Length varies with nationality, because of style and average national physique. Americans generally wear their four-in-hands so that the tip of the apron just reaches the belt buckle, and American ties range from 53″ to 57″. On the average the British have thinner necks, but also prefer the tip of the apron to reach below the belt, so British ties are somewhat longer, in the range of 55″ to 58″. Like the Americans, the Italians prefer the tip at the buckle, but on average they purchase somewhat shorter ties, perhaps 53″ to 56″.
Width is the necktie dimension subject to fashion's whims. The “belly warmer” of the 1940s and early 1950s provided ample canvas for exuberant post-war painting. In the early 1960s the wide (5″–6″) tie returned in the form called “kippers.” In between, and even simultaneously, ties have been sold that were as narrow as 1½ inches. (The official state tie of Arizona, the bola, doesn't count; it is another form entirely.) Some say that if a tie's width calls attention to itself, the tie is badly chosen, but obviously width has often been chosen in the hope it would call attention to itself.
Thomas Fink and Yong Mao.
The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie.
Broadway Books, 2000.
A history of knotting neckties by two Cambridge (UK) physicists, who deduced mathematically all possible ways of tying a tie. They recommend 13 of the 85 for your consideration.
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Last revised: 20 August 2004.