If I could sum up tie length with a single phrase, it’s this: every inch makes a difference. Go an inch too long or too short, and not only have you committed a social faux pas (with possible lewd implications), but you also look as if you can’t dress yourself.
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Of course, if you’re shorter or taller than average, finding the right tie length can be a challenge involving lots of shopping around and trying on products in store.
Regardless of how tall you stand, wearing the wrong tie length tends to be one of the most common style mistakes a man can make.
How Long Should a Tie Be Worn
Strictly speaking, a tie should touch the top of your belt (or pants) and just overlap slightly. Specifically, one with a pointed or diamond end should go right to the middle of your waistband or belt buckle, whatever your natural posture is when standing.
A tie with a straight end – an older style that’s been coming back – should just graze your trouser waistband.
Your tie becomes too short when you can see some shirt fabric between its end and your waistband. This look was fine in the past but during the 20th century, a longer length became the norm.
On the other hand, when you can see the end peeking out from underneath your vest or waistband – when answering the question “how long should a tie be” – this is definitely too long. Plus, you’ll notice two tie blades with very different lengths.
Aside from sprezzatura dressing, where a man might intentionally sport a longer narrow blade, anything below your trouser waistband means you’ve got to shorten the length – either with a different knot, better adjustment, or even a shorter tie.
Tie Length Throughout History
The tie is purely decorative and dates back to the Roman Empire, when soldiers wore them as part of their uniforms and certain colors indicated ranks and groupings. Later, it transformed to a formal accessory in the ruling class, but by the 19th century, they were common enough that workers wore them pretty often during the Industrial Revolution era.
Looking back at the 20th century, the tie was quite a bit shorter than it is today: During the ‘20s and ‘30s, it fell just to the navel, if not a touch higher. With today’s fashion rules in mind, pants tend to hit a bit higher – at the natural waist, and maybe even further up.
So, with waistband heights and pant rises changing over the course of the next few decades, a tie’s length should also be adjusted.
How do You Determine Proper Tie Length?
As a good starting spot, like I do – you can look for some balance between your tie’s front and back blades. Ideally, at the right length, the back blade is just as long as the front – although a tad shorter is fine. Longer in front often means greater length overall, while a longer back blade makes it look as if you haven’t tied it correctly.
Using the loop added to the back of the front blade – also called a holder – might help in getting the right proportions, but fewer and fewer today have this feature.
With this basic framework in mind, try to keep these factors at the forefront when tying your tie:
Never Pre-Tie a Tie
It’s tempting, but never pre-tie it and keep it that way. Not only does this crease and stretch out the material, but the shirt type you’re wearing and your pants’ rise play a factor. What seemed fine one day with a particular collar might look too long when you have a a pair of pants with a higher waist on.
Height in Relation to Tie Length
If you slouch, your tie will droop down with you and will look longer. In this case, you’ve got a few choices: you can try to correct your posture when you’re sitting or standing, so that your back’s nice and straight and, as a result, your tie will hit at the right point. Otherwise, go for a slightly shorter tie style that’ll look proportional relative to your posture.
How Long Should a Tie Be For a Tall Man?
On the other hand, for men who are six foot or taller, or five foot and six inches, or even for those with rounder, wider torsos – you’ve got to work around your height and body type because most ties will automatically seem too short. In this case:
- Opt for an Italian tie, which are often longer than American and English styles.
- Find longer-length ties (60 to 63 inches, versus the standard 57 inches) – but be sure to try it in store first. What sounds like a good fit in the product specs might end up too long for your torso once you buy it.
- Experiment with tying your standard-sized tie. While it’s a good idea to have equal-length back and front blades for most people, try a shorter narrow blade – but not to the point it falls above your tie holder. For a more secure fit, use a tie bar to hold the wider blade in place, and adjust until the tip falls at the right spot. At this point, if the back blade is clearly too short and can’t be held in place with the holder or a tie clip, you might need a longer length tie. If you’re using a tie holder try to keep it close to your shirt’s third or fourth button.
What if You’re on the Short Side?
If you’re on the short side, you may be able to get away with a straight-end tie using certain types of knots. But, this method only goes so far, and you might need to shop around for a shorter-length style (under 57 inches).
Know How Knots Affect Tie Length
The answer to how long should a tie be also depends on how many loops your tie needs. Generally, the more you do the longer it needs to be – often the case with Windsor and Half Windsor knots. In certain cases, the extra fabric folds create a shorter length that’s ideal if your torso’s equally short. But for most men, you end up with a tip that’s as far as an inch above your pants’ waistband.
In regards to knot preference and length, the process comes down to trial and error, which is why going to a brick-and-mortar store is best, unless you absolutely know which length in inches works for you.
That said, tie material would affect how the knot will look. Generally, thicker, heavier materials or ties with substantial interlinings result in a chunky, knot that looks wider and will stand out for the wrong reasons against your shirt collar, around your neck, and waistcoat.
Typically, with multi-loop knots, lighter materials have a cleaner finish. A single-loop, simpler knot is better for heavier-weight ties.