How to Tie a Bow Tie

So, you want to know how to tie a self-tie bow tie?

Firstly, good on you for wanting to tie your own. Once you get it, you probably won't want to use pre-tied any longer. There's just something about tying your own - in both how it looks and how it makes you feel wearing it. Knowing that when you get asked 'did you tie that?', you'll be able to tell them (and show them) you did!

At the end of the night you can reveal you tied your own - untie and let it sit around the neck of your shirt.

But bow ties aren't just for black tie events now. They are increasingly popular at weddings, worn by the Groom, Groomsmen as well as guests. Just look in at any fashion magazine's wedding spreads and you'll see bow ties.

Just like ties, they can be worn to work as well. They're even practical for bar tenders and doctors because ties can get in the way of their work.

Sneaky trick to get that self-tie look without tying it yourself

 If you're not concerned with tying your own bow tie but want that end of night untied bow tie look, do this:

Get a pre-tied and self-tie bow tie in the same design. When you want to have it hanging around your neck untied, pop to the loo and take off the pre-tied bow tie. Then put the self-tie around your neck. Ta-da! Now most people will think you tied your own.

However, some 'in-the-know' can spot a pre-tied bow tie. So it's worth learning how to tie your own.

Just a couple of months ago I was where you are right now.

I couldn't tie a bow tie and was watching video after video, because I just couldn't get it right. In the end I had to use bits and pieces from various videos to understand what I had to do to tie a great looking bow tie.

Having finally got it, I realised most videos I watched glossed over or completely missed out the two most critical steps. So here I'm going to make sure you're clear on every step - including the one most people I've spoken to get stuck on.

If you've struggled and spent ages trying to tie the perfect bow tie, I'm going to get you to do it. Step by step. 5 steps in fact.

If you have time, it'll help to read through once without following along, so you have an idea of what's coming next.

So, let's get to it!

Important tying tip:  Stand in front of a mirror - it's much easier to do it this way

Step 1: Length

  • Too short and you won't be able to create the bow.
  • Longer = bigger, wider bow.

So length actually effects the shape and size of the bow tie you create. Personally I like my bow, to be pretty small and narrow. No wider than my glasses. That means the length has to be short. But it's a little trickier because everything is a lot tighter, so your tying needs to be on-point.

The takeaway point here is that it must be long enough so the narrow part of the bow tie (the neck band) must be able to cross over at the neck. See below.

Step 1. Length

Step 2. Tie The first knot

Unlike almost every other instructions I've seen, I'm not going to tell you to have one side lower than the other. It's more important to get this next part right.

Get the right hand side of the bow tie and find the part where the neck band ends and the bow starts, basically the part where it starts to widen after the neck band.

Step 2. Tie the first knot. Part 1

Put the left side over the right side. Then put the left end under right, pull up and tighten so that the tip of the bow shape is just below the collar button.

Ensure the knot is lined up with the collar button, so it's central.

It needs to be quite tight. If it's too loose now, it's difficult to tighten later, so make sure you have it as tight as is comfortable now.

At this point you should have the left side placed over your shoulder, a reasonably tight knot finishing just beyond the tip of the bow shape and the rest hanging down along the shirt buttons. Like this:

Step 2. Tie the first knot. Part 2

Step 3. Getting the bow tie shape

Place your right index finger behind the widest part (centre) of the right end of the tie (the part dangling down).

Step 3. Getting the bow tie shape. Part 1

Bring up and turn horizontal. This forms the front of your bow tie.

Step 3. Getting the bow tie shape. Part 2

Hold this with your thumb and forefinger. Thumb behind the middle of the bow shape and forefinger in front.

Now take the part you've got resting on your shoulder and bring it over the centre of the part you're holding, where your forefinger is.

Step 3. Getting the bow tie shape. Part 3

Step 4. tying the bow tie knot [First critical step]

When I first learnt to tie a bow tie, this is the part I got stuck on. So try not to rush it.

To make this final bow tie knot, keep your thumb behind what will be the front of your bow. Tight to the centre of your neck - by the collar button. And tighten the part hanging down over the front of it with your right hand.

Step 4. Tying the bow tie knot. Part 1.

Stick your thumb out the top of the loop slightly.

Step 4. Tying the bow tie knot. Part 2.

Now, you want to find the middle part (often the widest) of the piece in your right hand using your index finger.

Step 4. Tying the bow tie knot. Part 3.

Using your index finger, bring that piece up and behind the front of the bow you're holding in your left hand.

With this finger find the thumb that you're sticking out of the top of the loop in your left hand.

Step 4. Tying the bow tie knot. Part 4.

Now, using your thumb as a guide push through the top of the loop with your index finger (there's only one side with a loop at the moment). Push it out the other side. This will form the loop on the other side. Don't push it all the way through, ensure you keep the flat side on the left.

You should have a loose knot. It might not resemble a bow tie yet, or a poor bow tie. You might think you've gone wrong. Don't give up just yet. If you can poke your finger through a loop on the left and right of the knot, you're almost there.

Step 4. Tying the bow tie knot. Part 5.

Step 5. Adjustments. [Second critical and final step]  
Here comes The magic!

You can pull down your shirt collar at this stage.

Tidy up the loops of the bow tie by putting your finger through each one to straighten them out - particularly the one you just made in the previous step.

Step 5. Adjustments. Part 1.

Now we need to tidy and tighten. Put your left index finger through the loop on the left and your right index finger through the loop on the right.

Step 5. Adjustments. Part 2.

To tighten the bow tie knot, find the back of the right hand loop...

Step 5. Adjustments. Part 3.

and the front of the left hand loop....

Step 5. Adjustments. Part 4.

Now pull gently outwards making sure not to pull out the loose ends and spoil all your hard work!

To adjust the 'flat' sides of the bow tie (the loose ends) pull on the front of the loop or the loose ends themselves.

You'll find you'll need to alternate between tightening of the knot (pulling on the back of the right loop and the front of the left) and adjusting the loose ends (pulling on the loose ends themselves).
Do this until you're happy with the result.


Finding Your Bow Tie Style

Now you can tie your own bow tie, you can experiment a bit. Play with the length to create larger or smaller bows, for example.

The 'perfect bow tie' is whatever you want it to be. It's meant to be individual.

Show your personal style by choosing a bow tie design you like, in a shape you think will suit you. Wear it the way you like it. Wide. Narrow. Big knot. Small Knot. Wonky or Neat. It's completely up to you.

That's what's so unique and endearing about a bow tie.