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Illustrations by Mr Joe McKendry

A s a student I was once invited to a gallery opening, which provided me with a rare opportunity to wear a jacket and tie. As I dressed I took a moment to finesse my tie knot and proudly showed the resulting dimple to my girlfriend. She scoffed, and asked who cared about such things, but I was later vindicated when, at the gallery, an older woman complimented me on the fact that my tie bore a pleasing dimple. My affection for tie dimples, unlike my relationship with the girl, has persisted.

Before practical techniques are considered it's important to understand the philosophy of the tie dimple, which is that it should be a personal expression of artful imperfection. As such, it is, for men hoping to project an image of sprezzatura, a useful weapon in the sartorial armoury. Of course sprezzatura implies an element of artifice, which is why it's something that must be internalised so that it loses the sharp corners of deceit and becomes second nature. As an example a tie dimple should be created with a natural carelessness, even while the decision to create one is deliberate.

The wrong width

The narrower a tie, the harder it is to create a dimple - it's a real challenge to get a dimple into a tie that's only 6cm wide.

The wrong material

Very light cotton ties may be too soft to hold a dimple because they simply crease or fold, and lightweight knitted ties will produce different dimples than thick cashmere or silk ties.

The wrong knot

The chunky and aggressive Windsor knot is almost always the wrong knot, but it's particularly incompatible with the nonchalant mood conjured by an elegant dimple.

Trying too hard

The dimple is a stylised imperfection, and needs to look like a happy accident. Finessing it with all the intensity of an origami master suffering from OCD will not produce the result you're looking for. Eye-catching symmetry is a no-no.

The wrong design

The world's most elegant knot will be wasted on an ugly tie. Invest in a great tie, and then perfect the knot.

The wrong implement

Use your finger to create a dimple. Do not use a ridiculous dimple maker (yes they exist - click here). Imagine having to explain to a woman that you use a contraption to make your tie dimples!

Using the keeper

Lots of ties have a loop of fabric behind the front blade through which you can tuck the rear blade. This is called the keeper, because it keeps the tie neat and straight and ensures the rear blade is invisible. I find the use of the keeper unappealingly stiff, and the look inert. Style isn't something that can be arranged and then pinned down like a dead butterfly; movement is a vital part of it.

For further reading see our article on sprezzatura by American menswear guru Mr G Bruce Boyer.

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