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Neck-Deep in Ways to Knot a Man’s Tie

Does any article of clothing provoke more ambivalence than the necktie?
It represents the greatest sartorial freedom a man can have, the one chance to festoon himself with any color and pattern, from grayish to garish. Yet it’s the garment most identified with the duty, work and restraint of a desk job.

A few years ago, style-conscious men rediscovered the necktie as a way to bring a bit more care and elegance to their appearances. Since then, though, men have discovered a cornucopia of other doodads — bow ties, pocket squares, tie pins, novelty belts, fedoras, bowlers, bracelets, rings and more — so that even a flamboyant necktie now looks unadventurous.

But the Internet has made accessible a vast hoard of necktie arcana, exhuming dozens of old knots and cooking up dozens of new ones.

For the first time in some 200 years, when books like “Neckclothitania,” published in 1818, helped Regency men obsess over neckwear, there is as much a surplus of information on neckties as there is a surplus of neckties themselves. In February of last year, for example, a group of mathematicians announced that there are 177,000 ways to tie a necktie; and that we could reach the Moon and back several times with the ones we already have.

One website, the spiffy custom-shirt maker, presents a list of 30 tie knots, half of which will make a man look more suave; the other half will do the opposite.

The more dignified knots, which are also charmingly detailed in the 1999 book “The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie,” by Thomas Fink and Yong Mao, are surprisingly fun to play around with.

The three-move Oriental is even simpler than the classic four-in-hand, giving a smaller and neater knot. (And it’s the only knot the designer Thom Browne uses.) The nine-move Balthus, named after the artist who was prone to wearing it back in the 1930s, is the largest and most complicated.

There’s no imperative to learn them all, but the classic four-in-hand knot is worth rotating with the more symmetrical and elegant half-Windsor; or go with one between the two, like the Nicky.

So if your necktie feels like a ball and chain, maybe it’s not the tie. Maybe it’s the person tying it.

New York Times
Neckties don’t have to be a ball and chain. Try one of the 177,000 knots you may not know about.

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