When was the last time you tied a tie? For a lot of Web searchers in 2010, it had apparently been a while since prom.
Wearing a tie has become such a rare occasion that the concierge at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., says the establishment offers a bow tie butler for fumbling guests. Just two years ago, a Gallup poll revealed that only 6 percent of American men wear ties. Blame the skill loss on the prevalence of business casual dress in the workplace and on the dwindling number of formal occasions, leaving more and more men clueless about neckties, ascots, and bow ties.
“A beginner should master the four-in-hand knot,” says Aaron Britt, the men’s fashion columnist on Pocket Square. This knot, which can be gently loosened for a casual look, carries the average gentleman through many occasions. Britt doesn’t recommend wide knots such as the Windsor or double Windsor: “Wearing a very wide knot is rather like driving a Porsche — flashy, masculine, and clearly overcompensating for some insecurity.” The Windsor knot is sported by weather anchors and salesmen everywhere: Do they realize what the knot is saying?
For men who want flair but not flash, there is always the elegant bow tie. After all, Britt says, “No one ever murmured admiringly, ‘Who’s that guy in the necktie?'”
A bow tie is similar to the bow you tie with your shoelaces, and a nice, thick wool tie stands up well. Britt favors a navy cashmere bow tie with a yellow chalk stripe.
That sliver of fabric around a man’s collar could express any attitude from breezy and rakish (a loosened four-in-hand knot) to daring and insouciant (the bow tie). If you’re ready to up your sartorial game, watch “How to Tie a Tie” to get started.
Before joining Yahoo! as a Search editor, Eugenia Chien was a reporter at New America Media in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, on KQED, and on KALW. She crushes on geek heroes, transit enthusiasts, and animal lovers.