What is the correct length to wear a man's tie? My husband says it should just touch the belt, not hang over it and not be shorter than that. Is he right? I have gotten rather adept at correcting the length of extra long ties. I do it on the small end.
A: A well-knotted tie should extend to the belt. At what point on the belt is not crucial, but the ideal length is to the middle or longer. No doubt, the worst error is a too-short tie; it emphasizes the space above the belt and calls attention to a (usually too ample) waistline. One of the few authentic reasons besides tradition for wearing a necktie is its visual effect on a man's appearance. The vertical line of a vivid-colored tie as it connects with the sweep of dark trousers against a light-colored shirt forces the eye on an up-and-down path, creating the illusion of greater height. In our society, it is standard procedure to apply every fool-the-eye trick to appear taller and thinner. Neckties do both.
A tie that does not extend to the belt breaks the line, leaves a space that directs the eye across the body horizontally along the waistline. Optically, this makes a man appear both shorter and heavier.
A too-long tie also makes a man look shorter.
Q: Recently you wrote about how to combine two different patterns in an outfit instead of just wearing one pattern and everything else plain (that is, all solids). I'm getting the hang of it and getting compliments -- especially from the women in the office. I've learned to mix one item with a widely spaced pattern with one that has a small design. Are there any other points to keep in mind?
A: You are a good student. You got the most important point right.
Color, too, is a factor. It has tremendous impact. When combining two patterns, be even more careful than usual with color coordination. You don't want to look as though you reached blindly into the closet and pulled out the first items you touched. If your suit is blue or your shirt has some blue in it, a good choice is a tie that repeats a bit of blue in the pattern. Or, combine a shirt that has thin burgundy stripes on a white background with a burgundy patterned tie. To make a polished fashion statement you might pair one of today's discreet glen plaid or shadow plaid suits in blue with a solid white or sky blue shirt and contrast it with a yellow silk tie with oversized blue dots.
When combining two patterns, you are generally safer staying with tie patterns that are not too wild. But if you do wear the new, more striking "conversational" ties, soften the emphasis on their large patterns by choosing tie colors that are more subdued than neckties have been in recent years.
If you really feel ready for the big leagues, you could add h hTC judicious amount of a third pattern -- just a small touch in a silk pocket square, perhaps.