Style / January 2018

Rakish Transitions: A Guide to Shirt and Tie Combinations

The Rake’s sartorial correspondent dissects the complicated relationship between the shirt collar and the necktie – and how to get it right.

Stiffer collars work well with structured tailoring, and the colour of one’s necktie should complement the jacket, as with this Edward Sexton combination. Photograph by James Munro.

Finding a shirt collar to complement your tailored jacket is fairly straightforward. As you might imagine, a stiff collar will work well with structured tailoring and a softer style will complement your easier, unstructured pieces. The length of the collar should bear some relation to the width of your lapel but I always like the collar points to sit under the jacket. They look much smarter this way. Of course, this will only apply to spread and cutaway collar shapes but the most important aspect is how it frames the knot of your tie. The knot you use to tie your tie is a matter of personal taste but again, balance is key. A larger knot looks poor with a short-collared shirt and skinny-lapelled suit but a smaller knot can work well with wider lapels.

However you tie your tie (and do I hope it is the four-in-hand), be sure to execute it well and create a solid, compact knot that sits flush with the collar. It is essential that the knot comes away from the neck at an angle rather than lying flat and lifeless against the chest. This can be achieved by twisting the knot on itself two or three times. If you are wearing a pinned or tab collar, your shirt will naturally push the knot forward to create the desired three-dimensional effect. If wearing a pin in your collar, the metals should match the cufflinks but please do not wear a tie-slide as well. Too many metal accessories will make you look like the sartorial Mr. T.

A well positioned tie-slide or clasp can give your neckwear the necessary arch but ensure it is positioned below your chest and not under your chin like a contestant from The Apprentice. Please also note that a tie-slide is superfluous when a vest is worn, as a well-fitting waistcoat will hold your neckwear out of harm’s way. A stick-pin is an under-used accessory that deserves a revival outside of morning dress. Originally designed in the 19th century to hold the knot of your cravat in place, they can be obtained quite reasonably priced either vintage or bespoke and are an elegant way for gentlemen to wear diamonds or pearls. They should be placed just beneath the dimple of your tie – and your tie must have a dimple (that elegant fold of cloth beneath your knot).

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Christopher Modoo

Christopher Modoo is 'The Urbane Outfitter', with twenty five years of experience in classic menswear. He has conducted suit fittings in both Beckingham and Buckingham Palace. He hates short socks.