A Gentleman’s Guide on How to Tie a Bowtie

Did you just buy a bowtie for a special event? Bowties are timeless, regal, and sophisticated. But, as cool as bowties can be, tying one is not always a piece of cake. 

Maybe men make the mistake of thinking you can tie a bowtie just like you would a bow on a shoelace. But, this isn’t the case. 

Check out this gentleman’s guide on how to tie a bowtie to learn how it’s done. 

What is a Bowtie? 

Before we talk about how to tie a bowtie, let’s first talk a bit more about what exactly a bowtie is. A bowtie is a type of necktie that’s made of a ribbon of fabric that’s tied around the collar of the neck. 

Bowties first began appearing on the men’s fashion scene at the beginning of the 19th century, and by the 1880s, they had become a staple in men’s fashion. Since its first wave of popularity, the bowtie has seen many changes in form and function. 

While bowties were popularized in the 1800s, men first started adorning their necks with fabric in the 17th century. Historians have been able to pinpoint the first use of neckties in Croatia during the Thirty Years War, which took place between 1618 and 1648. 

After the war, the French soldiers brought the look back home with them. And by the 1700s, most upperclassmen in Europe had adopted this look. 

In October of 1886, designer Pierre Lorillard created a new style of formal wear which he debuted on himself at a formal ball at his family’s estate in Tuxedo Park. 

His outfit (which was later named the “tuxedo” as you may have guessed) became an instant hit and changed the men’s fashion game forever. Lorillard paired his tuxedo with a black bowtie, and this is where the phrase “black tie attire” or “black-tie affair” originated. 

Before Lorrilard, most men wore tailcoats to formal events. Throughout the years, the bowtie has been revamped, redefined, and restyled, and nowadays, you can find a bowtie to suit any occasion or outfit. 

How to Tie a Bowtie

Now that you know a bit about the origin of the bowtie, let’s talk about how to tie one. While tying a bowtie does take some practice, the good news is, it’s a lot easier to tie than a traditional tie. Here are the steps:

  1. Place the bowtie around your neck and allow one side to hang a few inches lower than the other. The side that hangs lower should be around the right side of your neck. 
  2. Cross the longer end of the bowtie over its shorter end. Then, bring the bowtie’s longer end underneath the bowtie’s shorter end and out from the center, just as you would when tying your shoelaces. 
  3. To keep the half knot tight, place one finger on it. Then, fold the bowtie’s shorter end in half and place the longer end over the shorter end. By now, the fabric should start to resemble a bowtie. 
  4. Pull the longer end of the bowtie through the loop at the back of the bow, just as you would when tying your shoes. Push and pull along the fold to make sure it loops correctly. 
  5. Gently pull on both ends to tighten the knot, and adjust the bowtie as needed. 

Follow these simple steps, and your bowtie will be ready to go! 

Understand the Types of Bowties 

Of course, not all bowties need to be adorned following the steps above. This is because there are different types of bowties available. The steps above are for self-tie bowties, which are also known as freestyle bowties. 

These are proper and standard bowties that you tie yourself. Once tied, the bowtie develops its own natural lines and shapes and therefore, gives your outfit more charm as the final look will be slightly asymmetrical. 

While learning to tie a proper self-tie bowtie isn’t rocket science, it definitely takes some practice. If you feel like you’re not always going to have the time or patience to tie a bowtie on your own, we also suggest that you invest in some pre-tied bowties. 

These are exactly what they sound like- bowties that are already tied for you. These bowties are also suitable for children or those who lack the dexterity to tie a tie on their own. 

You can also purchase clip-on bowties, which are the least classy of all of the options. 

Tips for Styling a Bowtie 

In addition to knowing how to tie a bowtie, you also need to know how to style one. Here are some tips to follow:

  • To avoid looking too old-fashioned, avoid pairing your bowtie with other old-world accessories such as vests, flat caps, or braces
  • Don’t fret if your bowtie is a bit uneven around the edges, as asymmetry gives your look character
  • Opt for a silk or wool bowtie for formal events and a cotton or linen bowtie for more casual events
  • To avoid being too matchy-matchy, make sure your pocket square doesn’t perfectly match your bowtie
  • Pair your bowtie with a checkered or plaid shirt for a more casual look
  • Make sure your bowtie is the same width as your face when knotted so it doesn’t appear too big or too small
  • Don’t be afraid to choose a different patterned shirt to go with your bowtie (for example, you can pair a floral bow tie with a striped shirt) 

Also, make sure you wear the bowtie under the collar- wearing it over the collar is a rookie mistake!

Ready to Rock a Bowtie? 

Now that you know how to tie a bowtie, it’s time to lace up! Before you know it, you’ll be rocking a bowtie for your next big event. 

For more men’s fashion tips and tricks, be sure to check back in with our blog.