The Tie Tuck: Trendy or Terrible?


During my recent adventures in Denver, I had an interesting conversation with a friend about the etiquette move that I'll call the "tie tuck." As I sometimes do, I gave my heartfelt opinion on the issue in no uncertain terms. No, I said. No, no, no, to the tie tuck.

Later on during the same trip, I told the story -- and was met with a barrage of questions from another friend who decided to play devil's advocate. He swiftly pointed out that I do not often wear a tie, so I am not familiar with the intricacies of, say, eating a bowl of soup or a particularly juicy burger with an expensive piece of silk dangling from my neck. He raised a good point.

To be clear, the tie tuck is when a man unbuttons one button of his shirt and sticks the end of his tie into the resulting opening. This is done while eating, so that said tie doesn't straggle in the soup or become marred by flying marinara sauce.

So, now that I've given this some thought, I decided to do my homework. What I've found is that the etiquette powers that be are somewhat divided on this point. Good work, Ryan, for cutting to the heart of an etiquette dilemma!

Here are the schools of thought:

Pro Tie Tuck thoughts:
  • Some men say that their fathers taught them this after learning it at various Ivy League schools. Ivy League schools tend to be untrumpable bastions of etiquette, as it were. (Go Quakers!)

  • Getting ties cleaned is a risky proposition. It doesn't always work and it is not always done well. This ensures that your ties stay clean.

  • It is common practice at business lunches. Just because it isn't in the etiquette books doesn't mean it has not become acceptable and normal. Case in point: When is the last time you saw a fish fork?

  • I eat, therefore I tuck. And, it's better than tossing it over one shoulder.

  • This is actually very trendy right now. All the cutting edge men in Scandinavia do this all the time. Some people are calling it the "Manhattan Tuck."

Anti Tie Tuck thoughts:

  • Just don't do it. Your body would have to be at a 45 degree angle for your tie to roam around near the sauces and soups. Use good judgment about what you order, good posture, and that handy thing they call a napkin, and you'll be just fine.

  • This shows a lack of respect for the people you're dining with. Order food that isn't risky for your tie, and eat your drippy sandwiches or bowls of soup another time.

  • The tie tuck indicates your lack of confidence in your ability with a fork and knife.

  • Yes, people do it, but it's tacky.

  • How could it be trendy to tuck your tie into your shirt? Is this the etiquette apocalypse?

To be honest, I'm more confused than ever. The fact that I found this debate lurking on my favorite fashion blog, The Sartorialist, leads me to believe that there is no right answer to this question. So, to that end, Ryan, I retract my answer. I think you're probably right to tuck when you feel comfortable doing so. And until I start wearing ties, Annie Hall style, I'll reserve judgment.

So...I guess that leaves here: Happy tucking (or not tucking), my friends.

PS: The awesome tie above is from Vineyard Vines:

PPS: The Sartorialist rocks:


Beauty Maven said...

The fact that you had a debate about this is hillarious and I am sad that I missed it!

James said...

There are a few universal truths where men’s attire is concerned. Never button the bottom button of your jacket, dress shirts are not sized S, M, L and XL and the following. The 'tie tuck' is a functional choice and is perfectly valid under certain circumstances. Lunch is not one of them.

If you're driving a '52 MG TD, go ahead and tuck to keep the tie out of the wind. If you’re touring a machine shop and the tie poses a real threat to life and limb, by all means, tuck. Some uniform regulations require that the tie be tucked when worn without a jacket. Better to tuck then risk disciplinary action.

Tucking a tie during a meal is roughly equivalent to the 'limp fish handshake'. It shows a lack of self confidence and possibly a lack of good judgment. If you're not sure about your ability to keep soup off of your tie, order a salad instead. If you're not confident in your mastery of the knife and fork, just tuck your napkin in to your collar and be done with it. This is particularly true during a business lunch which is after all, business.

Proper Paige said...

That is the best comment. Ever.

Anonymous said...

I tend to tuck my paper napkin in my collar during meal times if I am wearing nice clothes or a tie. Why risk ruining expensive clothes. My dad forced us kids to tuck our paper napkins in our collars growing up, so I guess that is how I got into this habit. At least I don't walk around with stained clothing!
Tyler R.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a military family and neatness was everything. Dad insisted that us kids had our clothing protected during meals. This meant we had to wear a paper napkin tucked around our necks and another one across our laps. This was dad's two-napkin rule. Our clothes did stay stain-free.


Anonymous said...

I also grew up in a military family and neatness was everything. I had to wear my napkin tucked in my collar during most meals because dad said so. I never had to worry about ruining a shirt or tie because the napkin took care of this. I know the proper ettiquitte is napkin on the lap, but this was not a choice when I was growing up.

Ted R.

John Giordono said...

Talk to your dentist about getting some of those clips that keep your napkin in place around your neck. These work great for protecting shirts and ties and I keep one in my pocket so I can use it at restaurants,too. No more ties or white shirts ruined and no more expensive dry cleaning because of spaghetti sauce or ketchup.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, who cares.. live and let live

Anonymous said...

It seems there is quite a bit of misinformation as to the reasoning behind the tie tuck in the military. Its not to keep the tie out of the way for any purpose. It is tucked simply because when you have 100 men tying their ties they all end up with different lengths. When you are trying to get the group to have a uniform look, tucking the tie ensures that every tie is the same length, i.e. not some above, some below, and some right at the belt buckle.

Ramie Craders said...

It actually depends on the situation. If you need to have it tucked and more formal looking then do. If it's okay to hang it loose then do. Simply conform to the situation and you will not have a problem whether you should tuck it in or untuck.

Tom said...

Hello from the year 2011! I decided to Google "tie tucked in your shirt" because I've been doing it forever ... mainly when I go outside because I hate having it blowing around in the wind (I live in Chicago where it is very windy [despite what you've heard about the 'real' meaning of 'Windy City']) I get looks, I get compliments, I get attention, and I see others that I see day in and day out adopting the practice. Some days I will leave my tie tucked in all day, a la law enforcement or miliatry-style. I see nothing wrong with tucking your tie and, as I noted, I've been doing it for the better part of 30 years. Thank you for this article and the chance to comment. Have a terrific day!

Anonymous said...

How about using a tie clip? :)

Garion said...

I'm a teacher. I tuck to keep my tie out of bunsen burners with their deadly invisible flames. And since I started doing this I've gone on to do it just beccause it looks cool. The tie is a symbol of submission, it's good to make it your own. And in fairness there's nothing cool about a tie. If you're a person who's grown to think ties are cool, it just goes to show how very square a person you've become. Tuck it away and keep your look neat.

Anonymous said...

I usually tuck a paper napkin in my collar during meals so my shirt and tie (if I have a tie on) are protected. Never understood why people wear napkins on laps when shirts are what really need protection. If you want to save your clothing wear two napkins. One tucked around your neck and one in your lap. If you don't spill or splash anything, save the paper napkins and re-use. You also get a big savings on dry cleaning and stain removers.

Anonymous said...

In ROTC we were required to always wear a paper napkin tucked around our shirt collar while we ate. This was something that taught us about keeping our uniforms neat and clean. So if it is good enough for the military it is good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

I am an architect of a certain age... Ties were once tucked to avoid graphite marks or ink stains as the draftsmen worked over a large drawing.....rolling the tie up 1/3 and inserting Ono a shirt pocket was another tie preserving strategy.