So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie

The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie: The Science and Aesthetics of Tie Knots by Thomas Fink & Yong Mao

Well, maybe not my WHOLE life, but it has done wonders for that minute each weekday morning when I tie my tie. Before this book the most interesting part of this ritual was picking a colorful tie to match my clothes. Then came the boring task of getting one of the two knots I knew tied correctly. Now I can chose a knot that fits my collar line and the thickness of the tie.
What this book doesn't cover is the art of the tie. Ties are the most artistic part of a man's wardrobe and yet this book ignores the design element of the fabric and focuses on the knot tied about the neck to hold the tie in place. There is an introductory section on the history of neck cloths that traces them back to an ancient Chinese emperor and discusses all the major precursors to the "long tie." Then the authors, who are both physicists, give a brief introduction to Topology and its branch, Knot Theory, and we are off to the fun. Using higher mathematics and a few basic assumptions about ties that they call "constraints" they come up with (you guessed it) 85 ways to tie a tie.
Although I have read the whole book, I have not tied all the knots so I can't vouch for this next part. They added additional "constraints" for balance and symmetry, and narrowed these 85 down to 13 that meet their demanding criteria. Even if they are right and none of the others are superb, 13 is enough to make a boring routine into an exciting choice. Still there is the thrill of the undiscovered in the 72 they rejected. One of them may be the perfect knot for that beautiful silk Indian block print tie that hasn't looked good with either of my two knots, but that I love too much to throw away. I have finally learned the names of my two original knots and learned enough about tie knots to recognize some of the more famous knots I see on others.
The book is illustrated with black-and-white photos of the famous and not-so-famous wearing various knots in their ties and has the most wonderful diagrams that make tie knots a joy to learn. A great book for any man who wears a tie on a regular basis.

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