Dressing Left or Right with the Four-in-Hand Knot

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Some people prefer symmetrical tie knots, like the Windsor and half Windsor knots, and others prefer asymmetrical knots, like the simple four-in-hand. Tie knots do not need to be symmetrical or asymmetrical; it is a personal preference. Many often think of the four-in-hand knot as a beginner’s tie knot because it is simple and easy to learn, but it’s also a classic style that many of the most experienced dressers use. While the reasons to prefer a balanced, symmetrical knot speak for themselves, there is also beauty and purpose in an asymmetrical knot.

The asymmetrical knot may appeal to those who like sprezzatura, a studied carelessness, in their outfits because such a knot looks less perfect than a symmetrical knot. Men with wider faces may appreciate how asymmetrical knots like the four-in-hand have an elongated shape, which is more flattering to them than a fat Windsor knot. The asymmetrical knot is more dynamic than the symmetrical knot because it has direction and points the tie over to one side or the other. But which side should it point towards?

Sean Connery’s four-in-hand knot leans towards his right

The four-in-hand knot will lean towards whichever side you place the wide blade before you begin the knot. If you start the knot with the wide blade on your right-hand side, the knot will lean towards the right (the right-hand method). If you start the knot with the wide blade on your left-hand side, the knot will lean towards the left (the left-hand method). The four-in-hand knot works just as well both ways, and being right-handed or left-handed does not make one method easier or more effective than the other, though people tend to start with the wide blade of the tie on the side of their dominant hand. There is no rule as to which way is preferred, though each way has its own advantages and can make its own statement.

James Bond uses the asymmetrical four-in-hand knot to knot his ties more than any other method, and throughout the series he wears it both facing left and facing right. James Bond usually ties his knots with the right-hand method, and Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Daniel Craig all prefer this method. These actors are all right-handed, and Bond is right-handed, so this method makes sense for the character.

Roger Moore’s four-in-hand knot uses the right-hand method

With the right-hand method, the knot points upwards to the face, at least for those who read left-to-right. Framing the face is always a desirable trait. It follows follows the dominant lapel line of the men’s jacket, which fastens left-over-right. This method has a clear advantage with a plain front (French front) shirt since it matches the plain front’s own asymmetry. When the tie leans towards the right it completely covers the plain-front shirt’s front opening and gives the front of the shirt a seamless appearance. With a placket the side does not matter so much because the front of such a shirt is symmetrical.

Contrary to the other James Bonds, Pierce Brosnan prefers the left-hand method of tying the four-in-hand knot. With the tie leaning to the left, it makes the knot look like it is pointing forwards, which may also be desirable. Brosnan is not alone in preferring this method of tying the four-in-hand; Cary Grant and Prince Charles use the left-hand method as well. Cary Grant is left-handed, which makes sense for him tying his four-in-hand knots this way. It has been rumoured that Pierce Brosnan and Prince Charles are left-handed, but they are always seen writing with their right hand.

Cary Grant uses the left-hand method for his four-in-hand knot in North By Northwest

Other asymmetrical knots such as the Victoria knot and Prince Albert knots are doubled variations on the four-in-hand knot and follow the same right-hand and left-hand tying principles. These knots with extra wraps are even more asymmetrical than the four-in-hand knot.

The asymmetrical knot should be embraced, and there is no need to hide it in a narrow point or tab collar; you can show it off with a cutaway as well! You may not realise to which side you tie your four-in-hand knot, so take notice the next time you put on your tie. There is no right or wrong side to tie a four-in-hand knot. Because you likely never noticed the direction of your four-in-hand knot before, the side it points to is of little consequence. And in case you’re wondering, there is no need to match the way you dress your tie to the way you dress your trousers.

Daniel Craig has loosened his right-hand four-in-hand knot in Spectre

13 COMMENTS

  1. When the knot goes too much to the right it reminds of Rodney dangerfield not getting any respect?

  2. Of all the tie knots I’ve seen on actors across many films, I’ve always thought Brosnan’s look (particularly in TWINE and Thomas Crown Affair) was the best. I’m sure part of that is helped by the collar and size/fabric of the ties too though.

  3. I’d never thought of this topic before, I always use the four-in-hand knot and always tie it to the left, even though I am right-handed. Not sure why, but I’ve always done it this way since I learned how to tie my own tie around, what, 10, 11 years old? and have been doing so ever since, it’s just muscle memory now. Tomorrow I’m going to try tying it to the right just to see how it feels and if I notice any discernible differences, you’ve piqued my interest to experiment!

    • The same thing with me. I have actually tried right-hand method several times but it felt very hard and uncomfortable as I am used to the left-hand one.

  4. “The asymmetrical knot should be embraced, and there is no need to hide it in a narrow point or tab collar; you can show it off with a cutaway as well!”

    Thank you for stating this. There’s some “common knowledge” permeating menswear stores and clothing websites alike that a wide collar requires a wide knot. A Windsor should not be worn with narrow collar due to how it pushes up the points, but a spread collar can be worn with a smaller knot and still look attractive.

  5. How does Connery tie such a small/tight four-in-hand? I know the know isn’t gargantuan to begin with, but it seems quite tiny. I know ties were thinner then, but not *that* thin. Did he start the knot high on the thin side of the tie?

      • You know, going through my vintage ties, I am absolutely mistaken. I keep thinking that they’re in the 2.25-3.25″ range, when really they’re far narrower than that.

      • Connery’s ties were around 2.75″ wide, but they tapered a large amount in the knot area, and the interlinings were very thin. A very thin interlining only works if the knot area of the tie is narrow. If that area of the tie is wide but the interlining is thin, the knot ends up looking very long and skinny, which isn’t such a great look.

  6. In my experience, the four-in-hand gives the ensemble a much more classic look, which is good if trying to emulate Bond. Asymmetry lends towards keeping the outfit looking fresh, whereas symmetry (like in a half-Windsor) looks nice, but can get boring. I’ve used both extensively in the past 2 years, and I definitely prefer the four-in-hand.

  7. Matt,

    Now that you have pointed this out, I cannot “unsee” it on TV everywhere especially with men on cable news.

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