Dress Tips

Four-in-hand knot versus the Windsor knot

By on September 5th, 2013

If someone were to ask you what knot you use when tying your favorite neck tie and you couldn’t answer beyond ‘wait, there are other knots!?’ then there is a fair chance that you employ a four-in-hand Knot. This is the knot that our dads taught us when we were kids and the one that an amazing girlfriend will somehow know to tie.

It turns out that there are actually 4 official knots for men’s neckwear (and several more obscure ones). They are, in no order of importance, the four-in-hand, Pratt, half Windsor, and the full Windsor Knot. Each knot is said to have its own purpose, but a simple Internet search will reveal some very ambiguous descriptions. With the sole exception of the Windsor, which is as wide as the Panama Canal and suited for spread collar dress shirts, all other knots seem to be suited for, well, anything. Everyone seems to have their own opinion (we’ll get to mine soon) about what knot is best for which shirt, but there is more to picking a knot than just the collar shape and size – one must consider the occasion, level of formality, and especially the person wearing the knot!

Menswear has always been about playing off of the man’s shape. For instance, heavier guys will do well to wear vertical stripes to appear thinner. Conversely, thin guys may want to wear windowpane dress shirts to project a wider look. So, when choosing a knot, a larger guy may not want to go with a Windsor for every occasion. A wide knot will certainly not help in making him appear any thinner.

So what’s all the fuss about? Well, the namesake of the Windsor Knot is the Duke of Windsor. Aside from the British slant, this knot is symmetrical, but then again, suits are symmetrical, so are vests, trousers, pretty much everything. However, the tie, and the wonderfully chaotic pocket square, need not be. So, unless you are sporting the spread collar I don’t see any reason to hesitate tying a Four-in-Hand. The asymmetric, just right size is a staple. It looks fantastic when loosened on a Friday afternoon and can be a little unpredictable depending on the texture of your tie. After all, adding an element of spontaneity to your image is a good thing fellas.

Then again, what’s one guy’s opinion? My father and brother certainly have their own bias and will almost certainly refute this blog in a subsequent post, but in the end, you wear what makes you feel confident and to hell with the opinion of anyone else – always remember, the man makes the suit, so whatever knot you chose, wear it like a suit of armor! So there you have it, the four-in-hand knot versus the Windsor knot.

Or, you could try your hand at the Eldredge, but that’s a story for a different day.

Use our how to tie a tie guide to tie your next tie!