Short Guys, Beware of the Runaway Tie

And in terms of when ties are appropriate, when in doubt, wear one

A well-proportioned tie sends the message that you take care of your appearance. Unsplash/Ruthson Zimmerman

Experts say the tip of a man’s tie should rest in the middle of his waistband or his belt, but most neckties are too long for the 30 million men in America who are under 5’8”. Regardless of the knot they use or how well they tie them, their ties are unfashionably long.

I asked Peter Manning, co-founder of Peter Manning NYC, a clothier that caters to shorter men, for his take on ties.

What are the general “rules” for wearing ties versus going tie-less? Many men would not be seen without tie and others just leave their collars open.

The “rules” have become tricky and are not as clear as they once were. Of course, some professions, like law and banking, usually require ties—but not always. Often it depends on if it will be a “client-facing” day or not. There are very few restaurants that still require a tie. As a gesture to tradition, most of the men’s clubs still require them. It is now perfectly acceptable to wear a suit with no tie and just a pocket square to a semi-formal occasion.  That said, ties with more casual wear, like jeans, sneakers, and a blazer are also acceptable and totally stylish. The key with any rule is to know it—and then break if you feel confident you can make it work. The tie is now more of a sartorial accessory than a sartorial necessity.

What are your personal thoughts on this?

I have come to love ties that elevate the more casual jeans and blazer look, and I like an open collar and suit for more formal affairs. If there is ever a question in my mind that not wearing a tie will be too casual, I wear a tie. You will never be in the wrong if you wear a tie.

Where should the tip of a man’s tie fall?

Just at the belt. It can sometimes be worn a bit higher depending on torso length and the rise of the pant. For example, if your pant has a super low rise, you don’t need your tie to go all the way down to it. Where the tie falls for not-so-tall guys can be a struggle. Just getting it to hit the right spot and not hang too low takes a lot of work with regular-length ties. You either have to hide extra length with a double Windsor knot—which is inappropriate for anything but a spread collar and a fancy suit and does not look great on shorter guys—or you have to struggle to make the tips match exactly, or you have to hide the longer back blade in your shirt.

What is the length of most ties?

Most ties are 58 inches or longer. The ties we sell are 54 inches.

Does the knot affect where the tip of the tie falls?

The Windsor knot takes up the most fabric but does not look great with everything. The classic Four in Hand is the appropriate knot for most looks.

What can men who are under 5’8” do to have their tie fit properly?

Tie hacks include the Double Windsor knot, hiding the back blade of the tie in your shirt, or struggling to get the points to match perfectly. I have used a scissor in moments of desperation.

Are there ties manufactured for shorter men? What length would they be?

We create ties for not-so-tall guys, and they have been very popular. We make them 54 inches in length and 2 3/4″ wide.

Can men have ties made just for them?

I don’t know of any custom tie makers, but I know there is a “tie doctor” in New York City who can reshape and narrow ties that have come out of fashion. I have had a couple of ties whose fabric I loved but were way too wide, and I had them reshaped and narrowed.

What about a tie versus a bow tie?

Bow ties can be charming, but I don’t think they are great for shorter guys. They tend to make us look juvenile. If a not-so-tall guy wears a bow tie, the proportion is crucial. If it’s too big, it looks like you are wearing you dad’s tie, and if it’s too small, you look like a little boy.

How can you go tie-less but still look professional?

You can definitely go tie-less and look professional. Make sure the cut of your jacket is great, and be sure to use a pocket square. When you don’t have a tie, a pocket square—even the simplest one—makes you look pulled together and stylish. At first, it can feel like you are being foppish, but once you get used to it, you feel naked without one.

When does it make sense to wear a tie, and how can men use it to their advantage?

When in doubt, wear the tie. A well-proportioned tie, one that coordinates with your other clothing, will always make you look pulled together and will make folks take you seriously. It sends the message that you take care of your appearance. I don’t think you could ever go wrong with a good tie.