In this quick guide, you will learn how to tie a bow tie yourself. While pre-tied bow ties are convenient, their overly-perfect finish is often a dead-giveaway and can appear childish.
Meanwhile, self-tied bow ties have their own personality and panache. Additionally, you can undo it and let it hang around your neck at the end of a party like Frank Sinatra!
This page offers step-by-step instructions on how to tie a bow tie. If you’re looking for other information on bow ties such as proper fit, the best bow ties, different silhouettes, and styling tips, please see our guide to bow ties.
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How Do You Tie A Bow Tie?
So you’ve finally broken down and decided you want to wear bow ties. Congratulations! Though bow ties are classic pieces that have been in use for decade after decade, they are still quite rare compared to neckties. In choosing to don them, you’ll join the ranks of men who demonstrate their style by showing an aggressive disregard for fitting in.
There’s little more stylish than not giving a damn and looking good while doing it. A bow tie is one way to achieve that end.
Welcome to the fold. Or tie, as it were.
Anyway, follow the graphic below to tie your bow tie, and see the step-by-step instructions we’ve written out if you need further guidance. We find that it’s sometimes helpful to try this method out with the bow tie around your leg just above the knee, just to get the motions down.
Note that this method will work for any bow tie regardless of its shape (butterfly, batwing, or diamond point).
Starting with each blade length even around your neck, cross right blade over the left.
Loop right blade up behind where the blades cross in front of your throat and pull taut against your neck.
Lift the left (now lower) blade up, fold it in half, and angle it horizontally. It should look like part of a bow.
Pull the right (now top) blade over the centre of the left, which will begin forming the knot.
Holding the right blade in place with your hand, hold the folded end of the other blade in your other hand and bring the lower blade back up behind the knot.
A loop will have formed behind the knot at this point. Pass the right blade (the one you just pulled down and started forming a knot with) through this loop in the same way you would when tying shoelaces.
Adjust. Note that your bow tie will and should look a bit askew.
How A Bow Tie Should Look
You’ll notice in step seven above that we mention that your bow tie, when finished, should look a bit askew. We know that this seems a bit counter-intuitive, so we’d like to go into some more detail.
We’re paraphrasing, but Glenn O’Brien once said that truly stylish men look like they got dressed without studying a mirror. His meaning, of course, was that true style came from, in part, looking natural and unstudied. Like it’s so much a part of you that you didn’t even have to try (although obviously, you did).
As it relates to bow ties, this concept means that it should look a little off. It can be asymmetrical, it can droop a bit, whatever. That’s how the world knows you tied it yourself. Pre-tied bow ties are always too perfect, too symmetrical, to look like the wearer has any panache or independent sense of style.
Therefore, we’re not being dramatic when we ask you to avoid pre-tied bow ties like the plague. Furthermore, if you can tie your shoelaces like an adult, you can tie a bow tie like one, too.
Though we love bow ties and strongly encourage any man to wear them, they run the risk of looking costume-y enough as it is. Wearing a pre-tied tie is a surefire way to venture into costume territory.
If you’re not sure where to get the best self-tying bow ties, head to our guide to the top 10 best bow tie brands!
Tying a bow tie will require some patience and practice on your part. While the time investment will vary from person to person, the result pays off in dividends.
If you’re interested in more learning, check out some of our related guides: