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What is a Windsor Knot?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2016
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When it comes to tying neckties, the desired formality of the finished knot can be an important consideration. Many people can quickly master a simple "four in hand" tie knot, which results in a serviceable if decidedly asymmetrical knot. Similar results can be achieved with the more advanced Pratt knot or half-Windsor knot, created by adding an extra loop before stuffing the broad end of the tie through the final cinch knot. The most formal and symmetrical tie knot, however, is known as the Windsor knot, although some may refer to it as a "double Windsor" or "full Windsor."

The Windsor knot is believed to be named for Edward VIII, the former Duke of Windsor. The Duke himself did not routinely use his namesake tie knot, however. He was fond of creating very thick tie knots by using the very basic "four-in-hand" technique, which is generally a simple knot used for informal uniforms. The Duke of Windsor used thicker materials and specially tailored shirts to accommodate the heavy triangular knot.

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One advantage of a Windsor knot over other techniques is a symmetrical finished knot at the collar. A Windsor knot creates a broad triangle with a narrow point at the bottom. When properly adjusted, the triangle narrows evenly and creates a dimple in the tie material. The rest of the tie extends down the front of the dress shirt and ends precisely at the waistline. Other tie knots such as the half-Windsor or Pratt can create a triangle which leans slightly to one side, which can make the knot at the collar appear misaligned.

Describing how to tie a Windsor knot without illustrations can be challenging, but the basic technique starts with a standard tie placed around the wearer's neck with the collar fully buttoned and raised up. The broad end of the tie should extend 12 inches past the narrow end. The Windsor knot begins with a first pass of the broad end over the narrow end near the neckline. The broad end should wrap around the narrow end like a rope around a tree. The broad end should now be back on it's original side.

The broad end of the tie can now be brought up and over the center loop formed by the first wrapping. If this were a simple four-in-hand tie knot, it could be tucked into the first loop and finished off. The next step involves turning the knot into a half-Windsor. The broad end can be wrapped around the opposite side of the neck loop and then wrapped across the center knot once more before finishing it off by pushing the broad end through the center knot and cinching it tightly. This half-Windsor knot is thicker and more formal than a simple four-in-hand, but still asymmetrical.

For the full Windsor knot, the wrapping maneuver around the opposite neck loop is followed by a similar wrap around the other neck loop. This gives the Windsor knot its symmetrical appearance. After wrapping around both neck loops, the broad end of the tie is finally drawn up and over the center knot, then stuffed into the resulting loop of fabric. This may sound difficult in theory, but tying a Windsor knot in real life can become no more challenging than tying a pair of shoes. Many people can tie a full Windsor knot in a minute or less, although there may be some last minute adjustments to make. A Windsor knot is the preferred tie knot of executives and those who need to make a favorable first impression.

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