Allegedly, there are 18 different ways to tie a tie. Until recently, that was 16 more than I was aware of. And I say that as someone whose father wears a suit every day and whose elementary school uniform included a tie. That is, forces much larger than myself conspired to make sure that I knew how to pull the right loop through before I even really knew how to spell S-U-I-T.
The first knot I learned, of course, was the Half Windsor, which no less of an authority than Brooks Brothers considers to be among the most popular tie knots (largely due to its symmetry). I discovered the second in high school when I worked in the men’s department at Nordstrom. On my first day, one of the older employees asked me if I knew how to tie a Double Windsor (aka a Full Windsor). I had no idea what he was talking about, but it didn’t take long to learn — it’s simply the Half Windsor’s fuller, girthier sibling.
Thankfully, the consensus on the Male Fashion Advice (MFA) subreddit is that you really only need to know a handful of them. There’s the aforementioned Half Windsor (which, among other things, is great because it’s easy to untie). Then, beyond that, there’s the Four in Hand (FIH), which is named after a 19th century gentleman’s club, and according to one MFA denizen, the only knot you need to know in most situations. Better still, he explains, “FIH is best suited for more casual outfits. I personally would never wear a Full Windsor, but I have seen it worn by some people who can pull it off.”
Generally speaking, the Full/Double Windsor is only meant to be twisted together if you have a wide collar with plenty of space and a thin tie. Otherwise, you’re just going to look like you’re being choked out by a giant knot. As another MFA subscriber astutely notes, “You never go Full Windsor, man.” (Hey, I never said my older colleague at Nordstrom knew what he was talking about.)
So what are the other knots for? That’s easy: showing off.
“There’s this guy in my office who never wears a tie most days, but when he does, of course he needs to use an Eldredge knot and tell everyone about it,” one MFA subscriber writes. “Those knots are definitely just to say, ‘Look at me I’m so unique.’ If you’re not Pitbull filming a video, it’s not necessary.”
A different redditor puts it even better: “People shouldn’t use the Cafe, Trinity and Eldredge [knots]. They’re the fedoras of the tie-knot world.”