How to Tie a Bow Tie: Our Easy Step-by-Step Guide

how to tie a bow tie

Written by Tanya Zhang

Elegant, stylish, and undeniably sophisticated, the bow tie is a timeless accessory that has graced the necks of dapper gentlemen for generations.

Whether you're preparing for a formal event, attending a wedding, or simply looking to add a touch of class to your everyday attire, learning how to tie a bow tie is a skill worth mastering. While it may seem daunting at first, with a little patience and practice, you'll be effortlessly tying the perfect bow tie in no time.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll take you through the step-by-step process of tying a bow tie, demystifying the art, and ensuring that you not only achieve a well-tied bow tie style but also exude confidence and finesse.

From understanding the different parts of a bow tie to mastering the intricate motions required, we'll equip you with the knowledge and techniques necessary to tie a flawless bow tie knot. So, dust off that bow tie you've been eyeing and get ready to elevate your style and own bow tie game as we embark on this sartorial journey together.

Whether you're a seasoned tie connoisseur looking for a refresher or a novice venturing into the world of bow ties for the first time, our step-by-step instructions will provide you with the guidance you need.

So, straighten your collar, adjust your mirror, and let's delve into the art of tying a bow tie. Be sure to check out our separate guide on different ways to tie a tie.

Types of Bow Ties

First, let's talk about the two most common types of bow ties:

  1. Self-tie bow tie: The self-tie bow tie, also known as a "freestyle" or "tie-it-yourself" bow tie, is a classic and timeless choice. It is favored by those who appreciate the art of tying a bow tie themselves. This type allows for customization and provides a sense of authenticity and craftsmanship.

  2. Pre-tied bow ties: The pre-tied bow tie is a popular choice for its convenience and ease of use. It comes pre-tied and is adjustable with a clip or hook at the back. This type is ideal for those who want a ready-to-wear option without the need for tying it themselves.

  3. Butterfly bow tie: This is the most traditional and formal style of bow tie. It has a wide, symmetrical shape that resembles the wings of a butterfly when tied. It is commonly worn for formal occasions such as black-tie events.

  4. Batwing bow tie: The batwing bow tie has a slimmer and more angular shape compared to the butterfly style. It is less formal and has a more modern and streamlined appearance.

Black bow ties are often worn with white dress shirts with crisp collars that stand up. These are our favorite white dress shirts from Nimble Made because of their unique slim fit. Most of their fabrics are made of 100% cotton which will give a long, comfortable wear to pair with your bow tie.

They come in a variety of colors, fabrics, and designs. Here's a separate guide on color combinations for men. When in doubt, stick to solid colors with high contrast like a black bow tie with a white shirt or a dark dress shirt with a light bow tie.

Next in this article, we'll dive deep into a step-by-step of how to tie a bow tie shape.


How to Tie a Bow Tie

Let's dive into the main reason we're here. Here are the steps on how to tie a bow tie shape.

Step 1: Drape the bow tie

Start with the bow tie draped around your neck, with one end longer than the other. The longer end should hang down twice as low as the shorter end.

Step 2: Cross the ends

Cross the longer end over the shorter end.

Step 3: Create a knot

Bring the longer end up through the loop between your collar and the neck loop of the bow tie, creating a simple knot. This knot should resemble the shape of the letter "T."

Step 4: Fold the shorter end

Fold the shorter end of the bow tie horizontally to create the front shape of the bow tie.

Step 5: Fold the longer end

Take the longer end and fold it horizontally, laying it on top of the shorter end, creating the back of the bow tie.

Step 6: Hold the center

Hold the folded parts together in the center, between your thumb and forefinger, to maintain the shape.

Step 7: Bring the longer end down

While holding the center, bring the longer end back down in front of the folded parts.

Step 8: Fold the longer end

Fold the longer end in half horizontally and hold it against your chest with one hand.

Step 9: Lift the front part

Take the folded front part of the bow tie and lift it up, creating a loop behind it.

Step 10: Insert the longer end

Hold the loop in place and bring the folded longer end down, tucking it into the loop you just created from behind. This will form a second loop.

Step 11: Adjust the loops

Adjust the loops and the folded ends to create a balanced and symmetrical bow tie shape. Tighten or loosen the loops until you achieve the desired bow shape.

Step 12: Conceal the strap

Once you're satisfied with the shape, hold the bow tie in place and flip up your collar to conceal the adjustable strap.

Congratulations! You've successfully tied a bow tie. With a bit of practice, you'll become more comfortable and efficient at tying it.


When to Wear a Bow Tie

black bow tie with suit jacket for formal dress code attire

Bow ties are typically associated with more formal or semi-formal occasions. Here are some common situations and events where wearing a bow tie is appropriate:

  1. Black-tie events: Bow ties are a classic choice for black-tie events, such as formal galas, weddings, or charity balls. When the dress code calls for black-tie attire, a black bow tie is an essential accessory.

  2. Weddings: Bow ties are commonly worn by grooms, groomsmen, and guests at weddings. They add a touch of elegance and sophistication to the formal attire.

  3. Formal parties and receptions: If you're attending a semi-formal or formal party or reception, particularly those with a dress code specifying formal or semi-formal attire, a bow tie is a stylish choice. If you're going with tuxedo, you can also consider a cummerbund.

  4. Business and professional events: Bow ties can be worn in professional settings, particularly in more formal industries or when attending important business meetings or conferences.

  5. Theater and performing arts events: Bow ties are sometimes worn by performers or patrons of theater productions, concerts, or other performing arts events. They can contribute to a polished and sophisticated look.

It's worth noting that bow ties can also be worn casually, depending on the overall style and vibe you want to achieve. They can be a trendy accessory for fashion-forward individuals who like to experiment with their personal style.

Ultimately, the decision to wear a bow tie depends on the occasion, dress code, and your personal preference.

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