How To Pick The Right Tie

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When it comes to dressing for a wedding or an event, women have far more to worry about than us guys; we know we'll be putting on some incarnation of a suit and a dress shirt. But when it comes to adding the finishing touch – the tie – some guys have difficulty picking a tie that will complement their outfit. Far from being a one-size-fits-all accessory, the right tie allows you to pull together a smart outfit with a touch of texture or complementary colour. The wrong tie, on the other hand, can be just as bad for your look as an ill-fitting suit or gaudy shirt so it pays to know how to choose wisely. Read on for some tips that will you have your dressing game all tied up.

 

"Nice Tie"

 

A tie is the first thing people notice – their eyes can't help but go there. But it also creates a trap that's easy to fall into which is buying a tie that looks great all on its own but doesn't match any of the clothing in your wardrobe. Your tie should never be a novelty piece, it's there to speak to the rest of your outfit, not to stand out on its own or clash with the rest of your ensemble. Match your tie to your clothing, not your clothing to your tie. Coordinating your suit, shirt and tie isn't rocket science but it does require an understanding of width, length, colours and patterns, which can be used to build a versatile and interchangeable wardrobe.

 

Width & Length

 

Every style-conscious guy knows that one of the secrets to a great outfit is proportion. While most people know how to dress for their body shape, proportion often gets overlooked when it comes to ties. Necktie proportion relates to the tie's width and length in relation to a man's build and clothing. A broad gentleman is going to look best with a wider tie to match his larger shoulders. Skinnier guys have the opposite problem and should look to slimmer ties (around two inches) to compliment their narrower body type. For those who fall into the average size category the easiest way to gauge your ideal tie width is matching the width of the tie to the width of the lapels on your jacket – slim for slim, wide for wide – which should already have been matched to your frame. As for the length, let your beltline guide the way. The tip of your tie should always reach the beltline of your trousers. Any lower and it looks sloppy, while too high looks cheap.

 

Colour

 

There's no easy answer to what colour tie works best with any given outfit. There are many factors that determine the right colour for a man including the suit, the shirt, the complexion of the man and the message he wants to send. Ties are a point of focus, so they're immediately noticeable and people will often judge you on them. For a more muted sophisticated look, try pairing a semi-solid lightly patterned blue or green tie with a blue coloured suit. If on the other hand, you want to stand out, opt for the contrast of a bold red or burgundy on a light coloured shirt. As far as picking a colour that works with your complexion, it's best to try and mimic your natural contrast levels. Guys with fair hair and fair skin have low contrast and should, therefore, go for pastel and monochromatic colour combinations. Guys with dark hair and light skin have high contrast and are better off picking colour combinations that have clearly defined lines. Those who have dark hair and sallow skin can pull off both low and high contrast shirt and tie combinations. In general, the aim should be for the tie to be at least one shade darker than the shirt so you can make life easier by keeping a few deeper shades of blue, grey and burgundy to hand. You can start to build a solid tie rotation with these staple colours, which can be dressed up or down depending on your choice of shirt.

 

Patterns

 

The key to wearing a patterned tie is making sure that the pattern is not already present in the clothing you wear it with. A thin striped shirt should not be combined with a thin striped tie for example. However, that same thin striped shirt will work with a polka dot or a solid tie. The thinking behind this is that similar patterns worn close to each other can create a distorted visual effect (the illusion of movement for example). If you're not sure about what's ok with what then the easiest way to wear a patterned tie is to ensure that both your shirt and your suit are pattern-less. A crisp white shirt makes for a perfect blank canvas to set your patterned tie against. As for the pattern itself, there are so many prints, colour combinations and textures to consider that it's hard to say what's good and what's bad but some patterns are easier to work with than others. Best advice is to stick to two-tone patterns like stripes or polka dots. They're more muted in design and are therefore easier to match with a shirt and a suit.

 

Occasion

 

I've written about workplace, social and formal dress codes many times in the past and it almost goes without saying that knowing the occasion you are dressing for is the first commandment of style. Picking the right tie for the occasion is no different from picking the right suit or shoes. Different ties suit different occasions and they're subject to the same dress code rules. Silk ties in block colours are the most formal and really lend themselves to much else other than a suit. Recently, guys looking to add a modern twist to their tailoring have turned to knitted ties. These are much less formal and are versatile enough to be worn casually with a cardigan or a leather jacket. Personally, I'm a huge fan of knitted ties and have a little collection in different colours. If it's black tie then it's bowtie, not necktie. You can get away with a black silk tie but you really shouldn't.

 

Patrick McLoughney