A Dimple Affair

The subject of tie knots may seem sufficiently banal and #menswear to only occupy the concern of selfie-snapping enthusiasts, but a recent discussion I had on an Internet forum underscored the subtle —and not so subtle — messages such a thing can send.

A tie knot can project fastidiousness, nonchalance, ignorance, and any numbers of things in between. A brief email exchange with Richard Press and G. Bruce Boyer yielded an insightful perspective. As Mr. Press said, “Windsor knot was Main Street, Central High, Podunk U., Pat Boone, Reader’s Digest, while a tight dimpled knot was Sutton Place, Yale, The New Yorker, Hotchkiss & Bobby Short.”

With these thoughts in mind, consider this immaculate double dimple.

I stared at this image at length when I saw it. I couldn’t turn away. It was like seeing a disturbingly perfect decorative wax apple. This wasn’t Richard’s Tight Dimpled Knot, this was feng shui for ties. I could imagine the wearer spending something like 45 minutes agonizing in front of the mirror until everything was situated just so. I could also imagine that same person wobbling about like a mannequin, desperately trying to preserve the crease in his trousers.

Paul Fussell, in his delightfully tongue-in-cheek book “Class,” speaks to this man when he writes, “Too careful means low — at least middle class, perhaps prole.”

These imaginings, of course, may have had little resemblance to reality. The mystery man in question may have tossed on said tie and gone about his day with little care for the crease in his trousers, or any other injury his wearables may have suffered. The picture, however, belies this. The wearer of this tie presents an image of a man who dresses to impress largely because he has to. I know nothing about his background, but the feel of it is of middle management, junior salesman, or some other sort who hasn’t yet made it. If, as Mr. Boyer says, the tie dimple is a defense against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, this one appears very defensive indeed.

I thought on this knot as I considered my paternal grandfather, one of the most genteel and well dressed men I’ve ever known. He never raised his voice that I can recall, never indulged in showiness, and was ever the benevolent patrician. I couldn’t imagine him wearing a tie in this manner. Not because he couldn’t accomplish it, but because he couldn’t be bothered. There was too much life to live out there to spend so much time on a knot. Therein lies the beauty of a slightly sloppy four-in-hand tie knot. It is simple, easy, and fast. But this is only an impression as well. I have no idea how long he spent getting dressed, how much care he actually put into his clothes, etcetera. However, the impression was of a man who wore the finest, but couldn’t care less if it snagged on something while he was rough housing with his grandchildren. I suspect this is what he liked about the midcentury trad styles he habitually wore.

This isn’t my grandfather, but it is a fine example of a ‘put together’ looking ensemble with slightly sloppy, slightly off-center tie knot. Immaculate it is not, but that is its strength. If I saw Mr. Double-Dimple walking toward me, I’d wonder what kind of timeshare he was about to try and sell me. Not so with the man in this picture. He looks like the kind of guy you would want to share an (American) beer with, talk football, or pray to god that he wouldn’t fail you on the physics midterm. Again, imaginings, but the kind you would want people to have about you.

If this man is worthy of imitation I admit that I often fall short. As Ivy Style’s editor hasn’t hesitated to chide me on, I have a certain fastidiousness about me. My only defense is that the one thing less worthy of my time than perfectly pressing and arranging my clothes is purposefully rumpling them. I do admit, however, that at times I can appear more “bougie” than “Boola boola.”

Taking this into account, I hope the reader will permit me to be very bold and offer up an example of my own, here I wear a vintage J. Press tie, slightly out of proportion with my collar points, and with no dimple at all. I will not deign to judge for you whether my look is successful, or whether I exude the nonchalance I admired in my grandfather (it is still a #menswear selfie, after all). But I think it is at least more desirable than appearing as if I am about to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a timeshare in Bonita Springs, Florida. — PANI M.

37 Comments on "A Dimple Affair"

  1. I have given away ties because they didn’t dimple correctly, and will continue to do so if I’m unfortunate enough to have any such ties in the future.

  2. Steedappeal | January 15, 2017 at 2:22 pm |

    My tie usually ends up the double-dimple way no matter how I try, otherwise. Which tailor or brand does that kind of wider lapel jacket?

  3. Jonathan Sanders | January 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm |

    a non dimpled tie I always find to be a little jarring to look at. (the Mike Wallace photo is an example.) If it’s a windsor knot, then it really is super jarring.

  4. I think Windsor knots are jarring regardless of dimple.

  5. I’m always going for the single dimple mostly because to me it looks the most symmetrical. When I rush I end up with a ‘half-dimple’: one edge hasn’t been fully turned-back so it’s pointing forward asymmetrically. This ‘double dimple’ is certainly symmetrical, but backward (to my eye); it almost appears knotted in reverse.

    Can we get Squeeze’s opinion on that wearer of the smallest, tightest knot in media today: Tucker Carlson? He’s got the pedigree, but would any viewer of his channel know the difference?

  6. Mark Russell | January 15, 2017 at 5:29 pm |

    I watch that channel and have often wondered if Tucker gets his shirts from Mercer.

  7. No dimple is as much of an affectation as a double dimple. The front blade has to be coaxed into the tube shape, and the knot has to be tightened just-so (not too tight!), otherwise some sort of dimple is unavoidable.

    Buckley’s single dimple knot shows true carelessness. The pinched, deep-set single dimple has Brummellian “studied carelessness.” Wallace’s tubular, dimpleless knot is as much of a wax apple as the perfect double dimple knot.

    • vv, of course your claim is entirely dependent on the dimensions, material, and construction of the tie. The one I wore in the last picture of the article would have taken some doing to get a dimple out of.

  8. True. I took a handful ties out of my closet (including vintage “golden age” lightly lined BB rep ties and vintage madder) and tied them as carelessly as possible All of them wanted to dimple to some extent (even the ones I haven’t worn). I don’t have anything below 3″ wide, but I’d assume that skinnier ties wouldn’t want to dimple as easily.

    When I see Mike Wallace above, I see a “wax apple” with the perfectly rolled collar, square-fold exploding square, and symmetrical tie knot. There’s no air of carelessness about him; he looks like someone who wants you to notice how well he’s dressed just the same as double-dimple guy.

    Then again, take the pocket square. You could argue that it’s actually more careless to take the folded square out of your drawer and shove it in the pocket rather than open it up and stuff it into your pocket in a pouf, but the pouf *appears* more casual and careless.

    Actual carelessness doesn’t always lead to the appearance of carelessness.

  9. The man with the double dimple is the iGent, Adriano Dirnelli (http://dirnelli.tumblr.com/), hardly the desperate-to-please middle management type. He has taken so many pictures of himself, that this could just have been an especially good knot out of sheer luck.

  10. Grey Flannels | January 15, 2017 at 11:46 pm |

    When I see a tie without a dimple, I assume that the wearer is lacking in knowledge or skill: either he doesn’t know that a properly-tied necktie requires a dimple, or he’s not adroit enough to produce one.

  11. In my youth (the 1950s) that “Windsor” knot was called a Double Windsor, and it was used by men who only wore a tie when they went to church.

  12. Do knit ties receive any exemptions?

  13. The “middle management” guy is a CEO in a French communications company. He also has an Ivy League education from the US, and is probably one of the few gentlemen in the world that really knows his sartorial stuff. This guy owns some 300-400 suits (both bespoke and rtw) and is a contributing editor to Parisian Gentleman. Assuming he will offer you time share is like assuming your new president has style and brains. Why are you Americans so ignorant?

  14. “When I see a tie without a dimple, I assume that the wearer is lacking in knowledge or skill: either he doesn’t know that a properly-tied necktie requires a dimple, or he’s not adroit enough to produce one.”

    I’ll confess I make the same assumptions. But nowadays some variation of the undimpled Windsor (single, double, triple, etc.?) is everywhere–humorously yet perhaps grotesquely, among moneyed sorts in America who long to seem cosmopolitan.

    Squeeze mentioned the New Yorker crowd. How’s this for tight-and-dimpled?


  15. Arnie, like I said, the feel of the look may have very little to do with his actual life. It doesn’t really matter what he actually does or who he actually is. At least to me, it is a very odd looking tie. Ivy league education or not.

  16. The only tie knot I wear is a single-dimpled, four-in-hand. I cannot wear a half or full Windsor, or anything else, as I think they are either too big and/or look ridiculous, especially when worn with button-down or straight collar shirts.
    Mike Wallace was a very good dresser, but his tie knots always looked like a fist under his neck. To me, the double dimple pic, looks like someone who just made their first tie knot.

  17. whiskeydent | January 16, 2017 at 9:42 am |

    If someone stared at my tie knot as long as you guys must do, then I’d think something odd was going on. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

    For the record, I tie a four in hand and actually care more about the shape and proportions of the knot than the presence or absence of a dimple.

  18. @Arnie

    Americans may be ignorant, but not so ignorant as to think they were voting for our new president because of his style and brains.

  19. This post and you assumptions cause you to come off as a pratt

  20. Too bad Rand Paul didn’t get the nomination. I’d have been sorely tempted to claim I voted for him because of his style.

  21. Anglophile Trad | January 16, 2017 at 11:01 am |

    The double dimple belongs on dummies in Italian haberdashers’ windows

  22. I just think it is terribly ignorant to operate as a writer on sartorial matters NOT knowing that you choose to illustrate an article with a photo of Dirnelli. But I guess that’s what sartorial journalism has come to in our internet age. Ignorance is bliss for anyone with access to a computer. Ivy Style is normally a great site, but the tie dimple article belongs in the editorial bin. Or in a high school fanzine.

  23. I think one could easily make the opposite argument: what the writer was critiquing was the act itself. As the editor of the post, I didn’t know who the person was and didn’t bother to find out — evidently it was just another menswear selfie on Style Forum — because the identity of the double-dimpler was not the issue. If the writer too was ignorant, then ignorance is bliss, because he did not allow the identify of the person to influence his dislike of the double dimple.

    And actually Pani M. had taken a similar line of argument recently on our Facebook page when it came to Christmas photos of JFK wearing white athletic socks and velvet slippers. If I recall correctly, he seemed to argue that just because JFK wore this combo does not inherently make it stylish to do so.

    On the other hand I do believe that context matters, at least in the way that these sorts of things matter, meaning they only matter if you choose to let them matter to you.

    I have heard an eyewitness account that late in life WFB took to wearing suits from JC Penney. Does this make him less a less cultured man, and should we regard him differently? Charlie Davidson wears an ugly black Casio watch yet is revered by men of informed opinion on clothing for his excellent taste. Alan Flusser is quite wealthy (through marriage) but chooses to wear a hundred-dollar Seiko watch.

    In all these cases, these men can “afford” to pull off these downmarket gestures, so I do appreciate the fact that the double-dimpler knew exactly what he was doing.

  24. Whether this was a picture of Dirnelli or not is irrelevant. But whatever the case Arnie, your commentary is interesting. The fact that I disagree with you does’t make it less so.

    You know, stirring the pot (ever so slightly) can yield some interesting discussions.

  25. Throughout my lifetime, Brooks ties have been easy to tie with the proper dimple as always shown in their windows at 346 Madison Avenue. I agree with Grey Flannels totally. It is a mark of distinction that discriminating men have had always.

  26. A tie looks best when coupled with a button down oxford and tied in a four in hand. Length should be with point partially covering belt buckle and always cinched tightly with a single dimple. Wear high quality. Dress carefully in the morning and then forget about it.


  27. Henry Contestwinner | January 17, 2017 at 6:44 pm |

    My only caveat to Grey Flannels’ excellent comment is that some ties don’t like to dimple. I don’t think I’d go as far as KK Mifflin and purge such non-dimplers from my wardrobe, but I will retie my tie if I don’t like the knot.

  28. I’ve always been a fan of Mr. Buckley but I must say that I do not care for the lapels on the suit. Perhaps this was one of his JC Penney suits.

  29. I have doubts about the JCPenney theory. Brooks Brothers would have been far easier to find in Manhattan or Stamford that JCPenney.

  30. As several have mentioned, a tie will naturally want to dimple if you tighten it, and IMO tighten it you must into some sort of inverted triangle – to me it looks neater than having the bottom of the tie knot the same width as the top! The dimple being unavoidable, the choice is what to do with it. Guiding the fabric into a simple single dimple shows attention to detail.

    However, there is a fine line between attention to detail and vanity, and it is crossed by trying to put extra dimples like in the picture. It is also crossed by eliminating the dimple – you have to really work to get rid of it due to the natural tendency to dimple.

  31. J.W.

    Since this thread has had a reply (it has been a while) I’ll just say that it is not the case with all ties that eliminating the dimple is unnatural. With the slim J Press tie I wore in the picture it would have taken some doing to dimple it at all. It naturally wants to knot without one, so I let it. I’m a tie egalitarian.

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