Menswear

The Right Tie, Collar or Lapel Width? It’s About Proportion, Not Trend.

As I see it, the right width of a jacket lapel, the right width of a tie and the right width of a shirt collar are all connected. It’s about proportions, not trends. Men with wider faces or frames are best served by wider widths, while men with narrower faces or frames are better off with the opposite, faring better with skinnier lapels, ties and collars.

The problem with now is that a whole lot of men are caught up in the overplayed skinny trend still celebrated on blogs and in magazines, confusing many men into thinking that “skinny” is the right choice for them. (And don’t get me started on the leggings with pockets, i.e. skinny jeans.) We all don’t have the proportions of the model or celebrity in the pictures. Then there are those who wear a skinny tie and a petite shirt collar with a jacket with not-skinny lapels, or some other mismatched combination.

What is skinny? A lapel, collar or tie between 2 and 2.5 inches is in skinny territory. Wide is around 3.5 inches or – hello 1970s – more. Standing at 5’10″ and carrying 150 pounds with a medium-width face, I keep my lapel/collar/tie widths at 3 inches. Not skinny, not wide.

Me with some idiot. Each of us is wearing a suit with 3 inch lapels, a shirt with 3 inch collars and a tie with a 3 inch width.
Me with some idiot. Each of us is wearing a suit with 3 inch lapels, a shirt with 3 inch collars and a tie with a 3 inch width.

It is, of course, easier to sift through all of this when shopping in person in a store where we can get an accurate visual gauge or even a real measurement. Most business cards are 3.5 inches wide, and US currency is about 2.6 inches wide, just to give you an idea right from your pocket. It’s trickier to tell online. Most tie sellers will disclose the width of a tie, and some online stores (though certainly not all) that sell suits and jackets will include the lapel width in the list of features for the garment. Unfortunately, most shirt makers do not tell you the width of their collars. My preferred shirt companies – Paul Fredrick and Alara for dress, Charles Tyrwhitt for formal – all make slim fit shirts with semi-spread collars that are in the neighborhood of three inches, which I learned by sheer luck. Suit and shirt makers could be more helpful by readily including that information online.

So, is a guy in a 2.5 inch lapel and a 3 inch tie, or a 3 inch lapel and a 2 inch tie a disaster? Of course not. It’s not that a guy wearing mismatched widths necessarily looks bad. But a guy who observes more balanced proportions definitely looks better.

NOTE: Many knit ties are only available in 2.5 or 2.75 inch widths. This is normal for knit ties. (I go for the 2.75.)

11 Comments

  1. Why not give TheTieBar.com a plug here? They disclose the exact width of all their ties, including the 2.5″, 3″ and 3.5″ widths you mentioned here, all at $15 a pop.

  2. George, Just stumbled upon Notey and your blog searching for some information on men’s ties and appropriate widths. Really cool stuff on here. I’m glad I found you.

    I have a number of ties that are 3.5″ inches in width and I just don’t like the look of them. They are good quality ties that I don’t want to get rid of, but I want to have them slimmed down a bit. I found two companies here in NY, Tiecrafters and Skinnyfatties. Prices are about the same. Have you had any experience with either of them or can you recommend one over the other?

    Many thanks,
    Ken

    • George Reply

      Hey, Ken. Great comment. Thanks! I fully understand your predicament with the 3.5″ ties. You can get them slimmed down to whatever width you prefer (my preferred with is 3″). I found a beautiful vintage Gucci tie in a thrift store, but it’s too wide. Had it slimmed down. Tiecrafters and Skinnyfatties are great ideas. Though I have no personal experience with them, I’ve heard nothing but good things about both.

  3. your getting your widths & lengths confused between your currency and business cards!

  4. Hi George,
    I know you recommended CT and TM lewin.
    Tm lewins Fitted shirts are like a glove for me in terms of body and arms and the double cuff is fairly decent not huge like CT. unfortunately Tm Lewin lost the plot making smaller collar points for the fitted shirts (that fit me) at 2.5″ and even on the slim version they barelly reach 3″ (2.6/8). THerefore I am looking at CT again but not with certainty
    I used to buy CT in the past when their extra slim at size 16 had a 23 inch armpit to armpit and a nice waist, unfortunately now they claim to have “improved” the fit making it even more slim. It’s barely 22″ and that’s just too tight for me. Now what is left is the slim version which has a 23″ ap-ap but I would have to take in the waist and hope that it would shrink a bit in the arms. My questions for you are:

    Would you choose a shirt that fits great but has unsatisfactory collar point length? or go with the longer collar point shirt and take in waist ?

    Is the double cuff on the CT shirt going to shrink after some washes? I like a 10″ double cuff maximum and CT’s are 10.2/8 from the rack.

    • George Reply

      They all shrink a little bit. I’d go with the correct point size, then have the shirt tailored to your liking. With $200 for four shirts, it’s still a very cost-effective way to get great shirts.

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