You’ve just woken up on a Monday morning and tying your tie is seeming as difficult as unfurling the Gordian knot. You need a little Alexander the Great in your pocket to fill your knotted needs – or, you know, us. While you might have been taught the four-in-hand knot the night before big-boy school for its time-saving simplicity, as you mature into worldly men, maybe it’s time to step up your knot game. And it doesn’t get more big-boy than the Windsor knot.
What Is A Windsor Knot?
The Windsor, also known as the Double Windsor or the Full Windsor (we know, confusing stuff), is probably the second most common way to tie a tie after the four-in-hand (the one your Dad tried to show you in that designated father/son time you had to go through as an awkward blackhead-laden teen).
It is named, however, after the Duke of Windsor – better known as King Edward VIII before he ran off with an American – who was thought to have favoured a wide knot. You can’t really get the same level of chunkiness from a four-in-hand so people started using the more difficult Windsor to ape the Duke’s style (although the Duke himself just used a thicker tie cloth). The knot sits wide against your collar and should be a perfectly symmetrical triangle.
Like riding a bike, your muscle memory for four-in-hand should make tying that knot easy. In contrast, Holger Auffenberg, head of design at Saville Row tailors Chester Barrie, thinks the Windsor can take quite some time to get used to. “It uses a lot of the tie length,” says Auffenberg, “so it needs practice, practice, practice to start in the right position, especially for tall men, since the tie should still end up with the point touching your waistband.”
Also be careful of how tight you tie it. According to Austen Pickles, a tailor and founder of formalwear brand Johnny Tuxedo, the knot can look comical if its large dimensions are played up too much. “If it is tight and not too wide, it shows that you mean business,” says Pickles. “But if it gets loose, too big, and you are wearing business attire, it can look like you are stuck in the 1970s.”
How To Tie A Windsor Knot
Hold the tie around your collar with the wide end on the right and the skinny end on the left. Leave the skinny side short because you’ll need the extra length for the knot. Lift the wide end over the skinny end, only moving the wide end as you do this.
Pull the wide end up through the neck loop from underneath and then pull it back to the left.
Then pull it around the skinny end to the right but lifting it up, over and through the neck loop and back down to the right over the top.
Move the wide end across the front to the left and then up into the neck loop from underneath.
Breathe out. You’re nearly there. Bring the wide end down through the loop you’ve created in the front and tighten the knot by pulling down on the wide end. Then it’s just a matter of sliding the knot up and adjusting according to the size and tightness you want.
Things To Consider With A Windsor Knot
After you’ve spent those hard-earned minutes loop de looping your tie through the neck loop with the steady hands of a heart surgeon, you’re going to want a type of shirt collar that shows off your masterpiece to the full. “The Windsor produces a fairly wide and symmetrical knot,” says Auffenberg, “so this is perfect for a semi or severe cutaway collar as it leaves enough room for the knot. Never wear a Windsor knot with a slim pointed collar, as the knot will push the collar end up.”
Cutaway Collar – Eton Shirts
Pickles is adamant that all ties should be made out of silk for its luxurious and soft feel which makes it easier to accomplish tricker knots. It also has the thickness needed for large knots like the Windsor that become tricker with the more nimble knitted tie.
Bear in mind that most mass market ties will be made out of a polyester blend but the stiffer fabric can be harder to work with. When it comes to colour though Pickles is less picky. “I think business ties should be dark and plain or semi plain (a preppy stripe or a polka dot) but for red carpet or weddings, the world is your oyster.”
The Windsor is a headline-grabbing knot and its width and bravado are plenty big enough to dominate the stage. However, you want to play the game accordingly and face shape is important: those with thin or small faces need not apply. “This one is probably better suited to a wider face,” agrees Pickles. “If the face is thin or small, the knot will look out of proportion. It’s all about balance.”
While not necessarily a go-to standard like the four-in-hand, the Windsor is still versatile and smart enough to get away with in most social situations while providing a welcome change-up from all those regular Joes still tying the way mummy taught them. “It will work for weddings, even with a morning coat,” says Pickles. “Red carpet it will work too. For fashionistos waltzing around fashion week though, maybe allow the knot to be looser, bigger, lower and make more of a statement with your neckwear like Paul Smith, who always takes this approach with ties.”