The knit tie is a strange but wonderful beast. It is by no means a wardrobe staple, but neither is it associated with frivolity. In the global circles of menswear lovers, it has become something of a hallmark of the well-dressed hobbyist. And if you’re a Styleforum member, there’s a good chance you already have a collection of these. But if you don’t (and let’s face it – Styleforum represents a small percentage of men worldwide), and if you’re interested in neckwear, this is a chance for you to discover what could become a new favorite accessory.
The knit tie, in its current state, has been around since the 1920’s more or less unchanged. Once adopted by the Ivy set, the knit tie is now a staple of American and Italian tailored wardrobes, often found worn with oxford cloth shirts. They show up everywhere from JCrew to Charvet. These days, you’ll most often see ties knit from silk due to the sheen from the fabric’s texture, but wools and cottons are an equally good choice and are by no means a “step down,” depending on the look you have in mind.
To Knit, or Not to Knit
A knit tie isn’t an evening tie. Let’s get that out of the way. And although a knit tie may be office-appropriate depending on where you work, it is by and large informal neckwear. A grenadine is a more elegant option for most occasions, including a conservative business wardrobe. That means you have to consider when, really, you should wear one. Although they’re more commonly worn with an odd jacket and trousers, you can indeed wear a knit tie with a suit, as long as the cut and material are appropriate – for example, a three-piece peak lapel suit will probably look out of place with a knit tie, but a tweed jacket with chinos and chukkas may be just right. As another possibility, a black knit tie with a navy notch-lapel suit can look impeccable if the outfit is put together well. Note that there are no hard and fast rules, but that certain combinations may be more successful.
Remember that a knit tie is still a tie, even if it can be an eye-grabbing touch to bring together an outfit. Rules for tie-wearing still apply, and the fun of knit ties doesn’t mean that taste can be tossed out the window. A knit tie can be contrasting or complementary, but do try to avoid mashing together too many styles or patterns at once. The line between quirky, stylish dressing and gaudy dressing is often thin, and forcing too many elements into one outfit is a good way to wind up with the latter.
As in all things, trust in your own good taste – and be aware that life doesn’t exist solely through an Instagram lens. Or, barring that, post a picture on Styleforum and ask for feedback.
How knot to wear one (heh heh)
On that note, we at Styleforum have noticed, over the last few years, an attempt to make the skinny knit tie a rugged accessory to be worn with denim and boots. Often, they’re paired with a plaid or denim work-shirt (this latter is a different beast from a chambray or denim shirt to be worn under a jacket). You’ve probably seen this look before, since it has been peddled in men’s style magazines and at malls across the country for the last 5-7 years.
While on some levels this is understandable – attempting to make every piece of clothing “dressy casual” seems to be the forte of Americans – the results tend to be poor. There are exceptions to every rule (and in this case an Ivy-inspired casual outfit might not be a total disaster) but we suggest not doing this. No one benefits, and the look is confused. If you are aiming for a casual, denim-based look, forego the tie, even if it’s knit.
Instead, remember again that a knit tie is still a tie. In most cases, it will look best with trousers and a jacket. You just have a bit more leeway.
Widths and Shapes
Again, the look pushed to the public in the recent past has been pencil-thin knit ties. I’d suggest not going narrower than 2.5” or so, but that 3” knit ties are quite elegant. And although you’ll most commonly find square-tipped ties, a pointed blade is by no means out of place on a knit tie.
Patterns and Colors
The whole point of a knit tie is to showcase texture. If a knit tie is knitted to look flat and lifeless, don’t buy it. It should be visibly knit, you know? Beyond that, the flavor is largely up to you. Whether you want a soft, soothing touch or a crunchy feel, you have a lot of options.
Solids are by far the easiest place to start. Navy, brown, rust, green, and even purple are great options. If you’re looking for patterns, try something subtle – simple dots, or even just a clever knit design, is usually all the pattern you’ll need with all that texture going on.
Seasonal dressing offers more for the adventurous at heart, of course. For example, Styleforum member @GusW suggests charcoal cashmere for autumn, or an eye-catching pink for springtime.
Tying Up Loose Ends
Finally, the only knot you should ever use for a knit tie is the four-in-hand. Never mind that the four-in-hand is the only tie knot you should ever use; in this case, anything else will not only make you look like a jerk, but a ridiculous jerk.
How you tie it is more or less up to you, though. Currently, the style favored by Instagram personalities and some well-dressed forum members seems to be to let the skinny end of the tie hang a bit lower and looser than the blade. I can’t argue with that – I am aware that it may be “technically” improper, if you want to loop a rakishly-tied piece of casual silk around your neck, I feel that you ought to be free to adjust lengths as you choose. As long as the blade of the tie is hitting the proper length (neither too long nor too short), the skinny end can do as it wishes.
As you may have picked up from this article, knit ties remain a popular accessory on Styleforum. Luckily for all of us, this means that there’s no shortage of excellent examples. The slideshow below shows a range of knit tie styles, and many suggestions on how to wear them. You’ll appreciate the wide range of looks demonstrated here.
Where to Buy
A number of Styleforum affiliates offer knit ties. Here are a few options:
Looking for further discussion? Try this Styleforum thread: