Shirts and Ties (and knots): Choosing the Perfect Combination

Perfecting the Gorge area, V-zone or what can be described as, "The area at the top half of your body where the lapels, collar, tie & knot are all visible", means creating a harmonious relationship between your dress shirt, tie, and jacket.

Although seemingly complex, once you've chosen a base dress shirt, there are just three main choices to make:

1. The Tie Knot

2. Tie Fabric and Color

3. The Bigger Picture: Balancing the Outfit

When you've mastered these three choices you'll have no trouble expertly assembling a v-zone like the one by @thesnobreport, shown here with a Sebastian Ward Dress Shirt as its base:

#RePost from @thesnobreport wearing our #Stripes

A photo posted by Sebastian Ward (@sebastianwardny) on

And without further ado, here is how you do it:

The Tie Knot

The Skinny on Fat Knots: Do a general search of tie knots and you’ll find an endless number of articles and info-graphics which try to codify and break down every use case for almost every knot known to man, don’t spend your time reading those.

First, determine the size of tie knot you desire (we'll get into knot selection below).

There are 3 simple factors in selecting the size of your tie knot:

1. The spread of your collar 
2. The shape of your face
3. Your personal fashion preference

    Here’s what we mean:

    How Collar Spread Affects Tie Knot Selection

    The spread of your collar will determine how much of the tie knot and dress shirt collar shows.  

    Wide spread = more negative space, a more eye catching look

    dress shirt spread collar

    The signature Sebastian Ward wide-spread collar featured with a tie 


    Narrow Spread (‘forward point’) = less negative space, a more traditional look

    dress shirt forward point collar button down

    A typical forward-point (buttoned-down) collar

    Generally, your tie knot should balance the rest of the V-zone in some way, whether its through an asymmetry (e.g. a wide spread collar with a small knot for a look more likely to differentiate or look "edgy") or an overall evenness of proportions (e.g. a wide spread collar with a fat knot for a style that is more traditional and to draw approval without attention, good for business settings).

    How The Shape of Your Face Affects Tie Knot Selection

    Balance is key here. In general, a longer face is more flattered by a wider tie knot and vice versa.

    face shape

    Personal Fashion Preference

    Finally, you must take into account the look you are trying to achieve. As mentioned above, much of the choice comes down to how you want to appear. Do you want to blend in, or do you want to be noticed? Are you dressing for a professional environment or are you looking to create a unique style?

    If you're looking to create a unique style, you might start by referencing something in the history of mens dress and giving it your personal touch. Consider what your inspirations are, look up some photos! (fyi google makes this super easy) Who or what are trying to emulate? Love victorian or renaissance times? Maybe a high collar and a fat knot are for you.

    shirt and tie

    Or maybe you want to emulate a more Ivy league/Mod vibe? Go with a narrower tie altogether.

    shirt and tie slim

    Now you should have an idea of the size and style of knot you'd like to use.

    A final checklist:

    1. Ties look best when they are not being covered awkwardly by the collar leaf (which makes it look like your tie and collar are fighting against each other). This can easily be avoided by erring on the side of smaller tie knot.
    3. Consider the height of the collar band. If you have a thin collar band, a very fat, full knot is going to bulge too much.
    4. The tie should never touch the skin of your neck! This can be avoided by ensuring that your collar band is taller than the height of your knot.
    5. Watch out for your lapel to tie ratio: The width of your tie knot should never be larger than the width of your coat’s lapel.

    Now, Choose a Tie Knot to Achieve Your Look

    From smallest to largest, the standard tie knots are below. Keep in mind:

    1. Form Matters: You can adjust the size of each knot depending on how loosely or tightly you tie the knot. So although you may never make a Small Knot that is the size of a Full Windsor, there is room for experimentation when creating your ideal look.
    2. Style is Your Decision: The collar recommendations below are for a more traditional style. If you want to experiment, feel free to do so while keeping the checklist above in mind.

    tie knots

    via rw & co

    Tie Fabric Color and Texture

    It can be difficult to navigate the seemingly endless sea of choices when it comes to selecting the right color and texture for your needs. Some advice:

    Skin Tone Matters: Determine your skin tone and seek out colors that contrast appropriately. This will ensure that it's YOU that stands out more than your clothes.

    Avoid  “matchy-matchy”: You may think it logical that a blue suit should go with a blue tie and a blue shirt, however making three elements of the same color in your Gorge area look good will take extra attention. If you are going to use 2 or more shades of the same color in close proximity to each other, make sure that they are distinctly contrasting shades. Otherwise, be aware that you will wash out your appearance with a monotone look.

    Consider Mood and Environment: Test the waters, and think about how the colors you choose might affect your mood and environment.

    Consider Lighting: The texture of a fabric will affect the way that color is expressed under lighting conditions. In general:

    1. Shiny reflects light: Shiny, smooth fabrics (such as twill fabrics or wet-finish wool) = white light bounces off more, more tone variation expressed. This look will attract more attention.
    2. Matte absorbs light: Matte, nubby fabrics (such as plain weave fabrics) = more light absorption, richer more even color expressed. This look will create a subtle elegance.

      Make sure that the texture and light properties of your fabrics contrast between numbers (1) and (2) above. I.E. If you have a more shiny suit with a lustrous tie, the dress shirt should be a plain weave.

      The Bigger Picture: Balancing the Outfit

      The sum of your outfit should balance out and convey a well though out, put together image. Think about how the details of a coat or suit will affect formality and taste levels for the rest of the outfit.

      shirt and tie combinations

      Again, Balance is Key

      1. If you are wearing a bold peak lapel you might want to counter that powerful image with a subtle dress shirt and tie.
      2. Think of ways you can balance high and low, strong and subdued elements in your wardrobe.

        Ultimately, its up to you to decide which menswear rules to disregard but, above all, remember that clothing is most enjoyable when it not only compliments your physical features, but also when it reinforces your sense of “self”.

        Don’t allow didactic internet articles to dictate your life’s story.

        In short, our advice is as follows: 

        1. Select a tie knot that compliments your overall V-zone, whether through asymmetry or evenness, depending on the look you want to convey (i.e. edgy vs traditional).

        2. Also consider using a knot that balances your facial shape. That is, if you have a wider face, opt for a longer knot and vice versa.

        3. Choose complimentary colors that draw attentions you, and not simply your outfit.

        4. Choose noticeably contrasting shades of the same color of shirt and tie when going for a ‘matchy’ look.

        5. Avoid combining shirts and ties that have the same shine qualities. Instead, opt for contrasting ones. For example, a shiny shirt pairs well with a matte fabric, plain weave tie.

        6. Remember, balance is key

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