-in-hand instead of the Half Windsor. Despite the Royal connotations of its name, there is no evidence to suggest that Prince Albert, the Queen’s husband, ever actually wore one, so its provenance is shrouded in mystery. The beauty of this knot is that it can be as subtle or stand out as you like depending on how you adjust and tighten the knot. I’m conscious to always pull the knot quite tight though in order to achieve a shapely and polished appearance – revealing a more pronounced croissant-resembling overlapping curve effect.

4. The Oriental

Perhaps its appeal to me lies in its name (given my persuasion for all things South East Asian) but the The Oriental, aka The Small knot is in the top 5 of my tie knot armoury. For reasons unbeknown to me, its popularity has failed to make much of an impression in the western world. I suspect largely due to the fact that most men learn the four-in-hand when they first tie a tie at school. However, The Oriental is useful because it is similar in size, but is more symmetrical. If you’re a collar pin, collar bar or collar clip kind of guy then this is the knot for you – because the knot it yields is small enough to sit supremely snugly beneath.

5.  The Half Windsor

Symmetrical like the Windsor, but with a smaller knot – essentially a more modest version, although not as its name suggests, half the size. In fact it’s 75% of the size, making it a better proportional choice for taller men, as it uses less of the material than the Windsor. I’ve never been a fan of the former whose triangular knot I find a bit a bit staid and unwieldy but I make an exception for its cousin The Half Windsor. It’s a more formal style of knot better suited to a wider, heavier tie, which I think looks really rather at home with a spread-collar shirt – because its wider, chunkier knot fills the more substantial collar gap, particularly so when paired with a Morning Suit at weddings and other formal occasions. It also pairs nicely with point collars and button downs.

Editor’s Pick – 5 Silk Ties by Lee Osborne

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