Updated: Sep 28, 2020
Amidst the ongoing situation that is happening at the moment, I am sure many of your original plans have been interrupted. Here at my blog, there are quite a few articles that are now postponed if not canceled because of the current lockdown.
But it is what it is - it's more important to have our family and friends, our beloved artisans, as well as others around the world to be in good health.
Anyway, for the time being, I thought it would be interesting to make a come back on a topic that I haven't touched on in a while ― tie length.
So why tie length? Why does it even matter, perhaps you may ask?
I'll start off by admitting this is something oddly specific. Because similar to most of you, I personally would still consider the length of a tie as the least important element when making a purchase. After all, you could always just get away with tucking the tail into your trousers.
In fact, if you look at the chronological order of the articles that I've published over the years on this site, you could see most of my earlier posts on ties either focus on the style, or the construction of the tie (still, it is more advanced than the former). These are, after all, more apparent to the eye at first glance.
But here's the catch. Once you get to a certain point of your sartorial journey, you start to nitpick even the finest details. And to me, tie length is one of these things.
Let me start by stating what's my issue with some off-the-rack ties.
Most RTW ties you could find on the market have a standard size somewhere in between 147-150cm. This is undoubtedly quite long if you compare it to, say, a 50s tie, which is about 50 inches or 127cm long.
Now, occasionally, you could find some brands offer a shorter version of 140cm of the same model on a few specific products. But that's about it.
Meanwhile, ties that are 138-142cm long usually work the best on me. In fact, I even got away with a 135cm tie from Shibumi which I commissioned via its MTM line once. (More on how you can find out the right length in this same piece.)
So why does it differ so much from one person to another? The answer is I tick all of the three main boxes required for wearing ties with the shortest length.
1) I have a slim body shape
This is a no-brainer. If you don't have much volume around your chest or waist, then obviously you don't need that extra centimeter.
2) I wear high-waisted trousers (very high in fact)
This matters the most in my opinion.
Let's suppose the waistband is around 4.5cm long, even for someone like me who wears a size 28. This means your tie needs to be 2-2.5cm shorter compared to those who wear mid-waisted trousers, and another 2-2.5cm shorter in contrast to those who wear low-waisted trousers.
On a side note, I would thus advise you to be consistent with the type of trousers you wear (be it jeans, chinos, or tailored flannels, etc.) This way, you have one less concern when building your own tie collection.
3) I have a slim neck
Of all three factors, this is the one that I didn't realize until more recently.
With each size up for your shirt, your tie needs to be another 1.2-1.3 cm longer. So for someone who wears a size 14.5'', if not smaller, that adds another layer of challenge to get a tie with the right length.
All in all, unless you have features similar to mine or you have a significantly shorter torso (average is around 46-52cm), chances are you most likely would be able to wear ties that fall into the 142-147cm bracket. Meaning most RTW ties will be a tad long for you, but still, they are within the acceptable range.
And for those of you who face similar issues to mine, I would encourage you to check out some MTM programmes offered by various brands. Otherwise, vintage ties are also a good alternative.
Nonetheless, I don't encourage you to strictly follow this set of 'rules'.
First of all, I always believe that menswear 'rules' should just be guidelines and no more than that. Secondly, and more closely related to this topic, what I have said above is merely an oversimplistic overview of tie length. In fact, you should always consider the length in relation to the style and construction of the tie.
This brings me to a few questions that I would recommend you to think through before making a purchase.
1) What kind of fabric is used to make the tie? Is the tie tipped? Is it an interlined 3-fold or a 7-fold tie (or in between)?
These three questions concern the thickness of the tie. The rationale behind is that the thicker the tie, the less likely you're going to tie a four-in-hand or a prince Albert knot rather than an oriental knot, hence less tie length is required.
Let me demonstrate this with two ties from my own collection.
Here I have a silk/ wool mix tie from Drake's, which I acquired from one of their sample sales back in 2017/8. It's a 3-fold, interlined, and also quite bulky since it's made out of a winter cloth.
Now, the length is only around 147/8cm long, so it does fit into the category of their standard size ties. However, I would argue the green knitted tie from Spacca-neapolis featured at the beginning of this article, which is 150cm long, still fits me better in comparison.
The reason being when the neck of the tie folds on top of each other, the coarsely woven texture of the knitted tie allows it scrunches together easily; thus allowing to form a moderately-sized four-in-hand knot that works with most shirt collars.
The same can't be told for the Drake's tie. Not only since the wool is very tightly woven, but more importantly, the tie is also tipped (meaning there's an additional layer of fabric covering the underlining; see picture below). This severely limits the extent of how scrunched the tie could be. I would tie an oriental knot in this case.
That being said, it does give the tie a fuller body. It also resonates more with tweed jackets in my opinion.
2) Do you plan on wearing the tie more traditionally? Or with more 'sprezzatura'?
This aged-old question has sparked a lot of (unnecessary) debates over menswear forums and groups over the years.
Conventionally speaking, you should always have the tie tail hidden by the blade, either through means of tucking it into your trousers or actually by having a shorter tie.
But at the same time, no one could really resist the charm of having an intentionally longer tie tail that is often seen on the likes of Luca Rubinacci or Romain Pizzanelli of Gentlemenclover (picture above). So, if this is a feature you enjoy, you could safely get away with a tie that is 2-3cm longer, depending on your build.
Just one caveat, nonetheless. I think this 'sprezza longer tie tail' look only works if you're wearing a piece that is not too bulky and preferably not tipped. The texture of the tie should also not be too glossy in my opinion. Knitted ties, Shantungs, and perhaps Grenadines are usually the better options, on the other hand, since they are more casual.
To sum up, if you consider the style, the construction, and then the length — then you could narrow down your search for the tie of your dreams.
And there you have it ― my short guide on getting the right tie length. I hope you'll find it useful for deciding your next tie purchase. Or just ignore it.
Take care, and bye for now.
Photography: as specified, otherwise own