There are certain tendencies among stylish men that never make it into the lists of rules. They are not as intuitive or easily explained, perhaps, as covering your waist when wearing black tie or matching your socks to your trousers. But they are almost universally acceded to, through some common realisation that inevitably comes when you care what you wear every day.

I offer three examples, in the hope they are helpful.

30oz foulards from Drake’s. With four in hand, of course
1 Ties should be worn with a four-in-hand knot

Scores of men in the past century have been held up as style icons. They all tied their ties in a four-in-hand knot.

The Windsor knot was named after the Duke but he never wore one – his ties were simply made thicker. Even Prince Michael of Kent, with his bulbous knots, ties extra thick ties in a four-in-hand – mostly made by Turnbull & Asser. I’ve seen them.

Other knots are cheaper ways to achieve this effect, or simply gimmicks. I offer no rationale other than the fact that a four-in-hand is pleasingly asymmetric and has a length more reflective of the blade below it. The fact is, everyone wears one.

Long green socks from Mes Chausettes Rouges 
2 Long socks to be worn with anything above jeans

It can be hard to explain how much more satisfying long socks (calf length, to just below your knee) are until you’ve worn them. Most men find them fussy and – more importantly, to them – effeminate.

I felt very sorry for Welsh comedian Rob Brydon who, on British TV quiz show QI last year, proclaimed his love of “the long sock” only to be mercilessly bullied by the other panelists. Such is men’s fear of unusual clothing.

Long socks are not hot, particularly cotton ones: there is too little blood in your calves. They are more comfortable, because you never have to adjust them: short socks are as annoying, and almost as unattractive, has having trousers that constantly fall down. And long socks look a lot better, certainly with any trouser approaching smart: you don’t let your trousers puddle around your ankles, so why would you do so with your socks?

The superiority of calf-length socks has long been acknowledged by every stylish gent. Cost-cutting industry and lazy consumers are to blame for the rise of the short sock.

Huntsman house tweed
3 Bigger patterns, weaves and colours are less formal

Obviously a bright-red tweed is less suitable for a business meeting than a navy suit. But it bears consideration that the tweed’s colour, texture and check all contribute to this informality, and the same principle applies on a much smaller scale.

The smaller the check on a suit, the more formal it is; the darker or weaker the colour, too; and worsted wool (what most suits are made out of) is smarter than cashmere, even if the latter feels more luxurious. Black tie is the smartest outfit most commonly worn today and it has no colour or pattern, usually, just the tiniest contrast between matte and shiny, shoe and suit.

The same principle applies to every item of dress, from ties to shoes.

Why consider formality? Because what you wear reveals a lot about what you think of the person you are meeting. It is thought and consideration, time taken and therefore compliment given.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
17 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Richard

Good post! I am just starting to get into long socks and agree with everything you’ve written here; they’re lovely.

I would add though that not only are they unnecessary with jeans: they are actively uncomfortable. The denim catches on the wool when sitting and just feels awkward. I expect a smooth cotton might not do this.

Anonymous

Thanks for the good post!
I think, many men who tie their ties with a Windsor or even a bigger knot assume the more complicated it is the better it is. How wrong.

Kind regards form Germany

Anonymous

I have bought several pairs of long socks and I would like to wear them, but having rather thick calves I find they are either uncomfortable (if they stay up) or they don’t stay up !

I think the half-Windsor a rather practical solution for when a tie is a little narrow in the middle for a 4-in-hand, or when the tie is too long.

Andy

Since I converted to a Shelby knot I could never go back…

Anonymous

Four-in-hand. Personally I do not favour it over the Windsor variations. Hence your assertion that it is better as it is “Universally acknowledged truth” falls as a logical consequence…

😉

tom

Simon, you do a mistake by telling people how to wear things and how not to wear things. I am a supporter of the four in hand, but i would never dare to say its the only knot that a stylish men should wear.
There shouldn’t be any rules to follow, except for formal clothing.
Not too long ago, yourself had been a novice in mens apparel and made a couple of mistakes (like the missing cummerbund or west while wearing black tie).

But thats the beautiful thing, everyone has a different style. It would be real bad if everyone of us woukd run around uniformally like roboters. Different people, different style.

But I like your block, its good.

Anonymous

short socks are wretched for anything but sport, where they are to be worn with trainers, also only to be worn for athletic purposes. but only four-in-hands? a perfectly triangular half-windsor, really not much larger than a FiH if tied on a narrower tie, lifting cleanly away from the neck, with a resulting tiny dimple is a beautiful knot. so called style icons may like the intentional ‘just off’ effect of the FiH, but as stolid and reserved a tailor as Henry Poole puts half-windsors on most of its show pieces and website splash pages.

Tim

Here you go:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000001/

I’m not sure what Fred Astaire’s standard knot is but this is either a windsor or half-windsor, certainly not a four-in-hand. I’m not a big fan of the four-in-hand, partly because they are SO common. To me it’s too common and boring. If I wanted to be like others, I wouldn’t even wear a jacket, let alone a tie. Simply wearing a tie sets you apart in today’s world. Also, I think a four-in-hand looks silly in a wide spread collar. A winsdor variation fills the space of a spread collar beautifully, and fits a fuller or wider face of a man who wears this collar.

Nice post.

Tim

Here you go:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000001/

I’m not sure what Fred Astaire’s standard knot is but this is either a windsor or half-windsor, certainly not a four-in-hand. I’m not a big fan of the four-in-hand, partly because they are SO common. To me it’s too common and boring. If I wanted to be like others, I wouldn’t even wear a jacket, let alone a tie. Simply wearing a tie sets you apart in today’s world. Also, I think a four-in-hand looks silly in a wide spread collar. A winsdor variation fills the space of a spread collar beautifully, and fits a fuller or wider face of a man who wears this collar.

Nice post.

Well-Dressed Mongrel

There ARE and SHOULD BE rules, and people who are truly well-versed in those rules can and should break them. There are always exceptions and room to maneuver, but the framework is needed for most. One learns to solo over the rhythm changes before “Giant Steps.”

I do agree with Tim that a four-in-hand looks strange with an extreme spread collar. The answer for most men, I think, is to choose more moderate collars.

I disagree, however, that “simply wearing a tie sets you apart.” Even in this day and age I see a ton every day, and most of them never amount to more than signifiers of class and group. An understanding of the aesthetics of dress is what makes people take notice. -WDM

Anonymous

Not sure that old photos of Hollywood stars of the past should be held up as “Style Icons”. Clothes tend to look good on those guys mainly because they are good looking and recognisable. I see a lot of this in the media currently, it is validation by association.

Know the rules -but for goodness sake break the rules

Gentleman90

I totally agree with the concept of over the calf socks,however I believe that each variation of tie knots have their own place (half-windsor for spread collar,full-windsor for cut away collar,etc.)……………anyhow,nice article Simon……..

Dancing Man

“I always like to use the Windsor knot,” he says.

From GQ’s interview with Fred Astaire: http://www.gq.com/entertainment/celebrities/195708/fred-astaire-gq-interview-style-fashion#ixzz1qwY4pcLM

I find the four-in-hand unattractive, but then again, de gustibus non disputandum est.

P.S. to Anonymous 10:36: Since so few modern men have any sense of style in the classic sense, many men admire the clothes of style icons of the past, including Astaire, Gary Cooper, and the Duke of Windsor.