Everyone remembers the first knot they’ve ever (tried to) tied. Usually it’s for a wedding, or church, or school. In fact, a lot of men know only one way to tie a knot and it’s the Four-in-Hand knot. The time after Labour Day is often when most men have to put ties back on, as those returning from summer vacation return to work or school. The simplicity of the design and its slightly off-kilter look is commonly seen everywhere not just in Vancouver but in any place in the world: schoolboys, interns, executives, your family and friends. Sometimes the sheer luxury of menswear is best displayed with simplicity and understatement, so that the intricacy of the knot does not take away from the design aspects of the cravat itself.
The Four-in-Hand is perfect in its simplicity. This is tied using the wide end, and is versatile enough to tie from the right or left even if one is not ambidextrous. Bring the wide end over the middle to anchor it, bring it around to form a loop, then bring the wide end up and over through the loop. It is that simple. The Four-in-Hand is often described as asymmetrical because the knot appears to be a bit lopsided at the top. However, the trade-off is that the minimalist instruction allows the knot to be tied using any kind of necktie, regardless of width, length or thickness. This is in fact one of the very few knots I know of where you can lay out the design of the tie before putting it on, and then simply put the whole thing over your head, tighten it up and it would fall into place. The Four-in-Hand is the one tie you simply cannot screw up, and the basis for all ties (we refuse to acknowledge the existence of the clip-on variety).
The understatement of the piece can be worn not just with just about any type of cravat, but also helps to show off the beauty of a statement piece necktie. It’s the same reason Parisians dress minimally: they use it to show off one spectacular piece like a brooch, scarf, jacket or necktie, without overwhelming the outfit by being too busy. If you’ve got that one bold, beautiful tie you just want to show off without worrying about creating a complicated knot, this is the one for you. The Four-in-Hand is also easy enough to pull off, even literally, without exhausting or wearing out the fabric as you would for more intricate knots.
You may wonder where the name “four in hand” originated. The term was initially attributed to the single rein that allowed a carriage driver to control four horses with one hand. The name then transferred over to fashionable English aristocrats in the nineteenth century who were also sporting a then-new kind of necktie, thus giving the phrase that we use today. The Four-in-Hand was how the contemporary necktie was first worn, moving stylish gentlemen away from bow ties and flappier, more old-fashioned knots. (The more you know!)
I hope that after the more intricate knots I have introduced you to in August, a simpler knot will help you as you’re rushing out the door on your way to the office or school. Hopefully you will look effortless and actually require little effort to do it!
Tie carefully, yours in knotwerk,
- Basic Design FIFA2015 backpacks available in multiple colours and 2 shapes at THECloset YVR, 360 Carrall Street, Vancouver, BC.
(All photographs by Helen Siwak of THEClosetYVR)