How much do you really know about tying a tie? Chances are, you’re still using the old four-in-hand technique – the stuff of schoolyard scruffbags and fresh-out-of-college admin assistants. A grown man needs a full compliment of knots in his style arsenal.
While the full or double Windsor knot – actually both the same thing – boast the rep for being the big boys’ knot, the half windsor tie knot is the one for the man who knows his stuff. Not big, bolshie, and boastful, but cool and considered.
“It gives a slightly slimmer feel than the full Windsor,” says Charlie Baker-Collingwood of Henry Herbert Tailors. “But it’s larger than most of the smaller and less-well-known knots, such as the pratt knot, which is very skinny by today’s terms.”
“It says you are confident but modest,” says Austen Pickles, tailor and founder of Johnny Tuxedo. “You know how to dress yourself and you mean business.”
What is a Half Windsor Knot?
Though named for being a smaller version of the Windsor – which itself was named after King Edward VIII, who abdicated the British throne and settled for being the Duke of Windsor instead – it’s not actually half the size.
“Calling it a half Windsor is a bit misleading,” says Baker-Collingwood. “It’s about three quarters the size of a full Windsor rather half the size. It’s slim, smart, and soft-looking. It looks good with medium lightweight fabrics.”
The half Windsor is also known for its defined dimple, which sits just below the knot itself.
“This is my favourite knot,” says Pickles. “If you are going to learn one knot in your life, this is it. Tied properly you are left with a small-medium sized triangular knot, slightly bigger than the four-in-hand. The thin end of the tie should always be shorter than the fat end. And the fat end should finish just above the top of your trousers. Perfect.”
How To Tie A Half Windsor Knot
You know it starts: put the tie around your neck, with the wide end on the right and slim end on the left. Have the slim end just above your belly button. Cross the tie over as you would with other knots, wrapping the big end across the front of the slim end to the left, back around the back of the slim to the right.
So we’re off to a good start, but this is where it gets tricky. Take the big end and bring it up the top of the “rabbit hatch” – that’s space between your shirt collar button and tie – and then down through the hatch and to the left. Now wrap it around across the front of the tie again, left to right, but do his near the very top of the tie.
Pull the wide end up through the rabbit hatch this time, as if you’re aiming towards your Adam’s apple. Then pull it back down through the loop that’s formed at the front of the tie. At this point you should see the beginning of the dimple.
For the final touches, fasten the tie around your neck as you normally do. Make it a nice and firm. Fastening securely is the secret to a great half Windsor knot.
Things To Consider With A Windsor Knot
Mastering a new knot isn’t always easy, and if you’re putting in the hours (well, minutes) of practice you don’t want to fall at the final hurdle by plonking your perfectly tied knot against a poorly matched collar and shirt. Choose a tie and collar combo that’s in proportion.
“If you’re wearing a very wide spread collar then you may have accommodate a knot that’s going to complement the rest of the shirt,” says Baker-Collingwood. “Similarly, if it’s a very narrow collar, a skinny or Pratt Knot would be appropriate.”
“I love the Half Windsor with a plain shirt with a semi cutaway collar,” says Pickles. “But it is super versatile and you can mix it up. The collar should frame the knot so nothing too wide or too narrow, but even a button down will work nicely.”
This isn’t just about which material you need for a specific knot, but a rule about ties in general: if you want true quality and a sharp look, you have to buy the best. “Silk, silk, silk,” says Pickles. “In my humble opinion all ties should be silk irrespective of the knot.”
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an off-the-peg polyester tie for work or less formal occasions. But the stiff, less malleable material of cheaper ties can make it harder to tie the knot neatly. And when it comes to colours, simplicity is the key.
Baker-Collingwood agrees. “A nice silk or slim material will define a beautiful looking half Windsor knot. This is because you want to achieve the dimple effect we see in half Windsors.”
But what about colour? “A dark tie over a light coloured shirt gives this knot the best opportunity to show off it’s silhouette perfectly,” says Pickles. “Think Rat Pack and JFK in the 1960s. My favourite is a navy suit, with a navy tie – possibly with a preppy stripe – in a half Windsor knot, and crisp white shirt.”
It’s one of the unfortunate realities of life, that not everyone’s face will suit every style or item of clothing. But you’re in luck. Whatever face shape you’ve be lumbered with, the half Windsor should be a winner.
“This knot is an all-rounder,” says Pickles. “It doesn’t discriminate between face shapes. If you’re a big guy though, it might be too small. We don’t want your tie knot to look like a pea on a drum, so see full Windsor or tie the half Windsor knot loosely.”
Some would say that while the half Windsor is a step up from the old four-in-hand but doesn’t quite have the top tier formality that a full Windsor brings to the dress code. It’s best to think of the half Windsor as a go-to knot for making an impression at special work events and most smart functions that demand formal attire.
“This is a knot for almost all occasions,” says Austen Pickles. “Not ostentatious but completely legitimate whenever a lounge or business suit is required. It this is not the knot for formal wedding, and if your red carpet requires something glitzier, there are other options that will grab the spotlight.”
Of course, there’s no need to get caught up in the formality of it all. Go with a knot that you think best suits your duds and mood.
“In today’s modern world there are no rules, just preferences,” says Baker-Collingwood. “Given that there are probably over 100 different types of knot, there’s never an occasion for any specific kind of knot. The most important thing is that it makes you feel good.”