The Art of Tie-Chi
In an age where it seems many are constantly focussed in acquiring a new necktie, how many are interested in learning how to perfect the tying of the ones they have? It is elemental to the idea of style to have tied your tie well and yet make it look like you cared not at all. It is the perpetually conflicting emphases that a man of quality should be idle and at the same time both selfless and industrious which creates the triality of illusions to choose from in one’s tie knot.
If you are idler, then less care for what others think and the more cavalier and indulgent can be the choice of knot. If you are selfless, then more thought for what others think, perhaps symmetry and reassurance to please the eyes of the observer? If you are industrious, then no time for what others think, and yet, you need to avoid distractions and keep the focus on what you are trying to convey. When all three factors are in perfect harmony for you, the style gods might say you have achieved oneness with your tie-chi.
It should be noted that the perfect knot is an illusion. Like a beautiful painting, its possibility draws you in and mesmerizes you gently. It is the call to a remote Caribbean island, a holiday in the Rhone valley. But because you can but rarely achieve its perfection, it is about the striving for it, the wanting and getting of it all; the grand illusion.
And the illusion continues. One need not be old or wealthy or powerful to tie a knot that grants them status and style. Style transcends all other considerations and is often attained in its highest form by the outsider, there is nothing like yearning to out emulate what you most adore or covet.
The object is to engage people’s wonder at the beauty of the way you tied your knot without causing a disturbance or too much unresolved curiosity. When you’ve achieved that, you’ve arrived. I have seen old men with thrift store duds and teenagers with seemingly little in store for their future still tie their ties (and indeed, wear their clothes) with ageless and indomitable panache.
I have expended considerable energy in the act of knotting (of ties) and I have learned one thing, that I am an amateur. I will pursue the beautiful, elegant knot until I knot no more. To be sure, the most sought after tie knot may not be a perfect knot, but rather a beautiful one. A simple tie can do, it need not be expensive but it must be from good quality silk, well lined, well sewn and well designed in terms of both shape and length.
I have seen Ralph Lauren Purple Label ties for $15 and Charvet ties for $40 on eBay. These two brands, amongst others, are constructed very well and use gorgeous silk and interlinings and will give you head start in your mission. Truthfully, I’ve seen Holliday and Brown and Turnbull and Asser ties for $5 or less in gently used condition. My point is that we are not talking about a big investment to look good, simply a personal investment of time in developing the right attitude. Just like throwing a baseball, anyone can learn to toss (a baseball), how many will put the physical and mental effort into becoming a major league ace? Luckily, unlike becoming a pitcher, one can learn to tie beautiful knots without needing too much innate talent.
One thing that is certain, you must love the idea of tying your tie knot. If you don’t have approach the act with the proper zest, you need to reexamine your modus knot-orandi. There are far too many today who see this as mere a chore (wearing a suit as well as a tie) when in fact it should be treated as an act of manly determination and control over both your environment and destiny. In fact, tying your tie knot beautifully is such a promethean step within the world of style that it would almost be better if neckties were all solid in color so that rather than concentrating on a tie’s pattern, we all concentrated on the beauty of the knot and tie length themselves. Think of tying your knot, not merely as a necessity to make money but rather as a proud demonstration of who you are and how much respect you have for what you do.
You should stand in front of a mirror to perform this ritual, and concentrate. It helps if the lighting is good. If you have a beautiful person to tie your tie for you, well then you certainly don’t need my help.
Choosing the knot: Interesting topic, this. I have always favored what I consider the four-in-hand knot. Recently, I have taken the shocking step of trying the Albert knot, which I find can sometimes be quite doggy. This is of course a matter of personal choice but some knots do look better on some that others. Maybe a few photos of you in different knots and collar types will yield a desirable selection. This is all up to you of course; some actually like a discordant perspective between the size of the knot and their head/neck. I believe in the Greek principle of balance in proportion. The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie: The Science and Aesthetics of Tie Knots by Thomas Fink and Yong Mao is a wonderful resources for experimenting with tie knots and available from Amazon.
Personally, I tie the tie around my shirt collar after I’ve flipped the points up but before I’ve buttoned the front top button. I’m sure there are other ways to do it, whatever would make you comfortable and not obstruct what you are doing will serve.
It is essential that you have a dimple in your knot. A necktie sans dimple is the sartorial equivalent of wearing your pants right under your pectorals. To achieve this effect whilst tying the tie, pinch the fabric on each side evenly to create a dimple, holding it in place with one hand (and set of fingers) while pulling the wide end down gently with the other, until the desired tightness of knot is attained. Though some tightness is preferred moderation should be the guide, one doesn’t want to destroy the dimple’s presence.
Re-tying the tie several times is not an admission of failure but rather a striving for excellence. Don’t miss your train or be late for the office but it can sometimes take several times to figure out how to knot a particular tie. You will doubtless form a “memory” of the way certain brands (or actual, individual cravats) of tie tend to perform and where you need to cross them over to arrive at the desired length of tie and thickness of knot.
Pinch and shape the knot, with passion, with pride, with assuredness, with honor, excitement, exuberance but above all with your thumb and forefinger. Here is moment when both the knot you choose and the manner in which you condition its shape reveals you for who you are as an individual. Who is it you want to be? A famous jazz musician? A British prime Minister, A famous movie star from the past, An important businessman, A King and dandy, A trial lawyer, an auction house curator, an Ivy league professor. I suggest you seek out photos of your sartorial hero and examine the types of tie and knot they employed on a regular basis? Ill wager the way any man whose style you admire was most consistent about their tie knot, a factor you probably never noticed consciously but subconsciously were drawn to.
Too many leave the art of tying their tie to the last five minutes before they run out of their house or apartment. They mistakenly believe people will admire them merely for the overtness of their well chosen clothes, forgetting the power that resides in a well tied but seemingly effortlessly arrived at knot. To cultivate the perfect knot takes practice, it takes patience and it takes a desire. It’s one of those machinations wherein style resides and costs not a penny extra.
Just buying a tie is the first step but ask yourself if you really spend time practicing on how to wear it just so. To achieve a oneness with your sartorial chi, put aside 15 minutes and just tie and re-tie a necktie until you achieve a knot you find handsome. Learn to use your fingers to shape the silk and scrunch it around in different shapes and positions until you hone a technique with your finger tips.
Slip the tie to the top of your shirt collar. Some shirts will accommodate this; some will knot (haha). It looks better when you do this, unless you have a specific alternative mission in mind like looking hard at work.
Bowties: Every man should have one besides a formal one and know how to tie it also. There are times besides formal ones that a bowtie can add an air of insouciance to the outfit. It is a new way of saying; I do not have to kowtow to anyone.
How you tie and knot your tie tells the world a great deal about yourself. Others may not be able to pick up on the transmissions consciously. However, I’m sure sociologists would agree that the messages would still be chronically broadcast for anyone who cared to notice. Sherlock Holmes, or someone in the know, could undoubtedly read volumes about you from your knot. No doubt Watson would proclaim all those revelations as “Dashed clever”. That’s part of the fun of dressing well, that’s part of the fun of being dapper.