My knotty error

13 Dec

I’ve made a mistake. I’ve made a mistake and this is the public admission of my error.  No, I don’t have to publish this, but I want people to know that I’m not afraid of being wrong.tie knots

The last thing a professional wants to do is pass on incorrect information, and it seems I’ve done so. In a 2010 blog post, The new royalty, I explained that in centuries past, it was royalty who set the fashion, now, movie stars and musicians are key influencers.

In that post (now edited), I give the examples of kings’ conditions that cued historical clothing: Henry VIII was said to have gout which moved him to wear non-restricting footwear, thus dictating the shoes of Tudor times, and prematurely bald Louis XIII of France introduced men’s wigs to the world.

I made an assumption that Edward VIII, the Duke of Windsor upon abdication, was the originator of the Windsor knot.  It made a tremendous amount of sense to me that the Duke, a small man, would wear a knot that took up more tie so it could graze the waistband of his high-waisted trouser, but it turns out that it was his father, George V, who (may have) originated the Windsor. But as I dig deeper, I’m finding information that refutes the George V theory. Looking at photos of George, he opted for silk cravats tied into four-in-hand knots – a traditional British necktie knot. So if George and Edward didn’t wear the Windsor knot, where did it come from?

I belong to a professional costume group and we’ve been discussing his topic. One of the costumers says, “Suzy Menkes in her book, The Windsor Style, says the Duke of Windsor had his neckties made by Hawes and Curtis, who always used a very thick lining.” (Hawes and Curtis is an old tailor shop favoured by royalty on London’s Jermyn Street.) The thick tie was too much for the multi-step full Windsor knot, so the Duke tied a four-in-hand knot. Though he didn’t wear it, he’s synonymous with the Windsor knot.

Another costume designer believes the knot may have originated in the U.S. when the Duke visited in the 1930s. In their attempt to emulate the stylish Duke, the Americans, in much thinner ties, took extra steps to create a wider tie knot, and with the help of the U.S. media, this knot was dubbed the Windsor knot.

Interestingly, the Canadian Armed Forces has adopted this knot. My military contact sent me the Armed Forces regulations handbook, in which chapter 2, section 2 explains dress. Two tie knots are allowed in the Canadian military: the four-in-hand and the Windsor knot. The funny thing is, the illustration of the Windsor knot in the handbook looks like a half Windsor knot, not a full Windsor.

The more I find out about this knot, the more confused I am. Perhaps this argument is simply a matter of semantics.

Further reading: The Mystery of the Windsor Tie Knot Revealed

Gentlemen’s Cravats – The Necktie: A Brief History


In our culture, people have a deep fear of being wrong. I used to be one of these people, and then as I delved further into understanding the human condition, I realized that it’s natural and inevitable that we’re going to be wrong sometimes – it’s part of what makes us human. Knowing that humans are more prone to mistakes than to flawless victories, I’m okay with being wrong and I’m willing to tell the world about my mistake.

Many of us have experience with people who love being right all of the time and will rub your face into their (self) righteousness. But what does it amount to?  More stress for one thing – the chips on our shoulders can weigh us down and make us defensive. This black and white way of seeing the world as right and as wrong is, to my mind, limited, because there is so much to know, so many different perspectives, and the issues are often much more complex and require a different angle of logic.

What I’d like to leave you with is this: if we’re right all of the time, we’re not going to experience mistakes; mistakes are things we learn from. Insisting on being right keeps us from learning and growing, and a hard-headed, stuffing-opinions-down-throats style of communication rarely scores points. A dash of humility on the other hand, will.

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