How to Tie a Bow Tie
Nothing separates the men from the boys – and the waiters – quite like a self-tied bow tie. And the best part is that you already know how to do it because it is the same as tying your shoelaces. By combining the best of many other how-to guides with a little-known haberdasher's trick that reduces the whole process to child's play, the instructions below provide everything you need to add the ultimate panache to your black-tie ensemble.
If you have an adjustable model, insert the hook on one end of the strap into the slot on the other end corresponding with your neck size.
If your shirt has a turndown collar, flip the collar up just as you would before tying a long necktie.
If your shirt has a bow tie loop (see Black Tie Shirts), remember to slip the tie through the loop before starting.
The Practice Technique
As mentioned, a bow tie is actually tied just like a shoelace (or gift bow) so the sooner you can visualize that concept the sooner you'll master the technique. This sounds simple enough except that shoelaces are not tied under the chin; a knot easy enough for a child to tie becomes a very different endeavor when one is forced to execute it in a mirror. To familiarize yourself with the process without having to rely on a reflection, tie the bow tie around your thigh instead of your neck because it has roughly the same circumference but is situated within your line of sight. You can use the printed instructions below but rotate the illustrations upside down to better reflect how the process will feel when executed under the chin later on.
Before starting you may want to download and watch the video clip on the right to get an idea of how the individual steps come together to create the final product and to better visualize the more finicky of those steps.
The Standard Technique
The photographs below show what you will see in a mirror when you follow the instructions. Obviously, the instructions will also work if you consistently exchange “right” for “left” and vice versa. (In fact, this is what the model did so that the photographs would appear properly oriented when viewed as mirror images.)
To help keep the process from appearing more daunting than it is, the individual steps have been grouped into four key stages. If you mess up a step, there's no need to start over from scratch – just return to the beginning of the corresponding stage.
Tie a knot to position the tie
Form the front half of the bow
Form the back half of the bow and knot the bow (the tricky part)
Finesse the assembled bow
Like a gift bow, a finished bow tie bow consists of two opposing loops and two opposing loose ends. Unlike a gift bow, a bow tie has to be folded over at a specific point when creating the loops in order to obtain the distinctive "wings".
|A butterfly bow tie is folded over at the widest part of the curve.|
The “bat wing” or “straight end” bow tie is folded over at the point just before it begins to taper.
|A pointed-end bow tie is folded at the same place as a butterfly or batwing bow tie. When the two sets of wings are overlapped during the tying process, the points of the loose ends will stick out beyond the straight edges of the loops. Because the two sets of wings need to align fairly precisely to create the proper effect, this style of tie will usually require more finessing than others.|
Single-Ended Bow Ties
|Bow ties with only one shaped end allow for a tighter knot but are very rare these days. As these illustrated instructions from a 1960s etiquette book show, the tying process ends after the knot is tied in step 7 – there is no need to manipulate the loose end to create a second folded wing. (This separate diagram shows how to tuck away the loose end into the shirt collar.) The end result is essentially just the front half of a regular bow.|