Lately, people have started asking me about how I wear my tie. It may not be apparent on my blog posts since I don’t post every outfit I wear on here, but comments about it mostly came up at work (I work retail). If you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s when both the front and back blade of the tie are visible and overlapping, and can often extend past the waistband of the pants. Sometimes it simply drapes downward; other times I prefer to tuck it in.
This trend originated in Italy (think Pitti Uomo) and can now be seen on many people, ranging from sartorial enthusiasts to tailors, both young and old. It is not a European-only affectation; Americans like Khaled Nasr and Curtis Newkirk all rock the sprezza tie outside of Pitti.
So the questions remain: Why do we do this? Isn’t looking sharp and being well-put together the point of wearing a suit? Aren’t you supposed to use the “keeper” (the loop at the back of the front blade) to hold the back blade? Shouldn’t the back blade be shorter than the front?
It has even been said that a tie that extends past your waistline is crude, since it points directly to the phallus. You might think that all of these rules and mental images would dissuade these sartorial gentlemen from tying the tie with sprezzatura, but you’d be wrong. The practice is everywhere. So why would we do it? The answer lies in the fact that many of the gentlemen who practice sprezzatura view suits a lot differently than others.
Let’s first look at this picture I took of one of my co-workers. He’s got on a sharp suit with a slim tie. Perfect for a fancy dinner or for a “fashion-forward office” (the patterns may not be accepted by a conservative workplace). To most, he will look sharp and cool, which I agree with. Even though everything fits well, I find this outfit pretty standard. Maybe a bit too stiff and put-together.
Many guys would wear this practiced and safe ensemble to the aforementioned events. Now, the uniform has equated suiting up to professionalism only. To many guys, a suit is for the office, a wedding, a funeral, and for a events. If he didn’t have to wear it to work, my co-worker definitely wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. Sure, he enjoys the occasional dressed up event but he’s much more comfortable with a nice sweater and chinos. If he does wear a tie, he makes sure that the knot is clean, ensures the length is appropriate, and that the back blade is firmly in the keeper. To him, suiting up isn’t fun; it’s rule-filled. However some guys, like me for example, have a different view.
A jacket and tie are apart of my everyday attire by choice. I’m not looking to impress anyone with wearing a suit. I’m just wearing it because I enjoy it. As a result, when I tie my tie, I don’t think it has to be perfect. In fact, I like it to be imperfect; if it happens then it happens. Tying your tie with the flow results in way that the blades overlap slightly and drape down a little past my waistband is a simple touch of fun (yet elegant) nonchalance that is an essential part of my personal style. Just like distressed jeans or long tees, my tie is my rebellion against the cultural norms. It’s almost like a sartorial back-hand to all the overtly purist guys out there who have a rigid view of suiting up. However, this isn’t an excuse to dress sloppily.
You can’t wear some baggy shirt with an ill-fitting suit and have your tie sloppily done. Alternatively, if your suit is super tight, with your pants approaching jean status, this “sprezzy tie” will not work either. And please, a slightly longer tie isn’t an excuse for you to start buttoning all buttons on your suit.
This style only works when everything is properly tailored and styled: a snug jacket, draped pants, and complimentary pattern matching. This isn’t a free pass to disregard all the rules. Perhaps that’s the allure of sprezzatura: traditional and classically styled suiting with a twist.
Overall, rejection of the current culture is behind the concept of the sprezzy tie. Guys today wear jeans with blazers, sneakers without socks, and even intentionally experiment with proportions, so why can’t we have a little carelessness? It’s not meant to be professional and it definitely isn’t the “always on trend” garbage of the #menswear movement (more on that in the future). Personally, going against these two mindsets is the reason why I like to dress the way I do. To my friends and I, suits, jackets, and ties are just another everyday outfit to be worn with a casual attitude. Doing my tie this way shows my own enjoyment of wearing a tie, not viewing it as an obligation to the rules formal attire. My tie ends up being sloppy and fun, like me.
This recent outfit of mine that was met with some disdain from a particular co-worker. Everything is classic: windowpane jacket, high-waisted flecked pants, button-down collar shirt. However, my tie length was the subject of the aforementioned criticism. To him, a tie is a heightened piece of clothing that is reserved for certain occasions and events. To me, it’s just another part of my daily wear, whether for work or chilling with my friends.
One of my coworkers said that it looked better when I buttoned the jacket, but he could still see the back blade (much to his chagrin).
Here’s a few ways you can wear your tie with sprezzatura with some of pictures from our archive. Many of these styles are rejected by much of the mainstream dressers out there. Why not fight back?
The Arched Tie
You can achieve the overlapping tie look even with a tie bar. The trick is to keep your tie bar a little higher to achieve a cool arch! Raj does this a lot and it looks great. Note that even as a shorter guy, Raj pays no attention to tie length.
The Tie Tuck
Most guys hate seeing a tie that’s way too long. So what do you do? Tuck it in. This works best when you don’t have a belt or a tie bar.
Just Letting it Hang
This is my preferred method of doing it: no tie bar and no tucking. You could either have the back end peak out from behind the front blade (as shown), or you could twist your knot so both blades show simultaneously. Either way, they’re killer looks. I personally prefer my tie to barely extend past the waist band, but there are extremely elegant examples of going with an extended length. If the back blade ends up longer than your front blade, so be it! Just roll with it and let it go. Most of us all are all different heights, yet most ties are “one size fits all.” Until bespoke ties are made cheaply, we’re just going to have to deal with it.
Overall, the best way to approach it is to not overthink it and just have fun. If you’re a guy who enjoys dressing up regularly without occasion, why not? It’s a great way to stand out and to mark yourself as a guy who just likes to dress up for your own sake, not because “a gentleman always looks presentable.” A rejection of being ultra-traditional is the mark of a man who dresses for himself, not for others.
Now this isn’t supposed to deter you guys from following the rules. In fact, if you’re a beginner to dress up, I implore you to follow the rules! A gentleman in a put-together outfit is much better than one who doesn’t know how to dress well at all. Remember that there is always a time and place for certain forms of dress. I wouldn’t recommend this if you work in a conservative office or if you rarely wear a suit. This is for the gentleman who likes to have fun with his sartorial passion and wears a tie almost everyday for his own enjoyment.
If your style revolves on adhering to the rules, then go for it! Keep the suit for those special events in your life when you want to look polished and slick. Spencer in particular is a gentleman who likes a clean, presentable look. Even with the correct length of tie, he still finds his own way to stand out and elevate his own suited style.
When you decide that a suit shouldn’t just be worn to the boardroom or to dinner, try letting your tie go longer than you’re used to. Try letting it hang down or tucking it in. Wear it with some flair and rebellion. Become the counter culture.
Always a pleasure,
Street x Sprezza
Photography by Vince H. and Gabrielle U.
Great article. I took off all keepers of my ties some time ago… I just let the back blade of the tie free to show up naturally
That’s the way to do it!
Hi Ethan. What tie knot do you use?