If tie length could be summed up 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 appear 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 proves to be a challenge involving lots of shopping around and trying on products in store.
Yet, 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
Strictly speaking, one should touch the top of your belt (or pants) and just overlap slightly. Specifically speaking, one with a pointed or diamond end should go right to the middle of your waistband or belt, whatever your natural posture is when standing. One with a straight end – an older style that’s been coming back – should just graze your waistband.
Your tie becomes too short when you can see some shirt fabric between its end and your waistband; historically, this look was appropriate, but during the 20th century, a longer length became the norm.
On the other hand, when you can see the tie end peeking out from underneath your vest or waistband, it’s clearly too long. On yourself, too, you’ll spot two tie blades of vastly different lengths.
Aside from sprezzatura dressing, in which a man might intentionally sport a longer narrow blade, anything below your waistband means you’ve got to shorten the length – with a different knot, better adjustment, or even a shorter tie.
Tie Length Throughout History
While purely decorative, ties date back to the Roman Empire, when soldiers sported them as part of their uniforms; certain colors indicated ranks and groupings. Later, it emerged as a formal accessory amongst the ruling class, but by the 19th century, ties were common enough that workers during the Industrial Revolution wore them frequently.
Looking back at the 20th century, the tie was significantly shorter than it is today: During the ‘20s and ‘30s, it fell just to the navel, if not a touch higher. On the other hand, in keeping today’s rules in mind, pants tended to hit a bit higher – at the natural waist, if not further up. As such, with waist heights and pant rises changing over the course of the next few decades, tie lengths adjusted in response.
Finding the Right Tie Length
As a good starting spot, 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 frequently means greater length overall, while a longer back blade makes it seem as if you didn’t tie it correctly.
Using the loop added to the back of the front blade – also called a holder – may help in achieving the right proportions, although fewer and fewer ties today have this feature.
With this basic framework in mind, be sure to think about these factors:
Never Pre-Tie a Tie
It’s tempting, but never pre-tie your tie and keep it that way. Not only does this crease and stretch out the material, but shirt type and your pants’ rise play a factor. What seemed fine one day with a particular collar might look too long when you opt for a higher waist.
Height in Relation to Tie Length
Realize that if you slouch, your tie will droop down with you and therefore appear longer. In this case, you’ve got a few choices: Practice standing and sitting up straight, so that your tie hits at the desired point, or opt for a slightly shorter style that’ll look proportional relative to your posture.
Yet, in this scenario, these factors are somewhat within your control. 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, as most ties will automatically seem too short. In this case:
- Opt for an Italian tie, which are often longer than American and English styles.
- Seek out a longer-length tie (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-size tie. While it’s a good idea to have equal-length back and front blades for most, 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 – ideally placed at your shirt’s third or fourth button – you may need a longer length tie.
- If you’re on the short side, you may be able to get away with a straight-end tie using certain types of knots. However, this method only goes so far, and you may need to shop around for a shorter-length style (under 57 inches).
Know How Knots Affect Tie Length
How many loops does your tie require? Generally, the more you do – often the case with Windsor and Half Windsor knots – the longer the tie needs to be. In certain cases, the extra fabric folds create a shorter length that’s ideal if your torso’s equally short. But for most guys, you end up with a tip that’s as far as an inch above your waistband.
In regards to knot preference and tie length, the process comes down to trial and error, which is why going to a brick-and-mortar store is recommended, unless you absolutely know which length in inches works for you.
That said, tie material affects how the knot will look. Generally, thicker, heavier materials or ties with substantial interlinings result in a chunky, wider-appearing knot that’ll stand out for the wrong reasons against your shirt collar and waistcoat.
Typically, with multi-loop knots, lighter materials deliver a cleaner finish. A single-loop, simpler knot is better reserved for your heavier-weight ties.