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


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


    • Some of that might just be a function of the different (and by different I mean Brioni) collar shape in the movie. It has a similar “flare” look as you mention also in the HK hotel scene when he’s checking out. Pierce seems to knot his ties so that the length of the knot is relatively proportional to the collar points.

    • I agree Brosnan’s knots are the best. As I said in a diff comment, I find it impossible to get that look with the FIH but with the Old Bertie I have managed to come close (I think).

  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.

    • I feel like his ties are perfectly knotted as well, the holy grail. I have never managed to achieve that look with a FIH, but with the Old Bertie knot I feel I have come pretty close. One day man.

  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.

    • Sorry for the late response, but another reason Connery’s knots are so small might have been his height. Since he was taller than average (about 6’2″, IIRC), his knots would have been further up on the tie than if a shorter man had been wearing the same tie. The closer the knot is to the narrow end of the tie, the smaller the knot.

      • I’ve owned and worn a number of ties from around that period and they’re quite a bit shorter than is standard today. Maybe 50″ max if I recall correctly. (I still have one from the late ’50s, I’ll need to measure it sometime to confirm.) It’s not so bad with how high the rise was on trousers, but they should have given Connery longer ties since he was considered tall by British standards back then.

  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.

  8. Greetings,
    This is the first I have seen on the left vs right side.
    I started calling it the left or right slider, being the slider part of the tie is on either side when tying.
    I noticed the natural tilt of the head, some more noticeable than others. If the head is tilted to the right, the knot is the right slider.
    Two noticeable examples come to mind are former Presidents Reagan and Bush1.
    Reagan, in his early years, started with the left slider four in hand before changing to the Windsor, which tilted to the left, the same as his head. Bush1 is tilted to the right.
    Some stay with the four in hand their whole life, never changing, while others change to the Pratt/Shelby or Windsor at some point, and is tilted to one side. Some just can’t tell, and those who use multiple knots in their life.
    Truman is one I noticed wore both.

  9. Most shirt collars now are like Daniel Craig in the top photo, with the top of the collar showing over the top of the knot, which I like with the Pratt/Shelby knot.
    Outside of possibly the button down Oxford, is there dress shirt that is like Cary Grant, with the top of the knot over the top of the collar? To me, it’s the perfect setup, and about the only way I would wear a Four In Hand.

    • Matt might have more insight into this, but I think a lot of that might be dictated by a few variables like tie space on the collar, the height of the collar, how flush the knot is against the collar, and the size of the knot.

  10. You didn’t precisely mention the benefits of dressing to the left, or if you did I didn’t understand them !
    Is it just the fact it is less common ?

  11. Is there a variant of the double four in hand where instead of pulling the large end through both loops made, it’s only pulled through the front loop? (thus avoiding the knot having a more obvious double wrap look)?

  12. I’ve always prefered the four in hand knot, just nice, simple and easier for me to do, having to wear a tie every day for high school also helped. Maybe one day I’ll try a half windsor but I’ll stick to what I know best.

  13. Surely the reason Prince (now King) Charles’s knots are left-handed is that he has someone (presumably right-handed) facing him to do up his tie for him?

    • Rumour has it that he was originally left handed and was forced to become right handed as a young boy. If there’s any truth to that then it may explain why he still does some things left handed.

    • I do wonder how much Prince Charles has done for him. His former butler from the 1990s said he wanted everything from his shoelaces pressed to a fallen piece of paper to be picked up for him, whereas his more recent butler seems to dispel those claims.

      • I don’t imagine that King Charles does much for himself, and if I were in his position I would certainly have a valet prepare my clothes to perfection and help me dress. However, I think it’s clear he has a serious interest in his clothes, and that’s what truly matters. After all, he gave his first Royal Warrant to Turnbull & Asser! While I’m sure someone dresses him, I doubt he’s being told how to dress. I think that’s an important distinction.

        And as for the tie, if I as a right-handed person can easily do my tie in either direction, I’m sure the valets can too. If it simply had to do with someone tying their own tie or a valet doing it, Prince Phillip’s four in hand knots wouldn’t have been right-handed like they were. We may never know the reasoning behind the direction of certain men’s knots.

      • Matt, if anything, I tend to think it’s just how a guy was raised to tie a tie is all.


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