Do you know how to tie a bow tie?
If you’re an average American guy, the answer’s probably no. That’s bad news.
When you’re invited to a black tie event, a bow tie is an expected part of the dress code. Trust me, you don’t want to be the only guy in the room wearing a clip-on.
Like the necktie, a clip-on option is out of the question, and having a poorly tied bow tie is even worse. You need to know how to avoid this!
The solution? Learn how to tie a bow tie before it's too late!
That’s where I come in.
In this article, we’ll be covering:
- When Should You Wear A Bow Tie?
- Tying A Bow Tie – Step-By-Step Guide
- How To Style A Bow Tie
#1. When Should You Wear A Bow Tie?
Some of history’s most remarkable men wore bow ties. Winston Churchill, Fred Astaire, and Charlie Chaplin to name a few.
For many white/black tie events – a bow tie is part of the required dress code. Yet, in today’s society, we see this unique garment less and less. Even on television, bow ties only appear on shows like Mad Men (that take place in the past!)
Gents – that doesn’t mean you can’t break the mold and wear one yourself!
What Are The Different Bow Tie Styles?
Butterfly Shape: The classic style of the butterfly shape should have wide ends and a small knot in the center. Fold the fabric at the broadest part of the curve.
Straight End: A straight end will be slightly wider at the tips than at the center. Fold over at the point just before the shape begins to taper.
Semi-Butterfly – Somewhere in between the butterfly and straight end bowtie. The Semi-Butterfly gets wider towards the ends of the tie but still has a rigid structure. Tie similarly to the straight end, but allow for more spread in the ’wings.’
Pointed: The two ends are bound to stick out beyond the straight edges of the loop. Fold at the broadest part of the curve and pay attention to the two sets of wings that need to align fairly precisely to create the proper effect.
When styled correctly, they can be an excellent accessory for men who want to boost their business casual outfits. Pair with a white shirt and a sports jacket for a unique take on standard office attire.
#2. How To Tie A Bow Tie – Step-By-Step Guide
Let’s start with the fundamentals.
The above infographic is a great visual guide on how to tie a bow tie. However, for you gents that prefer to read instructions, check out my simple step-by-step guide below:
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Step #1
Drape the bowtie around your neck, seams facing down, with the right end longer than the left.
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Steps 2&3
Place the longer right end of the bowtie over the shorter left end, making an X.
Loop the longer end behind the ‘X’ and pull tight. Leave the longer end on your shoulder.
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Steps 4&5
Fold the shorter end right and left to create a bow shape.
Holding the bow, bring the longer end down across the middle of the bow.
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Steps 6&7
Fold the longer end back towards the chest and pinch the fold.
Push it through the loop behind the shorter end to create two wings.
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Steps 8&9
Tug the bow loops behind the wings to tighten.
Adjust it until the bow is symmetrical.
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Step 10
Make final adjustments. Ensure it lies flat and horizontal.
To undo, pull the loose ends on either side and unravel the knot.
#3. How To Wear A Bow Tie
Often, men will opt for a pre-tied design with clip-on functionality. Pre-tied garments are convenient, but lack the personal style you can achieve when tying your own.
After all, it’s important to be able to adjust your tie. Different knot shapes suit different occasions!
How To Tie A Bow Tie: The Office
At the office, a certain amount of caution is required.
Sure, bow ties can make you stand out from the pack. Yet, you don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. Wearing a butterfly-style to the office will make you look pretentious and weird; it’s as simple as that.
However, a tastefully conservative straight-end can elevate an otherwise dull outfit. Wear your regular office attire but switch out your plain necktie for a spotted bow tie to add a touch of character to your smart-casual outfit.
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Weddings
Weddings are an excellent opportunity for a man to dress up and flex his formal-style muscles.
Typically, weddings aren’t as formal as black tie events. A tuxedo isn’t usually required so a man can experiment with different colors and suit styles.
For the bravest of men, a bow tie can be a great way to show off your heightened sense of style at a wedding. Wear it with a color-matched suit to stand out from the crowd and attract some positive attention.
Pro Tip: Find out what color theme the couple has chosen for their wedding day and match your bow tie to suit this theme.
How To Tie A Bow Tie: Black Tie Events
More often than not, a bow tie is a requirement for black tie events. In the most formal of occasions, a necktie just won’t cut it.
A tuxedo with high-shine black Oxfords and a white poplin, wing-collar shirt can be nicely finished with a butterfly style bow tie. The looser wings of the tie add great contrast to the otherwise sharp look of a well-tailored tuxedo.
There you have it, Gents. After only a few minutes of practice, you’re now well on your way to mastering the basics! Keep it up, and you’ll be a pro in no time at all!
I've also created this infographic to help you guys out – The Ultimate Guide To The Bow Tie:
But don't stop there! Why not broaden your skills? Click here to learn how to tie a neck tie in 18 different ways.
And here is even more – learn how to tie a bow tie on someone else!