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How to tie a bow tie and look classier than James Bond

Updated on October 27, 2011

When should I wear a bow tie?

Bow ties used to be reserved for only the most formal occasions. They were generally only found at weddings or dinner parties. They are festive, so they generally were not (and still are not) seen at funerals. They are more difficult to tie than a regular tie, but there is also only one knot that you need to learn.

As with normal dress ties, I do not recommend clip-on bow ties. Not only is it unbecoming if your clip-on becomes exposed as such, but an untied bow tie draped around the collar looks almost as cool as a well-tied bow tie. At the end of the night, you can untie your bow tie, loosen up your collar and still look like a million bucks.  

How to tie a bow tie

This knot is not as hard as it looks. Start with the bow tie draped around the collar of your shirt, which should be either a tuxedo shirt or a collared shirt that looks good with your tie choice. The end on your right side should hand down a few inches longer than the end on your left side. Just a few inches. Cross the longer end OVER the shorter end. Bring the longer end up and through the center.  Make sure it's pretty tight around your neck now. You won't be able to adjust the tightness later.

Now things start to get tricky. The shorter end that is hanging down over your chest will have that curvy shape that looks sort of like a female body from the neck to the upper thigh. Fold that bottom part (the upper thigh) up to about the neck (where the really thick part gets skinny. This part of your tie will now have what you'll recognize as the bow tie shape. Now we're going to take the long part of your tie that we had brought up through the center down and across the middle of this bow you've created with the shorter end. If you were holding the longer end in your mouth all this time while we made that little bow with the shorter end, have a friend wipe the spit off. 

Ok, what we should have now is bow in the middle of your neck with a loose piece of tie (what was originally the longer end from your right side) draped down the center of it. Notice how the part of the loose end hanging below the bow has that familiar curvy female shape. Fold that loose end just as we did before with the shorter end. Now it looks like you have 2 bows, but one is vertical. Take that vertical bow you just created and move it around the back of the horizontal bow. Notice that there's a loop at the center of the back of the horizontal bow (created when we first went over and up with the long end of the tie in our very first step). You've got to tuck half of what was your vertical bow through that loop and carefully adjust it so that you're two bows are now one on top of the other. You've done it! You just tied a bow tie!

Once you learn it practice it 10 times to make sure you've got it right. Then do the same thing again tomorrow to make sure you remembered everything. It should now be part of your permanent memory.  

And now the bow tie tying videos you were promised:

This video is good until about 1:35, when they go way too fast to understand what's going on

GQ even made a guide to tying a bow tie

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