A knotty problem solved

Until 1986 there were three main ways to tie a tie.

The easiest, and probably the most common,  was the ‘four-in-hand’knot.


The four-in-hand has an elongated shape, is less formal than some other knots and works well with thin or medium width ties. It does, however, have a lop-sided shape and is fairly small in size.

The ‘half windsor’ is larger and neater than the ‘four-in-hand’ but can also be a bit lop-sided.


Because it doesn’t use up a lot of tie, it is suitable for tall men who want to have a good length of tie left. It is more formal than the ‘four-in-hand’ but less formal than the Windsor.

The Windsor knot works best with longer and wider ties. It gives a good symmetrical, triangular knot that is larger than the ‘half-windsor’. This was a great knot for the 1970s when BIG was all that counted in tie knots. It is more formal than the other two knots and because of its size should be used with spread or half spread collars.  It is not suitable for a button down collar.

There were other knots available but these were the top three. Each had their strengths but if you wanted a neat, symmetrical knot that wasn’t too big you were struggling.

Then in 1986, along came the first new tie knot for 50 years! It was called the Pratt-Shelby (or sometimes the Shelby or the Pratt).


It was ‘invented’ in America by 92 year old Jerry Pratt and popularised by TV presenter Don Shelby. What it offers is a knot that is neat, symmetrical and not too large. It can be worn with most shirts and for most occasions. It is the only tie knot that I have used since discovering it in 1986.

How was it that Jerry Pratt was able to create this ‘perfect’ tie knot when so many others had tried and failed for so many years? The clue is in the picture above. You can see that in the parts of the tie above the knot (that go underneath the shirt collar) that the  tie seams are visible. Mr Shelby had approached the problem of tying a tie from a completely different perspective. He looked at the problem in a way that no-one else had done before. He began with the tie back to front ie with the seams showing. By starting from a completely different starting point to everyone else he was able to come up with a solution that no-one else had come up with.


Sometimes when we have an apparently insoluble problem it is because we have been looking at it from the wrong angle. If we can only turn our perspective around we may be able to find the answer. The challenges and problems that we face in life can be better dealt with if we look at them from the correct perspective. President  James E Faust said:  ‘ Look at everything through the lens of eternity. If you will do this, life will take on a different perspective.’


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