Tag Archives: tie knots

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.

All-purpose clothing maintenance

19 May

This week, I’d like to give you fellas some very simple and very do-able image-enhancing tips on keeping your basics nice and neat to give you a polished look.  Ready? Here we go!

Basics for ties 

Ties are cut on the bias of silk, meaning that they are cut on the diagonal instead of the straight of the grain, like most garments are. This method of cutting gives an elasticity to the fabric, useful in the tying of the ties but making the tie different in maintenance than other garments. When ties wrinkle, they’re not meant to be ironed. Instead, the bias-cut of the fabric allows the weight of the weave to lie differently and because  of this, wrinkles are easily smoothed by rolling them instead of hanging them up. Try storing them rolled on a flat surface like in a drawer.

Are you the kind of guy that isn’t comfortable tying ties and you leave your ties knotted for the next wear? I have some sympathy for you knot-challenged fellas but remember that a proper gent will knot a fresh tie each day, so try to learn how to do at least one basic knot (i.e. the four-in-hand). Once you have this mastered, you can move onto the Half Windsor and if you want to get really fancy, try the Full Windsor. Tie knots may seem intimidating at first, but with practice, will become habit. Google “tie knots” and find the right illustration or video for you to follow – there are lots to choose from.

Keep your shirts in shape

When hanging your shirts up on hangers, button the top button to keep the collar band in shape.

I’m always telling my clients that they can extend the life of their shirts if they keep the collar in shape. To do this, simply button up the top button on the shirt, found on what is called the collar band. Sandwiched in between the back and front fabric of the collar and the collar band is the fusing/interfacing which gives shape and body to the collar pieces. Doing up the top button will keep your collars stiff, round, and in good shape.

Dry clean only trousers

If you’re a fan of wool pants, you’ll notice the “dry clean only” symbol on the washing tag. I know that especially for you bachelors, dry cleaning is a godsend, but do be aware that the dry cleaning process is hard on humans and the environment as it uses highly flammable chemical solvents to get your clothes clean. Dry cleaning can also get expensive.

Dry clean symbol

An alternative to dry cleaning is wet cleaning or environmental cleaning which many dry cleaners offer, easier on the earth but a method that will still cost you – check some good dry cleaning alternatives link here.

I’ve got a couple of tricks for you to help you stretch from cleaning to cleaning:

  • Hang your trousers outside to air them out and freshen them up;
  • If your trousers are already creased, run a not-too-hot steam iron over them to crisp the crease and don’t be afraid to press the hem or cuffs, and steam out the thigh and knee creases created from sitting in the trousers. A good shot of steam should help the fabric recover its shape some.

Washers and dryers: sock’s natural enemy 

Losing a sock during the laundering process is frustrating. I’ve observed enough sock behaviour over time to understand that socks may actually reappear if you have patience: 

  • Check around the washing machine – sometimes they fall out as we stuff clothes into the washer;
  • Look for them in the pockets of your fitted sheets;
  • If you used the dryer, check inside of clothes – static might be holding your sock in something else;
  • If it’s an athletic sock you’re missing, look in your gym bag.

If you lost a sock and you’ve done the above suggestions and it’s been a few loads since you lost the original, chances are it’s gone, in which case, the one left over should be tossed – i.e. leaving the lone sock around is a temptation to wear it with another lone sock when you run out of laundry. Try to avoid this – it won’t do you any favours. For more sock info, please read Sock schlock.

Polish your shoes 

One of the easiest ways to sharpen your visual image is to keep your shoes polished – a shiny shoe will make better the outfit you threw together because you woke up late for work, and a dirty, worn shoe will betray the outfit that you so carefully put together.

The simplest solution to keeping your shoes clean and polished is to keep polish, brushes, sponges, and protective sprays next to the space where you store your shoes. This way, all you have to do is reach for what you need and get the job done right then and there!

To keep it simple and to get a fast and easy shine, I suggest the KIWI Express Shine Sponge – buy two and keep one at home near your dress shoes, and in your desk at the office. Check out the info here.