ExecSearch International - Australia

ExecSearch International - Australia

Dress for Effect Articles

How Many Ties?

By Duff Watkins and Jean Woo

How many ties does a man need?

11,650 if you’re Tom Holmes of the UK.

But then, he is the world champion grabatologist (one who collects neckties). 
The British Prime Minister even sends him a yearly birthday tie.

But what if, unlike Tom, you’re a normal guy and don’t rely on the PM for your neckwear needs?

In that case, you probably own fewer than 25 ties (36% of men surveyed do).

But if men’s neckties are the equivalent of women’s shoes then perhaps you should own upwards of 50 (12% of men surveyed do)?

Then again even if you own 100 ties (as 16% of men do) you only wear your few favourites so perhaps ‘less is more’?

Whether stockpiling or taking stock of your tie inventory, these are the rules:

  • Quality over quantity:  Possess only high quality ties.  A high quality tie is a well made tie.  It holds a knot longer, hangs straighter and looks fresher then a poorly constructed necktie.  High quality ties return rapidly to their original shape after wear thanks to the quality of their materials.  They look better and thus make you look better.  In neckwear as in life, quality is never out of style.
  • Number follows function:  The number of ties you own is determined by the work that you do.  The simple rule is that you need 3 ties per suit.  Even if you don’t wear suits you still need enough ties to match all your shirts.  And don’t forget a bow tie for those occasional formal functions.
  • Tie types:  If you own only one tie make sure its primary colour matches your eyes.  A red tie may combine easily with most suits and shirts but a tie in your eye colour always combines well with you.  Better still, have a few more ties in which the dominant colours are blue, black and grey.  Best of all, own different types of ties.  A suit wearing man needs a mixture of ties that include stripes, geometric patterns and colours.

    Solid colours are safe but drab.  On one hand, they can be plain and dull so they need to have interesting textures and rich surfaces in order to avoid appearing too blah.  On the other hand, they coordinate easily with your shirts and suits precisely because they are so unobtrusive.  The solid tie giveth, and it taketh away.
  • Versatility = Value:  A versatile tie is a valuable tie.  One function of your tie is to make your suit or sport coat look different than the last time you wore it.  So the more a tie can be worn you’re your various shirts, suits and jackets, the more valuable it is to you.  In fact, wearing a new tie is the easiest and least expensive way to update your suits and sport jackets.
  • Enjoy the process:  Choosing your necktie is a subjective and personal process that is fraught with risk.  It is not for the faint hearted.  Your choices reveal your taste and style.  Publicly, no less.  Yet any man who aspires to a higher level of self-expression through stylish neckwear must be willing to undergo the trial-and-error experience of selecting the right tie.  Some paths a man must walk alone.  Choosing a tie is one.  Enjoy the trip.

To conclude, there's a story about a big cocktail party on Martha's Vineyard, the summer home for the rich and famous in the US.

Someone comes up to the writer Joseph Heller [author of Catch-22] and says, "Joe, see that guy over there?  He's a hedge fund manager, and he made more money yesterday than you made on all the books you have ever published."

Heller looks over, pauses and says, "Yeah, but I have something he'll never have:  enough."

That’s exactly how many ties you need, enough to make you happy.

85 Ways to Tie a Necktie!

Most guys know only 2 ways to knot a necktie.
But there are 85 ways to tie a necktie, say Thomas Fink and Yong Mao.
They should know. 
They’re mathematical physicists at Cambridge University and have published their findings about tie knots in the world’s top science journal.

Unfortunately, most of those 85 knots look crappy.
Why?  Absence of style, of course. 
Most of the 85 knots are functional but not stylish.

Stylish necktie knots, say Fink and Mao, have symmetry.  Humans are attracted to symmetry therefore we prefer the symmetrical knots.

Below are the 4 basic and best knots.
Now be bold, cut loose, stretch out, extend yourself and master all 4 of them:

Necktie Knot




1. Four-in-hand

Easiest to learn; most commonly used.

Asymmetric; does not look good on wide collar shirts.

A small tie knot suitable for shirts with narrow collars. Is suitable for most occasions.

2. Half Windsor

Slightly more formal than the four-in-hand knot.

Asymmetric; slightly more difficult to tie than the four-in-hand knot.

Suitable for most occasions

3. Windsor Knot

Symmetric and large; evokes a sense of nobility.  Looks elegant on wide collar shirts.

Ties made of thick materials can produce a bulky, inelegant knot.  Not suitable for narrow collar shirts.

Looks best with wide collar shirts.  Fabulous for business and political occasions.

4. Pratt Knot

Symmetric knot of average size.  Looks neat, neither too wide nor too narrow in appearance.

Requires some practice to tie well.  Note that it starts with the seam facing outwards.

Suitable for most shirts and occasions.


Dr. Duff Watkins

Dr Duff Watkins

is Director, ExecSearch International - Australia. His articles appear in Men’s Style Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Company Director Magazine, Melbourne Herald Sun and many others.

Jean Woo 

Jean Woo

is author of Executive Style. dress essentials for men and women.  Once a corporate lawyer, she is now Director of Personal Brand Management. They are co-authors of Dress For Effect.: secrets of sartorial splendour