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Matching shoes and belts

It’s one of the first things about dressing well that we learn as young men – a black belt is worn with black shoes and a brown one with brown shoes – always; but what about blue, beige, and the more unusual options that are becoming increasingly popular? Wearing a belt and shoes in matching colours is a basic rule of male elegance but with eye-catching colours, it doesn’t always work so well.

Unless the trousers are in the same colour and therefore, camouflaging the belt and shoes, the combination often results in a look that screams ‘put together with great care’. It’s like walking into a living room where the sofa (cushions included) and curtains are in the same floral fabric. Elegance must seem effortless and a matching belt and shoes, which aren’t black or brown are anything but that.

Another reason for doing away with the rule is that matching shoes and belts, effectively make a person look shorter. This is especially so, when the shoes and belt contrast in colour with the trousers’, as what you’ll end up with, are legs that only appear as long as the distance between the belt and the shoes.

DSCF4858.JPGRather than opting for identical colours, if your shoes are in an unusual colour, go for a belt in a colour that’s as close as possible to that of either the shirt or trousers – depending on whether you want to add or reduce visual height.

Taller men, whose legs tend to be considerably longer than their torso, will achieve a more balanced silhouette with a belt that mirrors the shirt’s colour, as this effectively visually elongates the torso. On the other hand, shorter men should aim for visually longer legs, making a belt in the same colour as the trousers’ the better option.

If it’s your belt that’s the fancy piece, go for shoes in a neutral colour, which blend in as much as possible with the trousers. Here, your outfit’s centrepiece should be your belt.

Final word

As is often the case, rules are never set in stone. With pieces in unusual colours – and in the case of shoes and belts, anything other than black or brown is considered ‘unusual’ – the safest approach is to make these the focal point of your outfit. Consequently, since there can only be one focal point, avoid having more than one piece in an unusual colour.

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Coordinating patterned shirts & bow ties

It might be easier to coordinate a patterned bow tie with a shirt in a solid colour (or the other way round) but for an equally elegant and more playful look, the combination of a patterned shirt with a patterned  bow tie is an option to consider. Of course, it will only work so long as the combination doesn’t result in a psychedelic concoction. Here’s how to avoid just that.

Contrast

Key to coordinating two patterned pieces successfully is to keep them distinguishable and for this, you’ll need to aim for contrast between the two.

First, consider the shirt and bow tie’s background colours. Whilst these needn’t be completely different, they should differ in intensity, with one being considerably lighter/darker than the other.

white shirt + bow tie

 

 

Second, for best results, opt for different patterns  altogether, with one being denser or more elaborate than the other. Similar patterns, even if one is denser than the other will simply cancel each other out, when what you want is to have one of the two pieces (typically the bow tie) as the centrepiece, with the other complementing it.

Coherence

Although your shirt and bow tie should be distinguishable from each other, for one to complement the other,  there should be a link that ties in the two with each other, just as the two together should tie in with the rest of the outfit.

purple shirt + bow tie.JPG

The best way to achieve this is to opt for a bow tie in a background colour that is identical or very similar to one of the colours in the shirt’s pattern – ideally that which stands out the most. Alternatively, you could also introduce another colour into the scheme while keeping one of the bow tie’s pattern’s colours similar to the shirt’s background colour.

blue shirt + bow tie.JPG

If your shirt only contains two different colours – that of the pattern and the background colour – and especially if these are neutral colours, you could also consider a bow tie in a completely different colour scheme, as long as it contrasts and pairs well with the shirt.

Final word

Mixing two different patterns needn’t result in a chaotic look. Just keep the shirt and bow tie distinguishable yet complementary.

 

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Butterfly vs. Diamond shape Bow Ties

We’ve recently launched our own brand of men’s accessories, which includes bow ties in both the butterfly, as well as the diamond shapes. If you’re a bow tie aficionado, you’d definitely be aware of the difference between the two shapes and most likely, also have your preference towards one or the other. In this post, we compare the two bow tie shapes, also looking at the face shapes they suit best.

2017-10-10 16.51.15The butterfly shape

This is the shape most bow ties on the market, especially pre-tied, come in. Consequently, it is what is often considered as the ‘standard’ bow tie shape, with anything else being merely ‘unusual’.

Therefore, a butterfly-shaped bow tie makes for a safe choice, ideal for the man, who is just starting out with wearing bow ties, or one who doesn’t want to make a bold statement. Consider it as the ‘classic’ of bow tie shapes, fitting in perfectly with a timeless look, though of course, bolder colours and designs can still give a bow tie a distinctly modern look.

In addition to style, consider also how well or not, a bow tie shape compliments one’s face shape. Butterfly-shaped bow ties should be the preferred choice for men with square-shaped faces, although these also suit men with oval or rectangular faces.

2017-10-10 16.42.20The diamond shape

Although far less popular than the butterfly shape, it is nonetheless gaining popularity, especially among men, who already own a decent bow tie collection, and who are after a less ‘mainstream’ option. Of course, being the less conventional among the two shapes, it takes some confidence to pull it off.

Compared to the butterfly shape, diamond-shaped bow ties are less symmetrical, resulting in a more playful look. It’s really what we love most about this shape, in that it reflects the fun and the quirky elements associated with wearing a bow tie. Consequently, it makes a great choice for those occasions that allow more freedom to be that bit more adventurous with one’s style, which, if wearing a bow tie in the first place, is often the case.

In addition, in as far as face shapes are concerned, diamond-shaped bow ties make the best option for men with round or triangular faces and also suit oval and rectangular faces.

Final word

So which one will it be, the butterfly or the diamond shape?

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Coordinating socks with shoes and trousers

Little thought tends to go into the choice of colour of one’s socks. Black socks with black shoes and brown ones with brown shoes, with a white pair to wear with sports shoes. Fairly simple, until you come across a pair of multi-toned shoes that you’d love to have, or one in an unusual colour. How do you coordinate the right pair of socks with it? Do black or brown socks go with any shoe colour?

Generally, the colour of one’s socks should be identical or very close to that of one’s trousers, rather than the shoes’. This avoids stopping the eye at the trouser-leg bottom, as opposed to the floor, where it should stop.

However, what if the trousers themselves are in an unusual colour? Would you wear mint socks with mint trousers? It might be a question of personal style but the combination looks a bit too coordinated. On the other hand, black or brown socks will contrast too much whilst also looking too wintry in comparison to the trousers.

Instead of socks that match your trousers, or the usual black/brown, go for colourful socks instead. Opt for a pair that includes a colour that’s identical or similar to the trousers’ and which ideally, also tie in with one of the colours in the shoes. If the trousers are bright, balance the intensity of the colour with socks in a mainly neutral palette or one that’s muted. Think of the socks as the link that leads to a gradual transition from trousers to shoes.

When wearing shorts, as one mostly does in summer, rather than focusing on the shorts’ colour, one’s socks (short socks, of course) should mainly tie in with the shoes’ colour scheme. On a pair of canvas lace-ups, rather than opting for white or black socks, go for a pair that’s contains a colour similar to that of the shoes. You probably wouldn’t want to coordinate your shoes with socks in a solid colour (unless the shoes are colourful or contain a pattern). When both socks and shoes are in a very similar colour, the combination will visually alter the shape of the shoe. By opting for colourful socks (not necessarily bright colours), it’ll be easier to distinguish socks from shoes.

Of course, there is always the option of no-show socks. This will make coordinating trousers/shorts and shoes much easier. However, socks can also serve as the style-piece that makes an outfit more interesting and reflective of personal style.

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How to coordinate braces with outfits

Braces do more than simply keep your trousers from sliding down. They are also a style-piece and for that reason, should be coordinated with the rest of your outfit. In this post, we’ll be looking at how to include braces in an outfit, giving particular consideration to colour and pattern.

Coordinating colours

An interesting outfit always includes one piece that stands out. It’s the centre-piece around which the rest of the outfit is built. Since braces aren’t everyone’s choice, they inevitably make a style-statement and will often end up being the centre-piece, regardless of how fancy or plain their design. That’s why it’s best to start with your braces and combine your other pieces with the pair you intend on wearing.

Serving as the background behind your braces, your shirt is the first element to coordinate with your braces. Neutral colours, white especially, are the easiest to pair with. Consider no other colours when putting together a formal outfit, opting for minimalist braces in black, white, or your suit’s colour.

However, for a more casual look, one could opt for an unusual shirt colour keeping the braces and trousers in a different colour for contrast, preferably a neutral colour. The same can apply if going for trousers that are either patterned or in an unusual colour. In that case, the shirt should ideally be in a neutral colour, acting as a buffer between the two interesting pieces of the outfit (braces and trousers).

men's braces white shirt

If the shirt is in a solid colour, contrast can also be achieved with patterned braces. In this case, choose one of the least dominant colours in the pattern and coordinate your shirt accordingly. Generally, braces and shirts in identical colours make a rather dull combination.

If your outfit also includes neckwear, braces in a solid colour can be combined with a tie or bow tie that are also in a solid colour, which is identical to the braces’. This is often the preferred combination for very formal outfits but will only work if worn on a white shirt. For a more interesting look, go for neckwear that is either in a shade similar but not identical to your braces’, or if in a different colour altogether, keep the braces in the same colour as your suit’s or trousers’ (if not wearing a suit).

When coordinating different pieces, it is generally best to stick to a maximum of four different colours, of which one can be a bright or unusual colour, the rest being classical/neutral. Also, if wearing leather braces, these should be in the same colour as your shoes – just like belts and shoes.

Coordinating patterns

Patterns add a playful tone to an outfit, making them more appropriate for smart casual or casual outfits, unless very subtle.

When wearing patterned braces on a patterned shirt, the only way to avoid a chaotic look is by aiming for contrast – just as with solid colours. Whilst the colours should always tie in, the patterns should vary considerably in intensity. If your shirt’s pattern is on the denser side, go for braces in a looser pattern, or the other way round. Again, to keep the two pieces visually distinct, opt for a shirt in a background colour that also features in the braces’ pattern but not prominently.

Braces

When coordinating patterned braces with patterned neckwear, going for the same pattern throughout will result in a too coordinated look, of the matching curtains and quilt kind. Ideally, opt for different patterns and again, in varying intensities. This will keep each piece visually distinct and balanced enough to keep the focus on only one piece.

Generally, unless it’s black or navy, going for neckwear and braces in different colours, even if just slightly will add texture and depth to an outfit, also making it visually more exciting.

Final Word

Of course these tips are not rules set in stone but are intended to make it easier to wear braces as a style-piece, as opposed to merely functional. That said, they should still serve their main purpose, that of keeping your trousers in place. Therefore, wearing braces and a belt together is the equivalent of wearing white socks on formal shoes.

Also, although the absence of belt loops makes a trouser waistband look neater (when worn without a belt), it is not unusual for men to wear braces on trousers with belt loops. On the other hand, if you only wear braces, it’s worth going for trousers that are intended to be worn with braces, as opposed to belts.

despite traditionalists wincing at the thought of wearing braces on trousers with belt loops, unless your aim is to impress one, no one will reproach you for doing so.

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The basics of wearing flower lapel pins

Whereas lapel pins are nowadays mainly worn as an indication of one’s affiliation with a certain organisation, flower lapel pins are purely decorative and are worn to add a playful tone to an outfit. Being an unconventional choice, they also give a very unique touch, and for those seeking a vintage-inspired look, flower lapel pins are just the perfect accent.

Needless to say, wearing one is unlikely to go unnoticed. So, when including a flower lapel pin in your outfit, here’s what you need to know to make sure it never looks like an inappropriate choice.

Lapel pins should always be worn on the left lapel, between your bow tie (or neck tie knot) and pocket square. You’ll often find a buttonhole sewn just below the lapel point. This is where the lapel pin should be worn.

2017-05-04 16.33.02

Take this part of the lapel – the width, to be more precise – as your guide to choosing a flower lapel pin in the right size for you. No lapel pin should ever be as wide as that part of the lapel for otherwise, it’ll look too prominent. Generally, especially if worn with a pocket square and bow tie/neck tie, it is safer to opt for smaller and minimalist lapel pins, so as to avoid having too much going on.

As for the colour of your lapel pin, this should tie in with your other accessories. Because it’s worn between the bow tie/neck tie and pocket square, a flower lapel pin can serve as a bridge

between the two. Its colour should never be identical to that of any of the other two accessories but part of the same colour scheme, in a way that links the two. For a more harmonious look, it is generally best to avoid more than one accessory in a particularly bright or modern colour.

Moreover, a flower lapel pin need not be worn with a bow tie/neck tie but the absence of a pocket square will leave the outfit looking incomplete. Why go the extra mile when you haven’t even got your basics? If the two together result in a look that seems too flamboyant, tone it down by wearing your pocket square in a simple fold, such as the basic square fold.

Finally, when matching a flower lapel pin to an outfit, always keep the event you’re attending in mind. If it’s a professional event in a corporate environment, a smaller pin in a colour similar to the jacket’s will make a better choice. On the other hand, for social events, one is more at liberty to mix and match, obviously depending on the crowd present. Here, a flower lapel pin is also likely to serve as a good ice-breaker.

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Men’s bracelets

Bracelets can be a step too far out of a man’s comfort zone. It’s easy for trendy and style-conscious men to adorn their wrists with more than a watch but the average man often seems himself looking either too casual or just plain silly. Oh well, bracelets are something we can all live without. However, when worn well, they can complement one’s outfit, providing a distinct mark of confidence about one’s look.

Like accessories in general, bracelets are very personal in that they not only reflect one’s own style of dress but are generally also taken to give a glimpse of one’s personality. Think seashells and surfers or wooden beads and hipsters. Very often, one’s choice of bracelets is an extension of one’s everyday style and the two go well together automatically. However, there are times when one has to adapt one’s choice of bracelets to a specific type of outfit, such as one required by a work dress code or that for a special occasion. When the two styles clash, rather than the bracelet complementing the outfit, it ends up drawing too much attention but for the wrong reasons.

How to combine bracelets with outfits

MB276_BLU_MM_W_largeGenerally, the more minimalist a bracelet’s design and colour scheme, the more elegant and versatile it is. A simple, narrow metal band can be worn well with a corporate suit, without rendering it any less professional, just as much as it can be worn with a T-shirt and jeans.

MB147_BLK_S_2_W_largeBeaded bracelets are more casual but small beads in neutral colours, especially with metal rings in between can serve to soften a dressy look without rendering it too casual, or on the contrary, dress up a very casual outfit without making it look dressy. The same can be said of simple, dark leather/metal combinations.

il_570xN.820393668_28wwOn the other hand, chunkier and more colourful designs, as well as fabric and rubber models give a more playful look, making them inevitably casual in style. They best match outfits in the same style. Worn with a dressier outfit, they turn into a statement about one’s personality, which you can get away with if you’re the one calling the shots. Brighter or fancier bracelets can make a plain outfit more interesting however, caution is recommended not to turn the bracelet into your look’s centre-piece – it should only complement it.

What size of bracelet should one go for?

Just like a bracelet should complement one’s style, it should also complement a man’s frame, looking neither too chunky and heavy, nor too thin on his wrist. A bracelet that looks too chunky on the wrist will appear too overwhelming whilst one that is too thin can look feminine. Naturally, the same bracelet will look proportionally different on men of considerably different sizes, necessitating the choice of a bracelet that is proportionate to that of the wearer’s wrist.

The same applies when wearing multiple bracelets on the same wrist. Men with a small frame will look best in fewer and thinner bracelets, whereas those with bigger wrists can opt for either two chunkier models or more but finer alternatives, obviously without overdoing it.

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Left: too many bracelets and the gold one is too chunky compared to the size of the wrist.     Right: the focus remains on the watch, which is already quite big. The bracelets merely add a touch of colour, without overwhelming the wrist.

A bracelet’s size also comes into play when intended to be worn next to a watch. In that case, its size, just like the colour and style, should be such that the bracelet pairs well with the watch and never as though it’s competing with it.

How should a bracelet fit?

A bracelet that slips below the wrist is not only irritating but also looks awkward. Bracelets should fit tight enough around the wrist to keep them in place, obviously without restricting the blood flow.

Should bracelets be worn only on one arm?

Yes and preferably one without any rings on the fingers. Simplicity is key to keeping one’s look elegant. There might be those who can get away with wearing bracelets on both wrists. If that’s something you’d like to try, for a balanced look, keep one wrist considerably lighter than the other.

Final word

If you’re considering adding bracelets to your look, or would like to but still hesitate, a good start will be a minimalist design in a neutral colour. Go for something that is easy to combine with most pieces in your wardrobe, feels light on the wrist, and doesn’t draw too much attention as to make you feel self-conscious. Once you get used to having a bracelet on your wrist, it quickly becomes a key part of your style. That’s when you can start matching different designs with different outfits, keeping in mind the tips above.

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The visual impact of scarves on physique and height

A scarf can be worn in various ways but not all will work equally well on the same person. This usually depends a lot on the length and thickness of the scarf itself; more precisely, on how long and chunky it is in relation to the wearer’s height and physique.

Proportion is – as always – key to ensuring the scarf you’re wearing looks good on you. The longer a scarf’s ends reach, the bigger the impact on one’s visual height. On short men, a scarf’s length should ideally reach mid-torso. This will keep the focus on the upper part of the body, that closest to the face. Tall men can afford greater flexibility though a scarf is never flattering when it reaches too close to the nether parts. 

A scarf’s length will also affect how bulky it appears when worn. One that is too long will require more turns for its ends to reach the desired length. This will result in added volume that will not only feel restrictive but also make one look too bundled up.

On the other hand, a scarf that is relatively short is best worn hanging around the neck. Alternatively, for added warmth, you could flip one end over a shoulder, in order to keep the neck covered.

However, it seems that the two most common ways – and to me, also the most comfortable – of wearing a scarf are either with a knot just below the neck or loops around the neck.

The first results in a ‘Y’ shape stretching from the neck to the point on the torso where the scarf’s ends reach. Apart from giving a very neat appearance, its vertical effect creates an illusion of added length and also has a slimming effect (assuming the scarf is not entirely covered by the jacket). It can be particularly flattering on shorter and/or bigger men.

The second, that with loops around the neck and the ends hanging on the sides, visually broadens the shoulders and chest, giving them more prominence. It’s ideal for men who want the emphasis to be on their these areas, especially if their hips are proportionately wider. This look will also work well on very tall men who should ideally focus on broadening their silhouette, rather than elongating it.

Whichever way you choose to wear your scarf, as much as it’s important for it to look elegant, it should never look too precise, such as with the ends reaching the exact same length. Nor should a scarf look too stiff. In fact, a scarf’s soft and flowing texture can balance the seemingly linear and sometimes rigid structure of a winter jacket/coat, effectively softening the look.

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A guide to men’s ties – Part II

Trump’s victory has left many bewildered. On Facebook and Twitter, personal analyses of what led to his victory are abundant but my guess is that many voters were won over by his power tie – what else? That iconic red tie was selected intentionally to portray him as a man of success and authority, because in the West, those are two qualities we associate with red. Of course, it’s not what really got him elected but because of its associations, colour is definitely an effective way of influencing people’s judgement.

In the second part of our guide to men’s ties, the focus will be on colour and pattern, specifically, what they are associated with, and which suit colours they can be best worn with.

Colour associations 

Against a light shirt and dark suit, which is the combination most men wear, the only distinctive element is the tie. It’s what sets a man apart from the rest and the first – if not the only – thing people will notice about his outfit. Since colour affects how people feel towards something, before even having really tried it or experienced it, a tie can influence people’s judgement about a person they do not really know. Therefore, it’s worth choosing a tie colour in a way that facilitates a favourable judgement, especially on occasions, such as job interviews, when such judgement could make a real difference.

Less aggressive than a red tie but one which also stands out and can represent vitality is green, such as bottle green. Like red, it’s a colour that tends to look too strong for a professional outfit – unless it’s a patterned tie. However, a grey or navy suit and light blue shirt will tone down the colour’s intensity for a more muted look. 

On the contrary, pastel colours are associated with tenderness and tend to have a calming effect. Consequently, a sky blue tie can give a man a softer look. Outside office politics, pastel ties are a great option for summer, especially on a light grey suit.

 Similarly, a yellow tie can make a man look more radiant and approachable. However, yellow is a colour that looks too dull on a white or light blue shirt, especially against a fair complexion, making it a better option as a background colour for a patterned tie, worn with a grey or blue suit. 

You might have noticed how most uniforms tend to include navy and/or burgundy. They’re two classical colours that tend to denote experience and therefore, reliability. Being easy to combine with grey, green, and blue suits, they are also the two most versatile tie colours a man could opt for. Burgundy is also one of the very few colours that pairs well with a black suit.

For the opposite effect, opt for a purple tie. However, it doesn’t mean it’ll make you come across as inexperienced. In terms of tie colours and menswear in general, purple is considered a modern colour and for that purpose, a rather bold option. Therefore, a purple tie can be associated with youth or a modern outlook. It’s a colour that is best worn with a navy, green or grey suit. 

In addition to black, silver and gold are other options to consider for evening events. Like anything that sparkles, they can be too dressy for the office.

Patterns

Like colours, patterns can also be associated with specific attributes and these can be further emphasised by one’s choice of tie colour. There are various patterns typically used in ties, each giving a different twist to an outfit.

Diagonal stripes are definitely a favourite. In addition to having a slimming effect, diagonal stripes can look both modern, interesting, and yet, still conservative enough to avoid an outfit from appearing too playful, something that’s not easily achieved with a tie in polka dots.

Paisley and plaid are two other options but which are not as popular as diagonal stripes, possibly because they can look too fancy or even slightly old-fashioned. However, that depends a lot on the colour scheme. A high contrast colour scheme can give a tie a more modern, bolder effect, whereas darker colours with minimal contrast can make it look like a more conservative option.

When combining colours, one should ideally limit himself to a maximum of three different colours (i.e. suit, shirt, and tie in a different colour). In the case of a patterned tie, that number can be exceeded. However, the tie’s colour scheme needs to tie in with the rest of the outfit. Therefore, one of the tie’s colours should be identical to that of the suit with the shirt acting as a buffer, usually in white or light blue but sometimes also pink.

Final note 

As mentioned earlier, the tie is often the first thing people notice about a man’s outfit. It’s very much the focal point. Consequently, it’s worth making the effort to not only make sure the size and length complement your frame but that the colour and pattern keep the outfit looking coherent, and if need be, enhance the message about yourself you are trying to get across.

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A guide to men’s ties – Part I

A tie is often the first thing people will notice about a man’s outfit. Some might compliment you on your choice, others might not like it but certainly, no one will fail to notice it. Hence, when it comes to choosing a tie, it’s worth making the effort to put your best foot forward. That includes going for a tie that suits your frame and which of course, complements the shirt and suit it is worn with. In this two-part guide, I’ll be covering all you need to know about ties, including size, proper length, and colour associations.

Size 

For the sake of balance, a tie’s width should be proportionate to that of the jacket lapels, which in turn should depend on the size of the wearer’s frame. A big man will look best in a jacket with wider lapels and therefore, a wide tie, whereas narrower lapels and slim ties suit slender men.

Proportion also applies to the size of the knot, which compared to one’s frame should neither look too chunky nor thimble-size. This is often determined by the tie band’s width, with wider ties usually giving bigger knots.

Length

The trickiest part of tying a tie is getting the length right. The tip should just about reach the centre of the belt buckle, give or take a centimetre. Aesthetically, neither shorter nor longer will look good.

When a tie is too long for your height, it will leave too much of the narrow end exposed (the band at the back, when tied). The best way to avoid having so much extra length is to opt for shorter ties. Tucking the narrow band into the shirt tends to look amateurish and the band still shows under a white shirt. 

The alternative to a shorter tie is opting for a fuller knot, such as the Prince Albert, which by using up more of the tie, effectively leaves a shorter back band. Tuck this into the loop sewn onto the back of the wider end for a neat look.

Knot 

Most men stick to just one tie-knot – the four-in-hand. It’s simple to execute, elegant, and suits most face shapes. And yet, there are over 177,000 possible knots. Regardless of the knot you opt for, a tie should never look too stiff/flat below the knot. 

When fastening the knot, make a dimple just below. This will allow the tie to arch out from the collar thus, adding texture and movement to the tie, making it look less ‘wooden’ 

Final word

Those are the basics of choosing a tie in the right size and wearing it properly. In the next post, I’ll be focusing on colour and pattern, mainly, the associations made with different colours, combining tie, shirt, and suit colours, as well as patterns.