The humble, nonchalant necktie has had a knotty couple of years. First came lockdown, and our ties were left hanging; months passing without so much as a single Windsor. Then came the work-from-home revolution, when they took the brunt of our new, more casual working wardrobes.
But things are looking up. With modern man finally returning to the office on a more permanent basis — and attempting to separate his home and work life once more — the necktie is back in formalwear favour. Unfortunately, it’s been so long that many of us have forgotten even the basic rules of the accessory. That’s why, to ensure you don’t get tangled up in tie etiquette, we've lashed together some guidelines to guarantee you’re always perfectly paired…
Let's start simply; colour. A general rule when it comes to picking out the perfect tie is that your tie should be darker than your shirt. This way, it will stand out against your chest, and draw attention to the fact that you’ve made that extra effort. Because what’s the point in tying a tie if it fades into the be-shirted background?
Matching the colour of your tie with your suit is a little tricker. You should try to find a tie that matches the vibrancy and tone of both your jacket and trousers. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule — and, if your suit is lightly-coloured, your tie should still be darker. So try to judge each case individually, but know that your tie should always be complementary. It’s an accessory; not the main attraction.
If all else fails, and you can't match the tonality of your tie with your suit, just find a similar colour. If your suit is a royal blue, opt for a navy tie. If your shirt is a sage green, go for a forest green tie. Stick to the same colour — albeit in different shades — and you won't go far wrong.
And you thought colours were daunting. Prints and patterns introduce a whole new nest of tie-picking troubles. Because introducing multiple shades and designs into one accessory — be this through spots, stripes, checks or tartans — makes the whole process much more difficult. But it can still be worth it.
If you’re looking to pick out a patterned tie, remember to keep things quiet. Loud patterns are louche — whether you’re at a wedding or in the office. Secondly, stick to the rule of two. You can have a patterned shirt and a patterned tie, or a patterned tie and a patterned suit, but never all three. Instead, choose a tight, subtle pattern to play it safe and sophisticated.
And, thirdly, stick to one style of pattern. If your suit is pinstriped, go for a stripy tie. If your shirt has a tight check, opt for a checkered tie. Don’t mix.
Next, onto one of the lesser-considered aspects of tie selection; the width. We tend to plump for patterns or make our decisions based on colour, but the proportions of your suit-and-tie get-up are just as important a part of this formalwear puzzle.
Thankfully, after all the loopholes and exceptions in the other necktie departments, this one's pretty simple. If your suit is slim-fit and trimly-tailored, go for a slimmer tie. If it is wide-lapelled or double-breasted, go for something wider, so it doesn’t get lost in the bombastic mix. The ‘bigger’ your suit, the wider your tie should be. Simple.
And, finally, match those materials. Because texture is everything; even the best colour-match will crumble if you’ve chosen to wear a knitted wool tie with a sharkskin suit. Gladly, there are hard-and-fast rules here, too. For sleeker, chicer business suits, go for a silk tie. If it’s a summer-ready linen suit, go for a knitted, or textured cotton tie.
Simply put, the more casual your suit, the more casual your tie. Shiny silk offerings sit at the top of the smart scale, and linen or wool sit at the other end. Don’t get caught wearing a squared-off knitted tie with your sharpest business suit and, vice-versa, keep your striped silk accessories away from your heavy wool winter suits.