A Case for the Skinny Tie

Trends come and go, but as far as professional (and stylish) men's attire is concerned, the tie is here to stay. Keep your look up to date with a skinny tie, a style that was born more than six decades ago.

In a 1968 New York Times Magazine article, fashion designer Bill Blass claimed that men's ties would ultimately “have to go” someday. “Men will use scarves or something,” said Blass in the piece penned by future Academy Award nominated screenwriter Nora Ephron. ” [. . .] a man needs something up around there to set his face off since he doesn't use cosmetics. At least not yet.” Nearly forty years later, Blass wasn't entirely off the mark. Today, men do adorn scarves (and some even makeup, you know who you are), yet men's neckties have never gone out of style. If anything, it's their width that keeps disappearing.

During the last decade, thin has been “in” in terms of neckties, with skinny ties becoming hugely popular. However, skinny ties have gone through their phases over the years. They first rose to fame in the 1950's and 1960's when trendsetters like “the Rat Pack” and The Beatles made them famous.

However, by the end of the decade, wider ties became fashionable again. Since then, there has been a push and pull between “skinny” versus “wider” ties. However, the “skinny tie” didn't see a real resurgence until the new millennium, when Tunisian-French fashion designer Hedi Slimane reintroduced the slimmed-down tie. Soon, other designers followed, with the look popping up in Buckler and Prada collections. Today, skinny ties are worn on everyone from the guy who works in the cubicle next to you to every week on “The Soup,” when Joel McHale hops onto his mark in front of a green screen, clad in a slim necktie.

Here's the Skinny on the “Skinny”:

Fat Guy in Little Tie
Unfortunately, skinny ties tend to only work with skinny guys. Even though one would think a skinny tie would elongate the torso, it also is incredibly thin, which makes muscles and bulkiness look bigger by comparison.

However, the good news is that there are variations on the skinny tie that are better for the husky gentleman. Find a skinny tie that has a “shape” rather than something that is pillar-esque, straight up and down.

The Right Fit
In order to wear a skinny tie, you have to find the right kind of shirt and collar to go with it. Thick, wide collars are not going to work with a skinny tie. These kind of collars will make you look wider and bulkier. You want to look for just a regular dress shirt. You also want to make sure your shirt fits you well. It shouldn't be so tight that you can't breathe, but it should be snug enough that the shirt doesn't bulk out when tucked in. The key to pulling off the skinny look is looking sleek.

Length DOES Matter
When choosing a skinny tie, you want to make sure the length hits you just right. If you are tall, you don't want the tie stopping short above your belly button. If you are short, you don't want the tie hanging down to your crotch. Skinny ties require some extra attention to this detail. A good rule of thumb is that skinny ties cannot be past your belt and should not be more than three inches above your waist.

Pairing with a Blazer
If you wear a skinny tie with a blazer, you want to make sure that the lapels aren't bigger than the skinny tie itself. The lapels and the tie should be approximately the same size, although the lapels will be slightly wider. Aside from blazers, skinny ties also go well with vests.

Find your Skinny Soulmate
The most fun thing about skinny ties is that they come in a variety of styles and colors and that you can really play around with styles. If you simply like the classic black tie on white shirt look, rock that out. If you would like to experiment with bolder prints, that can also work. The important thing is to discover what makes you look and feel good.

With skinny ties rising in popularity, some people have gone so far as to link skinny ties with the harsh economic climate, similar to the way women's hemlines dictate how well the Gross Domestic Product is faring. At the very least, someday when we look back on the Recession, we'll think the men looked stylish.

Ephron, Nora, ‘The Man in the Bill Blass Suit,' New York Times Magazine, December 8, 1968.

Megan McLachlan currently resides in the Pittsburgh area where she freelance writes, drinks coffee, and obsesses over popular culture. She was an English major, but doesn't think she wasted her life. Yet. Her blog is megoblog.com.


  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Asylum UK, Primer Magazine. Primer Magazine said: New on Primer: A Case for the Skinny Tie http://bit.ly/7tNvbQ […]

  • Reply December 14, 2009

    Grant Harris


    Great article! Young professional men are certainly into this trend. The question is how long will it last? But as long as guys are wearing ties they are headed in the right direction. Check out this link for quality skinny ties at an outstanding price.

    .-= Grant Harris´s last blog ..Tips for Men to Dress Slimmer =-.

  • Reply December 14, 2009

    Megan McLachlan

    I’m glad you liked it! Thanks!

  • Reply December 14, 2009

    uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by primermag: New on Primer: A Case for the Skinny Tie http://bit.ly/7tNvbQ

  • Reply December 15, 2009


    great tip on the knot, the half windsor just doesn’t cut it

  • Reply December 23, 2009


    nice post very interested. I am going to recommend this blog to my friends. Thanks:D

  • Reply December 24, 2009

    George Dunhill

    Informative article. I think the info under “Length DOES Matter” can be applied to all ties.
    .-= George Dunhill´s last blog ..FQ:If you’re in a relationship is it okay to go to a strip club? =-.

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  • Reply December 21, 2014


    “If you wear a skinny tie with a blazer, you want to make sure that the lapels aren’t bigger than the skinny tie itself.”

    It’s usually the other way around — You want to make sure your tie isn’t wider than your lapels. I think this is what was meant though because in the next sentence it says that the lapels will be slightly wider.

    Most of my suits’ lapels measure about 2.75 inches. These are classified as modern or slim suits. They go fine with 3-inch ties. While the selection of 3-inch ties is slowly growing, it is still slim (ha) in most stores compared to the 3.5-inch selection. If it is a more casual setting, I might put on a 2.5-inch tie, but a 3-inch tie would look perfectly appropriate. I personally don’t use less than 2.5-inch ties because I don’t think they look right on me. I’m 6′ 2″ with a broader body type. Today, suit style trends seem to be going the right way except for one thing — I wish suit makers would stop making the armholes so low on jackets. It severely restricts arm movement, and it’s not something that can be altered away. It also makes the suit look a little boxy.

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