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To Be or Knot to Be: The Right Tie for the Right Occasion


Not since the Edwardian era – when men were regularly walking around in pointy heeled shoes, tights, and luxurious wigs – has men’s fashion undergone such an incredible renaissance. While basically all the men of our Grandfather’s generation showed up to interview for a tech job wearing a Sear’s Roebuck black suit, white shirt, black tie combo, our current generation seems to be more and more inclined to experiment with different suit cuts, colors, shirts, and ties. It is also becoming increasingly commonplace to show up to job interviews in a stylish business casual uniform consisting of a pull over sweater, a dress shirt, chinos, and black or brown leather shoes. That said, as men are adapting to more and more styles of dress certain adventurous types are going too far. Although we endorse you dressing however you’d like in your everyday life, at a job interview it’s still better to conform to a standard of dress then to try and break down walls with the latest in haute couture.

Since a general blog post on the proper choice of menswear for interviews could take up thousands of pages, we’ve decided to focus this blog post on the most micro of fashion microcosms: the tie. For additional fashion and interview tips, you’ll have to read the rest of the blog.

The Clash: Great Rock Band Terrible First Impression

When purchasing a tie, always make sure to keep in mind that this is a piece of apparel that does not exist in a vacuum. Although a silky green piece of fabric might catch your eye sitting on the shelf, it doesn’t mean it will fit with the rest of your wardrobe. Although it’s difficult to create a rule of thumb, generally it’s a good idea to match a bolder tie with a simpler shirt and vice versa. Too many patterns in one place will create a clash effect that will undermine your ability to communicate your capacity as an employee. This same clash effect will occur if you’re wearing a boldly striped tie with a boldly striped shirt. Although this might not seem like such a terrible idea, you will end up looking like an optical illusion and nobody wants to hire someone who dresses like an MC Esher painting.

The Cut – Narrow Lapels Narrow Tie, Broad Lapels Broad Tie

The second most important thing to focus on when purchasing a new tie or set of ties is how thin or thick the tie has been cut. Generally speaking there are roughly three widths that can be bought off the shelf, a thick cut, medium cut, and skinny cut. All of these styles can look good in the right circumstance. However, if you’re at a loss you’ll probably want to buy a medium cut tie if you’re under forty and applying to a low level to mid-level position and a thick cut tie if you’re a little older, attempting to occupy a power position, or are a little more rotund than the average man your age. That said, you should always make sure that your tie thickness matches the thickness of your lapels on your suit and the cut of the collar on your shirt. If you wear a thick tie with skinny lapels or a skinny tie with thick lapels you’ll look mismatched in a very subtle but very noticeable way. Similarly, if you have a thin collared shirt, a thick tie will make your neck look bulbous.

The Knot

Many men learn to tie one of two knots: the four-in-hand, and the half Windsor. Although both these knots are acceptable choices for a job interview, it might be worth your while to learn to tie a full Windsor knot. This is particularly true if you tend to prefer French Cut shirts and thick cut ties and are a little older. Although a young man with a full Windsor can come off looking like a well-to-do butler, an older guy sporting this same look makes himself look like far more powerful, competent, and professional. If you’re over thirty, give it a try.

Bow Ties

Are you Bill Nye the Science Guy? Are you over 65? Do you own a plantation? Are you a magician? Are you at a wedding? Are you a cartoon penguin? Are you a rodeo clown? Are you wearing a tuxedo? Are you a time traveler from the 19th century?

If you answered “No” to any of the above questions, then you shouldn’t wear a bowtie to any job interview outside of the fashion industry. Although a bow-tie might make you feel like a reincarnated Oscar Wild, you probably look like Tucker Carlson. This is a massive mistake. Not even Tucker Carlson wants to look like Tucker Carlson.

For more tips on interview trends, fashions, and first impressions, read more of our blog.

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