Depending on your interests, career choices, and personality, your physical appearance and the way people perceive you may be of primary importance, the furthest thing from your mind, or anywhere in between. While clothing choices should never make the man, attention to small details, like how a suit fits and which tie is paired with it, can make a great impression on prospective employers, coworkers, and new business partners.
Consider fashion choices to be a low-maintenance investment that can bring constant returns over the entire course of your career. This guide will help you to learn the unspoken language of choosing a men’s tie and explain how to turn an inconvenient necessity into an opportunity for a stunning impression.
Bowtie vs. Necktie
As a general rule, bowties can be paired with tuxedos at gaudy, formal events, such as large weddings, the opera, and awards ceremonies for high-profile business figures or celebrities. Outside of those occasions, a bowtie is risky. It can make you appear fashion-forward and daring, but if those are not key aspects of your image and you have not put the rest of your outfit through the wringer to match it, you will be disappointed.
Length and Width
Ties are designed for a man of average height who wears his pants at his hips. In other words, unless you are very short or very tall, or want to wear your pants above your belly button or around your thighs, any standard tie should fit fine. The exception to this rule is vintage ties, which may vary according to a designer’s specific style. In that case, remember that 57” is the standard length and take your height into consideration before purchasing a tie at a longer or shorter length.
Width is important but easily forgotten. The vogue width tends to fluctuate by decade and according to which group you look at. Ties around 3" to 3½” at their widest points are a solid choice for most formal environments. Narrower ones are often chosen by young or fashion-forward men.
The final basic consideration, color can prove to be one of the toughest choices to make. If you are going for a basic look, a black suit and white shirt can go well with almost any solid color. Safe choices are light or dark blues, green, and other cool colors. Red can also work well. Solid orange, yellow, or pink ties will also work, but you must feel confident in them as a choice to pull them off. Shame and self-consciousness will ruin any look.
Patterns and Stripes
If you want to make your look more put together, or if you are simply having trouble finding solid ties, you will want to advance into patterns and stripes. Diagonal stripes can look good on anybody, but you may want to keep the rest of your clothing toned down if you want a conservative look. Make sure the colors of the strips match the rest of your outfit.
Patterns can be an effective way to stand out, but not necessarily in a good way. Certain paisley patterns can make older men look outdated and younger men look bored, while low-contrast paisley patterns can be stunning. A nice plaid can be effective, or it can make you look like a British schoolboy from the 1980s. Good patterns will have few colors – no more than three, generally – and each color should match well with at least one piece of your outfit.
Safe patterns include rows of dots, low-contrast squares, plaids, and paisleys, and neutral plaids. Daring men can also elect to wear the trendy pattern of the month, such as Burberry, houndstooth, or herringbone, but clothing trends can be expensive to keep up with.
No matter the choice before you, avoid novelty ties and obnoxious, loud patterns. Under no circumstances should your company’s executives be able to identify your favorite Looney Tunes character.
The fabric of your tie matters less than salespeople may lead you to believe, but silk ties are the standard because they feel and look the best. Wool gives an interesting variation to your look but can appear heavy or drab. Polyester and other synthetic fabrics offer slightly lower prices but are usually lower quality and less vibrant. If you are watching your budget, invest in a few silk ties as a staple, or shop from secondhand stores, but try to avoid synthetic materials for ties.
Getting the most out of a tie
Now that you know how to choose a tie, it is up to you to choose how to wear it. For example, you may want to take the time to find a few tie clips to complete your look and help you stay presentable during windy weather or while being active.
You should also invest the time to learn about the various types of knots and how they can work with different widths and styles of ties. The most important are the Windsor and Half-Windsor, which can produce slightly different looks for the truly detail-oriented.
Chosen carefully and worn with consideration, your new tie can pull together a look and help you to truly wow those around you. Once you have taken the time, the investment will continue to pay dividends at a very low upkeep for years to come.
Don't want to have to sift through thousands of options to find the perfect tie? We've done the work for you, with our collection of 5 essential ties (and the tie bars that keep them in place) below. They're guaranteed to be the most versatile ties you'll own.