The Full Windsor

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Mr. Bond sporting a near perfect full Windsor knot. Note the symmetric, yet compact shape finished off with a perfect dimple. Gentlemen, this is how it's done.

As a student of the WASP lifestyle, one of your primary objectives should be knowing how to properly dress in a suit, or similar business attire.  Granted, the act of simply wearing a suit isn’t difficult, in fact lots of perfectly average people do it everyday. But the operative word in the previous sentence is properly, which brings us to today’s lesson: How to tie a Windsor knot.

There are many ways to tie a tie, but only one right way in the eyes of a WASP, the Windsor.  Or more specifically the full Windsor.  The creation of the Windsor knot is generally credited to the  Duke of Windsor, a title created for King Edward VIII after his abdication of the British throne in 1937.  Although some people actually credit his father King George V with the development of the knot, Edward must have done more to popularize it because his name is the one that stuck.  It’s interesting to to think that had Edward not abdicated, or had George gotten full credit for the knot, it would probably be known today as the Normandy knot!   If you’d like to learn more about Edward and George, you should watch The King’s Speech and pay particular attention to the characters not played by Colin Firth.  Anyways, the main point here is that the Windsor knot is traditional and it’s British, so you need to know it.

Aside from it’s WASP’y pedigree, the Windsor also has some practical advantages.  First, unlike most other knots, it’s symmetrical, which any anthropologist or social psychologist will tell you is more attractive.  Second, it’s larger than other knots and therefore better at making your tie (often one of the defining personal statements you make with your suit) stand out.  Third, it’s much less prone to slippage, meaning that you’ll stay looking well kept and sharp.

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What you want to avoid.

As far as disadvantages, most people avoid the Windsor because it’s more complicated and difficult to tie than other knots.  While there is some truth to this, I tend to look at it the other way.  Taking the time and effort to pull off a perfect Windsor shows that you’re hard working, cultured, and competent too boot, the epitome of WASP style!  Granted there are some ties for which the Windsor is not well suited.  These include most skinny and really wide ties.  Fortunately there’s an easy solution, don’t buy these ties!  They’re not WASP’y and you’ll spend a fortune replenishing your wardrobe to satisfy each passing trend. Stick with tradition, which never goes out of style.

OK, by now you’re down with the ideal of the full Winsdor, the next step is learning how to tie one.  Like I said, it is slightly more complicated, but only slightly.  Here are the steps:

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Some additional tips:

  • You can use the seam in the tie (on the skinny end) as a guide of where to make the first crossover in step 2.  It’s not always exact, but I find it to be a pretty good gauge for getting the right length on just about any tie.
  • When making the loops in steps 3 and 4, make sure to cinch down and maintain a fair amount of pressure.  You want the base of the knot to be as compact as possible, which creates a sturdier, cleaner, and tighter knot.
  • After step 6, let the front of the tie hang down over the knot.  This will give you a good gauge of it’s final length.  If it’s obviously too long or too short, start over and adjust where you make your initial crossover in step 2 accordingly.  i.e. if the time comes out too short, make the wide end of the tie that much lower in step 1.
  • Note that while checking the length as recommended above, the final knot will yield an adidtional 1-2″ of length once everything is tightened down.
  • After step 7, tighten the knot by pulling down slightly on the front of the tie, and then pulling outward on the two narrow ends at the top of the knot.  Repeat until the knot is tight, symmetrical and well proportioned.

It may look complex, but it’s really not, especially after a little practice,  And remember, practice is definitely the key here.  Make sure to do it when you have plenty of free time and not when you’re running 20 minutes late for an important meeting.  It’ll take many screw-ups before you get the technique down pat and even then getting the length right every time can be a little tricky even for seasoned pros. However, keep at it and you too will master this WASP’iest of all knot tying techniques.

Next Steps:

  • Like I said, get a tie and PRACTICE!
  • Check out Youtube for example videos.
  • Watch The King’s Speech.
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