Last modified 13 Jan 2009

Encyclopedia of Tie Knots

The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie, small cover
This is the definitive catalogue of tie knots, most of which were invented by me and my co-author, Yong Mao. At the end of this page, I give some general notes on ties.

The catalogue follows, and compliments, The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie, though it does not excerpt any of the text therein. More detailed information can be found in the book. A mathematical derivation of the knots included here and technical information about the different knots can be found in the two physics journal articles, 'Designing tie knots by random walks' (a summary) and 'Tie knots, random walks and topology' (a detailed exposition).

Introduction

The knot tying directions make use of the L-R-C notation below, where 'i' and 'o' mean in and out. I give explicit illustrated instructions for the classic tie knots 2, 5, 7 and 31 (four-in-hand, Pratt, half-Windsor and Windsor); more illustrated instructions can be found in the book.

The two ways of beginning a tie knot.


The six ways of continuing a tie knot.


The two ways of ending a tie knot.


The T T ending. This can be generalised to T T T, etc., as expected.

Knots of Note

Of the 85 possible tie knots that can be tied with a tie of conventional length, the following are of particular interest. The first number is the number of the knot, as catalogued in the Summary of Knots in The 85 Ways and at the bottom of this page. Some of the knots have close cousins with which they are often confused (not including mirror images). These typically involve the transposition of one or more L-R pairs. They are indicated by prefixing the name of their relation with 'co-', as in co-Windsor.

1     Lo Ri Co T   Oriental (aka simple, small)

Although this is the simplest of knots, it is not widely known in the Western world, where it is sometimes called the simple knot. It is, however, widely used by youth groups in China, hence its name. The Oriental is particularly useful for wool or thick silk ties. On thinner cloths it can loosen up over time, requiring frequent adjustment. The Oriental is also the first knot to be tied with the tie inside-out around the neck, a technique unfamiliar to most men but used in half of all possible knots.

2     Li Ro Li Co T   four-in-hand

This is, without question, the most well-known, and today most frequently worn, knot of all. Tied in an ordinary silk tie, it is a small knot with a characteristic elongated, asymmetric shape. In thicker ties, the four-in-hand can look deceptively large; the Windsor knot, named after the eponymous Duke, was in fact a four-in-hand tied with specially tailored thick ties. It was the public, rather than the Duke, which invented the Windsor knot and in an attempt to emulate his big knot.

The four-in-hand refers not only to the knot described here, but also to the modern necktie itself. The knot and the tie were simultaneously introduced in the 1850s as an alternative to the cravats popular at the time. There are a number of possible etymologies for the name: drivers of the four-in-hand carriage tied their scarves with the above knot; the reigns of carriage were tied in the same way; it was worn by members of the now-defunct Four-in-Hand Club.

2on     Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T Ri Co   Onassis

Although this knot is technically no different from the four-in-hand (2) (the wide blade is simply thrown behind ond over the existing knot), it gives a dramatically different appearance. It was worn by the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis and, according to The New York Times in 1989, it 'still has a certain popularity along Seventh Avenue' in New York City.

The suffix 'on' has been added to the knot number 2 to designate this Onassis variation. The Ri Co effect can in principle be applied to any knot, although the effect will be the same.

3     Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T   Kelvin

This knot, also begun inside-out, is similar to the four-in-hand, but slightly bigger and more symmetric. It is named after Lord Kelvin who, although he would not have used the knot itself, contributed to the mathematical theory of knots first seriously studied in the 19th century.

32     Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T   cross Kelvin

When the T T ending is used with the Kelvin, it produces a cruciform structure similar to the Christensen below (knot 252). This is the smallest knot with which the T T ending can be used, given that the knot must end L R L R C or R L R L C to do so.

32r     Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T   diagonal

When the cross Kelvin is worn in reverse (back-to-front), it shows an unusual diagonal pattern. The tie itself should be reversed before tying.

4     Lo Ci Ro Li Co T   Nicky

This knot, a cousin of the Pratt (5), has a compact, symmetric shape, despite the fact that is has two L moves and one R. In size it is in between the four-in-hand (2) and half-Windsor (7), and it is a natural choice for those seeking a symmetric knot of modest size.

5     Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T   Pratt (aka Shelby)

Although more well-known than the Nicky, this knot is also the co-Nicky, being identical to that knot apart from the transposition of the R-L pair. Some men prefer the Nicky, some the Pratt; one or the other should be a staple of any man's knot repertoire.

6     Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T   Victoria

This knot is identical to the four-in-hand apart from the addition of another R-L pass of the the wide blade across the knot before ending.

7     Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T     half-Windsor

If a man claims to know a second knot in addition to the four-in-hand, it is likely to be the half-Windsor, the third of the four classic tie knots. This symmetric knot is medium-sized, with the silhouette of an equilateral triangle. It can satisfactorily be worn with collars of most sizes and spreads. Although the name of the half-Windsor suggests it is derived from the Windsor, there is little direct evidence for this claim. Moreover, the half-Windsor is not half the size of the Windsor, but rather three-quarters.

Keep in mind that the half-Windsor is sometimes a victim of the erroneous naming convention used to describe both it and the Windsor, calling them the Windsor and double-Windsor. There is no such thing as a double Windsor, and the Windsor should be used to refer to knot 31 only.

8     Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T     co-half-Windsor

This cousin of the half-Windsor has the advantage of self-releasing (unknotting) when the thin end is pulled out through the knot.

12     Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T   St Andrew

14     Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T   co-St Andrew

18     Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T   Plattsburgh

Named after the small town in up-state New York, where the author was born.

19     Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Co T   co-Plattsburgh

23     Li Ro Li Co Ri Lo Ri Co T   Cavendish

This is the principal 8-move, 2-centre knot. As its sequence suggests, the Cavendish is a concatenation of two four-in-hands, one being a mirror image of the other. This gives an idea of its shape: similar to the four-in-hand, but much bigger.

252     Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T   Christensen (aka cross)

This is an ingenious knot which has an unusual cruciform structure. It is achieved by wrapping the thin blade around twice and passing the wide blade through both loops (see the explanation of the T T move above). Here is a picture of a Christensen knot from an old catalogue, using a tie of uniform width. Notice that both layers of the (normally) thin end should be visible, which form the two legs of the cross.

The knot is best tied with ties made from thin material, giving the hourglass shape shown here and not the more triangular shape which results from medium- and heavy-weight fabrics.

272     Li Ro Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T T   co-Christensen

31     Li Co Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T   Windsor (aka double-Windsor)

This is probably the most well-known knot name, though in practice more men know how to tie the simpler half-Windsor (7). It is sometimes incorrectly referred to as the double-Windsor; no such not exists, unless it is meant to refer to the ludicrously large 16-move knot, Li Co Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co Ri Co Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T.

The Windsor produces a large, solid, triangular knot, which is not worn as frequently as it was in the first half of the 20th century. In the Ian Fleming novels, Bond thinks the Windsor knot is 'the mark of a cad'. Today it is, curiously, the knot of choice of (once) communist leaders and dictators; Hugo Chavez, Putin and the Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao are examples. The knot is self-releasing.

Despite the knot's name, it was not, as is commonly held, invented by the Duke of Windsor. In his memoirs A Family Album, the Duke explains that it was his specially made thick ties, rather than a complicated knot, that produced the effect:

'The so-called ''Windsor knot'' in the tie was adopted in America at a later date. It was I believe regulation wear for G.I.s during the war, when American college boys adopted it too. But in fact I was in no way responsible for this. The knot to which Americans gave my name was a double knot in a narrow tie - a ''slim Jim'' as it is sometimes called. It is true that I myself have always preferred a large knot, as looking better than a small one, so during the nineteen twenties I devised, in conclave with Mr Sandford, a tie always of the broad variety which was reinforced by an extra thickness of material to produce this effect. As far as I know this particular fashion has never been followed in America or elsewhere.'

32     Li Co Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T   co-Windsor1

A cousin of the Windsor, but not self-releasing.

33     Li Co Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T   co-Windsor2

Another cousin of the Windsor, but not self-releasing.

35     Li Co Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T   co-Windsor3

A self-releasing cousin of the Windsor.

44     Lo Ri Lo Ri Co Li Ro Li Co T   Grantchester

48     Lo Ri Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Co T   co-Grantchester

54     Lo Ri Co Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T   Hanover

This is the principal 9-move, 3-centre knot. It is a direct extension of the Oriental and the half-Windsor, each knot being larger in turn by the addition of an L-R-C triplet. The Hanover is one move larger than the Windsor, and in shape is slightly less squat - like the half-Windsor, if forms a perfect equilateral triangle. Being a 9-move knot, it requires a larger collar or at least one with considerable spread. It is not self-releasing.

The Hanover is named after the House of Hanover, which lasted from 1760 to 1901 and included the British monarchs George III, George IV, William IV and Victoria.

55     Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T   co-Hanover1

A cousin of the Hanover, but self-releasing.

56     Lo Ri Co Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T   co-Hanover2

Another self-releasing cousin of the Hanover.

59     Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T   co-Hanover3

Another cousin of the Hanover, but not self-releasing.

78     Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Co T   Balthus

This is the principal 9-move, 4-centre knot, the largest, broadest class of all. It is an natural extension of the Plattsburgh, starting inside-out but with the addition of the Lo Ci moves. The Balthus is very wide, and requires a spread collar to accommodate it. It is self-releasing.

81     Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T   co-Balthus

A cousin of the Balthus, but not self-releasing.

Comprehensive List of Knots

Here is a list of all possible knots, regardless of their aesthetic value. The columns are as follows:

No.     Size Cen.   Sequence s     b     k       Name
1 3 1 Lo Ri Co T 0 0 y Oriental
 
2 4 1 Li Ro Li Co T 1 1 n four-in-hand
2on 4 1 Li Ro Li Co T Ri Co 1 1 Onassis
 
3 5 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 2 y Kelvin
32 5 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 0 2 cross Kelvin
32r 5 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 0 2 diagonal
4 5 2 Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 1 0 n Nicky
5 5 2 Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 1 y Pratt
 
6 6 1 Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T 1 3 n Victoria
62 6 1 Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 1 3 cross Victoria
7 6 2 Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 0 0 y half-Windsor
8 6 2 Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 0 1 n co-half-Windsor
9 6 2 Li Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 1 y
10 6 2 Li Co Li Ro Li Co T 2 2 n
 
11 7 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 4 y
112 7 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 0 4
113 7 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T T 0 4
12 7 2 Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 1 1 n St Andrew
13 7 2 Lo Ri Co Li Ro Li Co T 1 1 n
14 7 2 Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 2 y co-St Andrew
15 7 2 Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 2 y
16 7 2 Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T 1 2 n
162 7 2 Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 1 2
17 7 2 Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 3 y
172 7 2 Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 1 3
18 7 3 Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 0 1 y Plattsburgh
19 7 3 Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 0 2 n co-Plattsburgh
20 7 3 Lo Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 2 2 n
21 7 3 Lo Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 2 3 y
 
22 8 1 Li Ro Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T 1 5 n
222 8 1 Li Ro Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 1 5
223 8 1 Li Ro Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T T T 1 5
23 8 2 Li Ro Li Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 2 y Cavendish
24 8 2 Li Ro Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 0 2 y
25 8 2 Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 2 y
252 8 2 Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 0 2 Christensen
26 8 2 Li Ro Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 0 3 n
27 8 2 Li Ro Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T 0 3 n
272 8 2 Li Ro Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 0 3 co-Christensen
28 8 2 Li Co Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 3 y
282 8 2 Li Co Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 0 3
29 8 2 Li Ro Li Co Li Ro Li Co T 2 3 n
30 8 2 Li Co Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T 2 4 n
302 8 2 Li Co Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 2 4
31 8 3 Li Co Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 1 0 n Windsor
32 8 3 Li Co Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 1 y co-Windsor 1
33 8 3 Li Co Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 1 y co-Windsor 2
34 8 3 Li Ro Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 1 1 n
35 8 3 Li Co Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 1 2 n co-Windsor 3
36 8 2 Li Ro Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 2 y
37 8 3 Li Ro Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 2 y
38 8 3 Li Co Ri Co Li Ro Li Co T 1 2 n
39 8 3 Li Ro Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 1 3 n
40 8 3 Li Co Li Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 3 y
41 8 3 Li Co Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 3 y
42 8 3 Li Co Li Co Li Ro Li Co T 3 4 n
 
43 9 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 6 y
432 9 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 0 6
433 9 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T T 0 6
434 9 1 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T T T 0 6
44 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ri Co Li Ro Li Co T 1 3 n Granchester
45 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T 1 3 n
452 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 1 3
46 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 1 3 n
47 9 2 Lo Ri Co Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T 1 3 n
472 9 2 Lo Ri Co Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 1 3
48 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 4 y co-Grantchester
49 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 4 y
492 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 1 4
50 9 2 Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 4 y
51 9 2 Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 4 y
512 9 2 Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 1 4
52 9 2 Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T 1 4 n
522 9 2 Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 1 4
523 9 2 Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Ro Li Co T T T 1 4
53 9 2 Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 1 5 y
532 9 2 Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 1 5
533 9 2 Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T T 1 5
54 9 3 Lo Ri Co Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 0 0 y Hanover
55 9 3 Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 0 1 n co-Hanover 1
56 9 3 Lo Ri Co Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 0 1 n co-Hanover 2
57 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 0 1 y
58 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Li Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 1 y co-Hanover 3
59 9 3 Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 0 2 y
60 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 0 2 n
61 9 3 Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 0 2 y
62 9 3 Lo Ri Co Li Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 2 y
63 9 3 Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 0 3 n
64 9 3 Lo Ri Co Ri Co Li Ro Li Co T 0 3 n
65 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 3 y
66 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 0 3 y
662 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 0 3
67 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T 0 4 n
672 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 0 4
68 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 2 2 n
69 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ri Co Li Ro Li Co T 2 2 n
70 9 3 Lo Ci Ro Li Co Li Ro Li Co T 2 2 n
71 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 2 3 y
72 9 3 Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 2 3 n
73 9 3 Lo Ri Co Li Co Li Ro Li Co T 2 3 n
74 9 3 Lo Ri Lo Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 2 4 y
75 9 3 Lo Ri Co Ri Co Ri Lo Ri Co T 2 4 y
76 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T 2 4 n
762 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Ro Li Co T T 2 4
77 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T 2 5 y
772 9 3 Lo Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Lo Ri Co T T 2 5
78 9 4 Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 1 2 n Balthus
79 9 4 Lo Ci Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 3 y
80 9 4 Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 3 y
81 9 4 Lo Ci Ro Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 1 3 y co-Balthus
82 9 4 Lo Ci Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 1 4 n
83 9 4 Lo Ci Ro Ci Ro Ci Ro Li Co T 1 4 n
84 9 4 Lo Ci Lo Ci Lo Ci Ro Li Co T 3 4 n
85 9 4 Lo Ci Lo Ci Lo Ci Lo Ri Co T 3 5 y

Notes on Ties

Like most elements of Western men's dress, the knotted neckcloth has its origins in England, where the cravat replaced the ruff collar in the mid-17th century. The earliest record of the tie in its modern form is in the 1850s, where it was worn by young men as sporting attire. The style became fashionable at once, eclipsing the bow tie in popularity by the early 20th century.

Two essential ties
We will not talk about the color or pattern of ties here, apart from saying that two ties are essential in any man's wardrobe: a solid navy tie in woven silk; and a solid black tie in woven or knitted silk. An undecorated navy tie never goes amiss, whether it is worn with a pair of jeans, a blazer or a morning suit. Plain black ties, despite their relatively recent exclusive association with funerals, have long been a favorite of James Bond and Italian men.

Tie size
The ideal width of a tie is 3 – 3½ inches, which is in natural proportion with the typical man's suit. While most ties available today are wider than this, the best tie makers, such as Hermès and many of the shops along London's Jermyn Street, have consistently produced ties of the ideal width. Once tied, the length should be such that the tip of the wide blade ends anywhere within 1 inch above or below the waistband. If the thin blade descends below the wide blade, there are a number of ways to fix it. One is to choose a bigger knot; another is to tuck the thin blade into the shirt between the second and third buttons down; a third is described in Label, below.

Tie handkerchief
If you can't make up your mind as to whether to wear a tie, you can keep the option open and put the tie in the breast pocket of your jacket, where it doubles as a handkerchief. This looks best with solid-colored ties, with the tie folded in half three times over, to one-eighth of its original length.

Dimple

'When the fabric of the tie permits (if it is silk twill or a supple Jacquard silk, for example), a beautiful effect can be obtained by using the index finger to press a slight convex cavity into the tie just below the knot. The French call this little hollow a cuillère, which means spoon or scoop' explains François Chaille in The Book of Ties. This hollow is called a dimple in English, and it is best suited to wide and medium width ties. But while one dimple is smart, two is very much an affectation.

Label

On the back of the wide blade a small horizontal band can be found, usually a label with the name of the maker or, on better-made ties, a band of the same material as the tie itself. While most men slip the thin blade through this band to secure it, it is arguably smarter to leave it free to flow. If the thin blade is too long after the tie is tied, one way of shortening it is to slip the excess through the label and pass the thin blade through it, as shown.

Storage
Tie experts are divided over the best way to store a tie. Some say that a tie should be rolled up in a coil when not in use, starting from the thin end. Others suggest simply hanging it from the middle over a hanger or bar. In either case a tie should never be left knotted when not in use, which tends to leave heavy creases in it. It is possible, of course, to tie a tie once and never untie it, but this comes at the expense of wearing the same knot, tied with the same execution, whatever the occasion, collar style, or mood.

Cleaning
It is often said that ties should never be dry-cleaned, but this is not quite true. It is not the cleaning but the inevitable pressing afterwards which most harms a tie, and the latter can be avoided if a cleaner is warned beforehand. Nonetheless a tie should not be cleaned unless it shows visible marks or stains. The death of a much-loved tie invariably results from the fraying of the wide blade's bottom edges, which usually happens long before any other part of the tie wears out. The solution is to have the tie shortened by half an inch, which many alterations tailors will do if asked. It is a somewhat delicate operation but, if done with care, it can double a tie's life.

No tie
Much has been said about the demise of the tie, and throughout the last hundred years its death has been repeatedly prophesied. It should be borne in mind, however, that knotted neckcloths have been standard attire for 350 years, and if the tie does vanish something knotted around the neck will almost certainly replace it. If you do decide to wear a suit without a tie, however, here are a few pointers. Always wear a dress shirt (a shirt with buttons all the way down the front); a suit with a t-shirt always looks faintly ridiculous. Keep the top one or two buttons of your shirt unbuttoned. If you take off your tie and jacket, think about rolling up your sleeves as well.

Thomas Fink

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