by David Isle

The New York Post recently reported on a study concerning blood flow within the male body. The competition in this area of journalism being rather stiff, this study distinguishes itself by addressing blood flow to a man’s thinking head, rather than to his unthinking one. 

The study, reports the Post, finds that men wearing ties “had 7.5 percent less blood flow” to their brain. From this, the Post concludes that “comfortably dressed men may be smarter and higher-functioning than guys who wear ties.” This finding may arouse worry within the presumably blood-deprived brains of tie-wearing men. But in fact the Post has erected a false dichotomy. It is, in fact, possible to be both a comfortably dressed man and a man who wears a tie.

The study itself excluded this possibility. The tie-wearing group of men were directed to administer their neckwear using a Windsor knot (itself a grave mistake, but for stylistic reasons rather than functional) “tightened to the point of slight discomfort.” 

Discomfort in the service of fashion has a long history, as does documentation of the resulting health problems. In Oscar Wilde’s essay “On Dress”, he describes Catherine de Medici’s invention of the corset as “the climax of a career of crime.” But in the case of the tie, there is no need for discomfort and disability. The answer is simply a looser knot, and, perhaps more elusive, a shirt collar that fits.

There are three ways to get a shirt collar that isn’t uncomfortably tight. I will describe them from most difficult, expensive, and elegant to least.

The first way is to get bespoke or made-to-measure shirts. Most good shirtmakers, including G. Inglese through No Man Walks Alone (just email us), offer this service. This option has the advantage of giving you a shirt that fits well along every dimension, in whatever fabric and style you desire. The downside is that it costs more than a ready-to-wear shirt, and you have to wait a few weeks between ordering it and being able to wear it. 

The second way is to alter a ready-to-wear shirt. The key is to size the shirt by the collar, since it cannot be altered except by moving the top button, which allows only limited adjustment. Find a shirt that fits you comfortably about the neck; if it’s too big in the body or long in the sleeves, have it taken in. If it’s too small in the body or the sleeves, you’ll have to resort to the first option described above. Since after alteration ready-to-wear shirts end up being nearly as expensive as made-to-measure anyway, usually this isn’t the best option. The best candidates for ready-to-wear shirts are those who fit them well enough without alteration.

There is a third way, usually taken by someone whose shirts used to fit but now finds the collars strangely tight. Not that this has ever happened to me, but I have heard stories. This way involves leaving the top button of the shirt undone, and simply using the tie knot to close the collar. There may be some necessary compromise between the comfort of the tie knot and the closing of the collar, but this can be managed.

In any case, the important point is that you need not strangle yourself when wearing a tie. Besides being uncomfortable, it’s bad for your brain, and our intelligence is precarious enough as it is without being choked by an overaggressive Windsor knot.