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WHAT KNOT TO WEAR?

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Ties1
Photograph by Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

The skinny tie may seem ubiquitous, but there exists a parallel universe in which the fat knot rules. It's brought to you at halftime every Sunday in high definition by grinning, broad-shouldered former NFL players who loom over their desks. It's also favored by Euro soccer stars, Italian politicians, and the occasional aging talk-show host. But beware of its false power. On mere mortals, the "Sportscaster," or jock knot—distinguished not only by its girth but also by its bulk—is the yellow Hummer of neckwear. Flashy, gargantuan, and inappropriate for the times, it's guaranteed to make you look like a dick.

Unlike those flat, lazy knots your chemistry teacher used to show up with, these clenched fists of fabric always seem to be one tug shy of murder by asphyxiation. They are most often born from the kind of wide tie that's as silky as it is shiny, and some are so jacked up on sartorial steroids that it's difficult to tell where they end and the neck begins. As a general rule, if you've never rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, steer clear. At best, wearing a McMansion-size knot will make you look like a personal trainer dressed up for a court date­­.

The only guy in the world who can actually pull it off might be Ari Gold, Jeremy Piven's cocksure superagent character on Entourage, who wears a double Windsor that's too big for his head and too wide for his chest. It complements his persona perfectly. That persona, of course, is fictional. In the real world, rocking a giant neck sack may signal a desperate effort to look manly, much like stuffing your trousers with a cucumber. And given the shrunken state of jackets, lapels, and collars, the XXL twist has become increasingly conspicuous.

Ties2
Photograph by James Devaney/WireImage

"A knot shouldn't be too precise or too homogenous or too bulky. It should be natural," says Gianluca Isaia, president of the legendary Neapolitan tailored-clothing company of the same name. That hefty contortion under your chin? "It's macho and ridiculous," Isaia says.

Under a jacket, chest-spanning neckwear not only obstructs the shirt and crushes the collar, it becomes a form of fashion constipation. You should be able to loosen your tie with grace and ease, like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life. The goal is to achieve a knot that is flexible and familiar, even slightly imperfect. Instead of the Windsor, use a classic four-in-hand knot. Proper proportions are between 2¼ and 3¼ inches for the widest part of the tie and from 1½ to 1¾ inches across the thickest part of the knot. Any excess double dimples, multiple pleats, twisting, or ruching comes off as overstudied—and as overcompensation.

"Ties are at their most interesting when they don't connote a simple idea of being buttoned-up," says Alexander Olch, a New York-based accessories designer. "They should be a little messier."

Then again, if you're Howie Long, you can wear that knot any way you like. Courtney Colavita


READ MORE:
A guide to finding the perfect tie

How low can you unbutton your shirt?


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