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The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie: The Science and Aesthetics of Tie Knots Hardcover – October 3, 2000

4.5 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

New ways of tying a necktie appear rarely. Some 50 years passed between the introduction of the Windsor knot and the arrival of the Pratt knot in 1989. "Rather than wait another half-century for the next knot," Fink and Mao write, "we considered a more formal approach." And so they present 85 tie-tying techniques, each one shown in a drawing with instructions on how to achieve the desired result. They also offer a brief history of neckwear and photographs of famous figures wearing ties, among them Fred Astaire in a four-in-hand, Frank Sinatra in a Windsor knot and the Duke of Windsor not wearing a Windsor. But, being research physicists at the University of Cambridge, the authors are interested in more than sartorial versatility. They deal also with knot theory and topology. For the reader who wishes to probe tie-tying that deeply, they represent "knot sequences as random walks on a triangular lattice."



"In an elegant world, an irreproachable tie knot is an essential part of one's toilette; it does not matter whether the knot is simple or complicated, because the art is what counts. There are some knots which seem casual in appearance, but which have taken considerable labour before the mirror, and many a stamped foot, many an exclamation of impatience."
-- Doctor A. Debray Hygiene Vestimentaire, 1857

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Broadway; First Edition edition (October 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767906438
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767906432
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,089,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I started my current job, I checked to see if I would have to wear a tie. I do not like ties, but I did like _The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie_ (Broadway Books) by Thomas Fink and Yong Mao. There are indeed eighty-five ways to tie a tie, and they prove it, and they show them all. If you wear a tie, or know someone who does, and especially someone who does under protest, this is a useful and entertaining little book.
But how does anyone prove that there are eighty-five ways to tie a tie? Well, the genial authors explain: "Tie knots, we realized, are equivalent to persistent random walks on a triangular lattice." If that explanation strikes you as less than useful, you can turn to the appendix at the back of the book, where you will find the random walk explanation proved by means of equations with symbols and superscripts which I cannot reproduce here. Comes the explanation: "Our day job as theoretical physicists might have had something to do with it." It does not take a mathematician to enjoy this book, however. What the authors have done is to examine all the variations of how to tie a standard tie. This means that one leaves the little end alone and makes the big end travel around to form the knot. Having crossed the little end, the big end can go to the left of it, or right, or to the center (where the neck of the wearer is). That is three possible moves, and within each of the three fields, the big end may either go in toward the wearer or out away from the wearer, for a total of six moves in all, not counting the final move, which is always to pull the big end down through the knot to its final resting place. Each knot can thus be specified with permutations of six simple moves.
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Format: Hardcover
Publishers seem to have hit on a winning formula for non-fiction books in recent years. Take a seemingly esoteric subject, mix in lots of history, add plenty of anecdotes, keep it short, and print the book in a nice, compact form with expensive paper and lots of arty pictures. The best-selling Longitude by Dava Sobel led the way, now...repeated with this book on the physics of tie knots.
It's a brilliant idea for a book. Thomas Fink and Yong Mao are condensed-matter theorists at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge, and their work on tying knots made headlines around the world last year after it was published in Nature (1999, 398, 31). Using ideas from statistical mechanics, they worked out that there are 85 ways to tie a necktie. However, only 13 of these knots were deemed to be aesthetic on the grounds of "symmetry" and "balance". Three of these - the Windsor, the half-Windsor and the four-in-hand - were already widely known, whilst a fourth, dubbed the Nicky, was found to be a simpler version of the unaesthetic "Pratt", which was invented to much acclaim in 1989. This left nine brand new ways to tie a tie.
This book provides a full description of how to tie each of the 85 ties, with pictures of the 13 aesthetic ones. There is a history of tie-wearing - the Duke of Windsor apparently did not invent the Windsor - and a brief discussion of the science of knots. There are also some pictures of various celebrities wearing ties - Ernest Rutherford, it seems, favoured the four-in-hand.
So rather than publish what could have been a straightforward but possibly dull book about the science of knots, the authors have thought laterally to come up with an imaginative and clever book that must have had the publishers' marketing executives licking their lips. Other physicists who think they have a book inside them could do well to study this book's successful formula.
Martin Durrani, for Physics World.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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