How to Style Knit Ties The right knots, the right shirts, and the art of being square
Knit ties have been around since the 1920s, and are generally made of silk, wool, cotton, or a blend of natural and acrylic fibers. Knit ties, sometimes called “knitted ties”, straight, and feature square-tipped ends. They can be worn year-round, in all seasons, and in all climes. Styling a knit tie isn’t difficult — you can pair knits with just about anything you have hanging in your closet. If you don’t have any, consider scoring a few. They’re subtle yet commanding, comfortable around the collar, and fun to experiment with.
Here are a few things you may wish to consider when wearing a knit tie, or when preparing to add some knitted ties to your collection.
Most knit ties present a conspicuous texture. Textures that present visually as “tactile” generally suggest a more casual look, and knitted ties are most appropriate for smart ensembles you wish to read as non-intimidating and relaxed.
Whatever the knitted tie is made of, there is a consensus that the knit tie is intrinsically less formal than standard neckties. Dress shirts of fine fibers (which present a smooth, sheer look) might be the least appropriate textural backdrop for a knit tie. We say “might be,” because this consideration depends on a few factors, not in the least the tie in question. A 100% silk knit tie which does not present aggressively as textured, tactile, or fuzzy might work well with a fine dress shirt, whereas a wool knit tie which presents with the texture of a pullover sweater might not.
TIP: All things being equal, there should be some parity between the texture of the shirt and the texture of the knitted tie. Low-texture shirt, low-texture knit tie; high-texture shirt, higher-texture knit tie.
Pure silk knit ties are smoother than other knit ties, as they lack the knap of wool or cotton knitted ties. They work very well with linen shirts of all colors, and 100% silk knit ties are the knitted tie to pair with dress shirts having higher thread-counts. A knitted tie generally looks its best with a lightly textured shirt, and colored shirts are good backgrounds for knitted ties with medium to strong textures. Silk-blend knitted ties work well with less-fine cotton, chambray, and fine wool shirts. Light- and medium-weight denim receive cotton and wool knitted ties beautifully. Shirts with checks, tartans, and stripes are excellent backgrounds for solid color knit ties of any material. Where the colors are not painfully antagonistic, striped knit ties can be worn to great effect over chalk-stripe shirts.
Because a knitted tie is softer, their knots will tie tighter and therefore smaller. We recommend a four-in-hand knot for knit ties, but experiment: knitted ties are super flexible, and getting the knot right the first time around can be a slight (but not a massive) challenge. Another knot to consider is the Prince Albert, which results in an almost tubular knot. Tied well, a Prince Albert knot presents a unique juxtaposition of shapes: triangular collar, tubular knot, square-body necktie.
Given that your knit tie will leave you with a smaller, tighter knot, it is perhaps best to avoid cutaway and full-spread collars. Knitted ties will look their best with button-down collars, tab collars, and forward-point collars. They can be worn to great effect with club collars, too.
TIP: A knit tie can be tied slightly shorter than a conventional tie. A conventional necktie should hang somewhere between the center of the belt buckle and the top of it. The range for a knit tie is between the center of the belt buckle and up to 1-1/2″ or so above it. One reason for this is the square bottom of the knit tie: because it presents a horizontal line parallel to the top of the belt buckle, it “reads” with the waistband differently than a necktie with a pointed end.
Suits & Jackets
It would not be inappropriate to wear a knit tie with a suit, but we refer again to the matter of texture. If the suit presents a very low-profile texture (it’s smooth to the touch), then you are probably wearing it with a low-profile texture shirt, and thus a low-profile texture necktie. Some silk and silk-blend knit ties will work just fine with smooth-finish textiles, especially when the ties are black or navy blue: both stripes and lighter colors accentuate the tie’s texture. The charms of knit ties are generally not well-served by double-breasted jackets or jackets with peak lapels, however, and attempting to style a knit tie with a pinstripe business suit might be a fool’s errand.
Knitted ties are appropriate for suits which present stronger textures, but because they are regarded as a less formal necktie they will wear best with wool, tweed, twill, or corduroy sportcoats and appropriately-coordinated trousers. With a denim or suede sportcoat, a knit tie with high-profile texture can be divine.
Cardigans & V-Neck Sweaters
Some say that the knit tie is at its very best when peeking over the top of a V-neck sweater or hanging between the panels of a cardigan. This is because there is a high degree of textural parity between sweaters and knitted ties. It is for similar reasons that wool knit ties often look their best in cooler seasons and northern latitudes: knitted ties with a strong knap are subtle allusions to sweaters, scarves, and textiles associated with keeping warm.
Tie Bars & The Knit Tie
There’s no hard-and-fast rule regarding styles of tie bar and knit ties, but here’s our advice: keep it simple. The texture, shape, and square-bottom knit tie bring a lot to the upper-half of a man’s ensemble and make for a very distinct look. Depending on what else is going on with the ensemble, a simple tie bar is more than sufficient with solid-color knitted ties. We would not recommend a themed/novelty tie bar for monochrome knit ties, and we recommend against tie bars for knit ties with stripes or patterns.
When to Wear Knit Ties
Where dress code isn’t a factor, enjoy experimenting with knit ties. If you’re in staid, safe, by-the-numbers professional attire and you swap-out your necktie or bow tie for a knit tie, you’ll thereby sap some of the rigidity out of your ensemble.