Everyone knows how to tie a tie, but choosing the right kind of men’s tie can make all the difference between looking stylish and appearing awkward. From the fabric to the cut to the stitching, this guide lays out six indispensable rules to follow when selecting a quality necktie.
1. The fabric
Quality tie-makers use quality fabric which yields a better knot, a better shape, and a better look. The material should feel good in your hands and appear slightly rolled at the edges rather than creased.
Silk is the classic high-end material for ties. While relatively thin, silk is durable and attractive. Woven silk works well with standard knots. Silk keeps its shape, drapes well, and is naturally wrinkle-resistant. The best tie silks usually come from Italy and England.
Wool is also recommended, particularly for cooler months. The thicker material works well with larger knots and adds visual texture. Cashmere, while technically wool, deserves special consideration too, due to its unique softness and warmth. However, cashmere is rather delicate and difficult to clean.
2. The bias cut
Proper neckties are cut “on the bias,” meaning that the material is cut at a 45-degree angle from the edge, usually with an extremely sharp “blade” ― the lower section of the tie.
This diagonal cut gives the fabric more natural elasticity allowing for better knots and a nicer shape. Bias-cut ties will only stretch downwards, allowing them to move more naturally with the wearer. Poorly-cut ties, on the other hand, will quickly become twisted and distort sideways.
A quick way to determine if a fabric is cut on the bias is the “pull test.” Gently tug the necktie downwards to ensure that it stretches vertically. Then pull against the fabric at a 45-degree angle. A bias-cut tie should not stretch diagonally when pulled in this manner.
3. The stitch
A tie has three parts: the blade, the neck, and the tail. Each part is measured, cut, and then carefully stitched together.
Quality neckties are always handstitched rather than machine-made. The slip stitches, which go vertically up the back of the tie and hold the folded material together, need to be slightly loose for the tie to flex and fall properly. Hand-stitching ensures this. Tight machine-stitching prevents the tie from returning to its original shape easily and can cause tearing from the stresses of repeated tying and untying.
Examine the stitches at the back of the necktie, if they are visible. Sometimes the vertical slip stitches can’t be seen, but handmade ties should always feature a “bar tack” ― a large horizontal stitch ― at both ends of the tie. Skilled tie-makers will also use durable material such as silk for their thread.
During construction, the fabric is usually folded over three times but may be folded as many as seven times before the final stitching (a higher fold count does not necessarily indicate better quality). Some tie-makers may perform more than three folds when using a thinner material in order to add body to the necktie.
4. The sizing
The ideal width of a tie depends on your facial proportions, your outfit, and the occasion. Slimmer ties, usually around two inches wide, are fashion-forward but decidedly casual. Ties which measure between 8 and 9 cm at the widest point (approximately 3.25 and 3.5 in) are more traditional, while neckties between 7 and 8 cm (approximately 2.75 and 3 in) wide represent the “sweet spot” that suits most men and can be worn almost anywhere.
Skinny ties work well with smaller knots like the four-in-hand, also known as the “schoolboy knot”. Wider ties feature more material, allowing for larger knots such as the Windsor. Remember, tie width and knot size should match the proportions of your suit and shirt ― wider lapels call for a thicker tie, wider knot, and larger collar, whereas thinner lapels work better with a slimmer tie, smaller knot, and narrower collar. For more details, see our guide to tie widths.
5. The design
A necktie should create contrast with your shirt. Collars and jacket lapels frame the wearer’s head, whereas a tie draws attention upwards towards your face. Ties should also add flair to your ensemble, not distract the viewer’s eye by being overtly loud.
Solid colour ties are the classic way of keeping things simple and timeless. Dark colours never go out of style. They can be paired with almost any shirt or suit, and are appropriate for any situation. Lively colours such as racing green, walnut or camel also have appeal. When building your necktie collection, always start with solids.
Ties constructed from special looms or by combining fabrics will likely be your next step. A finished silk thread tie has a distinctive surface texture, while a tie knitted from combining wool and cotton delivers an elegant weave pattern.
When selecting a patterned tie, keep things subtle and simple, and steer away from anything garish. We advise tartan, which can create a crisscrossed splash of flair to an otherwise conservative suit.
6. The cleaning & storage
Once you have purchased your tie, you need to give it the proper care like any quality garment. If your tie gets dirty, treat the soiled area by blotting ― gently dabbing the stain with a damp cloth ― as scrubbing may damage the fabric. If this is insufficient, take it to a professional dry cleaner. Never soak your necktie or put it in a washing machine.
For wrinkles, hang the tie up to allow it to regain its shape. Never iron it. One common cause of damage is tying a necktie too tightly, or untying it too roughly (which causes the fabric to ruck). The knot doesn’t need to be as tight as those on your shoelaces, as your tie is unlikely to fall off.
Tie racks, often made of aromatic cedar wood, are excellent for keeping your ties straight. Some choose to roll them up and place them in a drawer, although keeping ties rolled for extended periods may cause the fabric to develop a curve. Just remember that improper storage can lead to wrinkles. One last bit of advice: keep your neckties in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight, as fabrics ― especially silk ― can fade.