Soft? Or snug?
These are your choices when it comes to forming a knot for your necktie.
I know, you thought there was only one way to affix a cravat to your neck. Loop it, knot it, pull it snug to your collar. It matters not whether you choose four-in-hand, half Windsor, or double Windsor. That colourful leash needs to be tight.
But it doesn have to be that way.
Here’s an example of the snug technique:
It’s Prince William, of course. He seems to favour a slightly stiff approach when he dons a suit and tie, but he follows the general practice of his class. I don’t know my British military regimental patterns, but I don’t think the tie is from William’s. Regardless, it’s military in nature, as all striped regimentals are, and the knot is tight and small. The tie is also tied long — it falls below the prince’s beltline, something that Brits do routinely but that French, Italian and even American men avoid.
The knot, pulled snug to the collar, looks like a mistake, but it’s intentional. The slight bit of extra space visible between the collar points and knot are a function of the small, tight knot.
Here’s what the alternative, “soft” knot looks like:
The guy in the photo is the French politician Dominique de Villepin, and he’s rocking numerous elite French sartorial elements. The overall vibe is conservative, with a grey suit, the pale blue striped shirt, and the monochromatic tie. But then there’s the flamboyant hair. Crazy French intellectual politician hair! Notice as well that the picture is of a sort of stately ease. This is a man who can wear power, and clothes, with an imposing, relaxed confidence. That’s a hallmark of the soft approach, which is topped off by the gently, almost loosely knotted tie: official, but not constricting.
This is something that continentals of a certain age do preposterously well.
American men who know what they’re doing split the difference, but they still tend to aim for a snug look. For example:
President Obama actually handles his suit-and-tie arrangement quite well. The whole affair is well-proportioned and sharp. Executive and impressive. The American business look usually features a point-collar shirt, versus the British or French spread collar, so both a four-in-hand or half Windsor tie knot works nicely (the full Windsor looks a bit large). And American men will typically pull the knot pretty snug to the neck. But it isn’t 100% required, as Obama demonstrates.
So there you have it. You probably think you have to go snug. But you don’t! A necktie doesn’t need to choke. In fact, if the Modern Gentleman chooses soft, he can almost forget that it’s there.