Wearing a suit and tie to a wedding might seem like the easy way out compared to finding the perfect dress and matching accessories, but there are still some style conundrums that need to be addressed. One of the most important details is how the suit wearer is going to tie their tie.
There are several different kinds of tie knots out there that range from classic, simple, and elegant, to more layered, detailed, and elaborate—and they don’t all have the same effect. Some knot styles are much better suited for a fancy black-tie wedding while others are more casual and easygoing, which is ideal for a day at the office or a button-down shirt date night.
“For a formal knot, a little more minimalism is always key,” explains stylist Onyx Martinez. Martinez also notes that the slimmer the tie knot is, the slimmer it will make the person wearing it look. “A chunkier knot can sometimes make someone look bigger than they really are,” he adds.
Onyx Martinez is the lead stylist at The Tie Bar, a destination for designer menswear featuring quality made ties and bow ties.
Here’s a look at a selection of the most popular tie knots out there and how to tie them.
The Classic Styles
The four-in-hand knot is the most basic and easiest knot of them all and is probably the first knot that everyone learns to tie. Martinez calls it a classic: “It’s definitely a beginner’s knot, it’s simple and classic,” he explains. “It’s a very GQ knot, it’s a very fashion-forward knot.”
“It does tend to read a little more casual since it’s so slim,” says Martinez. That said, the four-in-hand knot is something that can be worn for almost any occasion and looks good on any build. It looks best with a point collar shirt, but it’s very versatile and easy to wear. Here’s how to tie a four-in-hand knot:
The four-in-hand is one of the slimmer knots out there, but the full Windsor is the opposite and is one of the biggest. Martinez recommends the full Windsor knot for a larger build, “so it’s a little more proportionate for your neck size and shoulders.”
Martinez says the only way to wear a full Windsor knot is with a full spread collar shirt. This one is also on the more formal size. “It is a bolder knot, so it’s very popular for very, very formal weddings,” he says. Here’s how to tie a full Windsor knot:
While a full Windsor is more formal, a half Windsor is easier to wear. Martinez calls it “the most versatile of all knots,” saying it works for work or weddings. It also works for basically any body type. “The half Windsor knot is for a medium build, but I would also say it can definitely fit someone who is a bigger build as well,” he explains. Here’s how to tie a half Windsor knot:
If you’re looking for a more casual knot that has a bit more detail to it, the Kelvin is a perfect option. It’s still a classic, but because you can see more of the layers, it stands out a bit more. “The Kelvin knot is great, it’s a very Italian-esque knot that’s also very simple,” says Martinez. “If you’re someone who likes the style of a four-in-hand, but wants something chunkier, something a little more robust, the Kelvin knot is great.”
Martinez recommends using a silk tie for a kelvin knot because it can get very thick very easily. Still, it’s a versatile option that works well with more casual occasions: think a New Year’s Eve party or a daytime wedding.
Martinez says to wear it with a point collar or a semi-spread. Here’s how to tie a Kelvin knot:
Going to a black-tie wedding? You’ll want to opt for the Pratt knot, which is more minimal and sleek. “It is another version of a half Windsor but almost reversed,” says Martinez.
This knot also works well for important business meetings. “It’s great for business because of how clean it looks,” says Martinez. ‘It’s a knot where you don’t see too many layers, so it’s very simple. Very British, very elegant.” It works well with a point or semi-spread collar. Here’s how to tie a Pratt knot:
The Offbeat Styles
The below knots have more detail to them and are a bit less formal. While they work for work and weddings, they are not quite as classic and simple as the above knots. We spoke to menswear designer David Hart, who started his collection designing neckties, about these knots.
David Hart is a designer and the founder of neckwear line David Hart & Co. He received his BFA in fashion design with a specialization in evening wear and tailoring from the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Hart describes the Prince Albert knot as “basically a four-in-hand knot, but wrapped around twice.” He adds, “It’s a small knot, but with a little more visual interest than a traditional four-in-hand.”
This one is good for formal business situations or formal cocktail parties, but Hart says, “Keep in mind, it’s on the dressy side.” Since it’s slim, it works best with smaller neck sizes. It should be worn with a traditional collar, club collar, or button-down collar, but don’t pair it with a widespread collar—it’s too slim for that. Here’s how to tie a Prince Albert knot:
The Murrell knot looks pretty unique because the narrow end of the tie is in the front instead of the wide end—Hart describes it as the “inversion of the classic Windsor knot.” It’s versatile and works for any build. Hart says, “More importantly, it works best with ties that have a contrast tail; for example, some Hermes, Ferragamo, and Vineyard Vines ties.”
“This knot is great for situations that are a little less formal but still require a tie,” says Hart. “It would also be appropriate for events that don’t require a tie and the wearer wants to show some of their personality. It’s great for gallery and museum openings, art fairs, and certain charity events.” So while you wouldn’t wear this to a wedding, it is a fun option when you can be more casual. Here’s how to tie a Murrell knot:
If a wide knot is your thing, then you want the Balthus knot. Hart calls it, “The king daddy of WIDE knots,” adding that it’s “not for the faint of heart.” Because it’s so wide, this one is best for fuller necks and frames and needs to go with a widespread collar.
The Balthus isn’t really meant for weddings or other formal occasions. It is good for work though, and as Hart says specifically, “Flexing hard in the boardroom.” It’s also not an easy knot to master, as Hart notes that it takes some practice to learn. Here’s how to tie a Balthus knot: