There's no easier way to amp up an outfit than to add a tie. A crisp white shirt at the office, a button-down and leather jacket for date night, a rumpled oxford on the weekend – no matter what you wear one with, it'll add a put-together edge to your getup.
That said, there are some important things to keep in mind to really master the look. Put these tips into practice and you'll be knotted up perfectly, every time.
Get the Right Width
Slimmer ties have been "in" for a while now, but fuller width ties can still work so long as they look modern enough – which means no shiny silk numbers from the 80's. We like a just-right 2.5" width on our ties, which is slim but not skinny, though a case can be made for going either slimmer or wider.
Your tie's measurement at its widest point should be about the same as the measurement of your lapel at its widest point. A slim tie goes from stylish to silly real quick if you pair it with a big, bold peak lapel, and a wider tie will look outdated with a trim blazer with slimmed-down lapels.
Dress with the Seasons
Silk (so long as it's not too glossy) and cotton should be your all-seasons tie fabric standbys. But to really nail the details, your tie lineup should change with the seasons.
When the temperatures drop, reach for heavier weight wool numbers, like textured tweed and herringbone. They'll give your outfit a weightier feeling to complement the rest of your cold weather clothes.
In the summer, go with linen or chambray. They'll look a little breezier alongside cotton suits and sun-faded oxfords.
Add a Tie Bar
Nine times out of ten, a simple tie bar will amplify your suited-up look. Make sure to get one that's narrower than your tie (so if you've got a slim tie, you'll need an extra small tie bar) and clip it between the third and fourth buttons of your shirt.
They'll be a little out of place on casual outfits, so no need to use one when you're wearing, say, a casual button-down and a denim jacket. But anytime you're suited up, it'll make for a classic finishing touch.
Tie the Perfect Knot
There are a couple specific points to watch out for here, but the most important is to always, always, always use the classic four-in-hand knot. It's timeless, simple, and completely foolproof with everything from a point collar to a cutaway.
Windsor knots, on the other hand, look too symmetrical and oversized. Avoid 'em, along with any other gimmicky variation.
Don't Get Too Matchy
Let your tie speak for itself by pairing it with contrasting or complementary – but not identical – colors. Going for an exact match looks forced and a bit uncool, like you bought your outfit off a mannequin rather than developing your own personal style.
So while we like pocket squares, tie bars, and bold socks as much as the next guys, avoid wearing any that match too closely with your tie.
Avoid Lighter Ties with Dark Shirts
This isn't a hard-and-fast rule. But in general, it's safe to say that your tie's color should be darker than your shirt's.
Your suit's color can still be dark, but your best bet is to stick with a white shirt If you want to wear a pale or brightly colored tie.
Pattern-Mix Like a Pro
A solid white shirt is the cornerstone of any buttoned-up wardrobe. But branching out into patterns is no problem so long as you remember a few general rules.
Stripes on stripes can work, but be careful. Go for a very thin striped shirt in a low-key color if you're going to mix it with a striped tie. A combo that's too bold (like wide stripes against wide stripes, or competing bright colors) will give your coworkers a headache.
Mix pin dots with stripes. The small micro dots can be too busy when paired with plaid, gingham, or any other bolder shirt pattern. But with a subtle thinly striped shirt, it'll work wonders.
Same goes for prints. If you've got a small repeating print, pair it with solid or thinly striped shirts.
Stick with solid ties for busy shirts. If you're rocking something like a plaid or large gingham shirt, anchor it with a solid tie. Anything else will likely look too busy.
Avoid any combo that's too bold. Got a camo printed tie? Or a bright plaid one? Stick with solid shirts.