Mastering the bow tie isn’t as tricky as you may think. In our comprehensive guide, learn how to tie a bow tie with 8 easy-to-follow steps, and see how to wear one like 007’s style double.
We think that every accessory helps tell your story. We also know that some accessories speak louder than others (we’re looking at you, bow tie).
Donning a bow tie is like wearing a Facebook post – you’re actively saying something to the world. And like a FB post, people will react to your bow tie with thumbs up, smiles or even the physical version of the heart-eyes emoji… which we guess looks something like a mouth-open stare.
The bow tie that you choose will say something about your personality and story. It helped Frank Sinatra croon his way to stardom and James Bond defeat Mr. Big. Before you set out to fight or serenade, learning how to tie and style your bow tie is key.
Bow ties are the one area where size doesn’t matter (length, anyway). Most bow ties are sized to go along with average men’s neck sizes. The most common lengths are between 38-50 cm (15-20 inches).
Other than the length, the spread and neck also affect the final knot and shape. Understanding the 4 major parts of a bow tie will make you an informed buyer and ensure that you purchase a bow tie that is handsome and gives the look you’re after.
Adjust the length of the bow tie so it’s long enough to sit below your chest. You want one side to fit into the neck (the groove) of the other side.
Cross the long end over the top of the short end – cross at the strap just above the leaf.
Gently pull the long end up through the neck loop from underneath and pull tightly. Move the long piece out of the way by laying it over your shoulder.
Using the short end, fold it horizontally in front of the center. The neck of the bow tie should be in the middle and it should now start to resemble a bow.
This step is easier with a mirror… or a friend that has nothing else to do than help with your bow tie.
Fold the long end (it’s been chilling on your shoulder) down perpendicularly to the fold you just made with the short end. Be sure to only use the strap of the bow tie and not the leaf and focus on keeping it in the center.
Take the long end, fold it and pinch the two sides together. This will form a bow shape similar to the one made earlier.
Slide your finger through the loop at the top of the bow tie to create a bit of space.
Slide the now folded long end through the loop behind the horizontal piece (the folded end enters first). Ease it through gently and make sure the fabric doesn’t twist.
Slide the fabric through half way without pulling it too far – you want it to be even on both sides. This forms the back half of the bow.
Each side should have a folded part and a tip (straight or diamond, depending on the bow tie).
Once you’re satisfied with the evenness, tightly pull on each folded end. This will secure the knot.
You’ll probably notice that one side doesn’t match perfectly with the other. This is part of the charm of a freestyle bow tie and adds to its character.
If you’re desperate for perfection, ignore Steps 1-8 and shop our selection of symmetrical pre-tied bow ties.
While it’s completely fine if your bow tie is a bit asymmetrical, keeping an eye on basic bow tie proportions will make sure that people don’t confuse you with an escaped circus clown.
The self-tied bow tie is one that you tie yourself. While learning to tie a bow tie isn’t as difficult as mastering calculus, it does require practice, patience, and persistence.
And put concerns over perfect symmetry to rest. Most of the appeal and character comes from the uneven lines and shape – it’s called a freestyle bow tie for good reason. We're talking about a certain level of asymmetry… too much and you’ll look like you tied it in the dark while being chased by a wild boar. Not a good look.
Pre-tied bow ties are ones that are, by definition, tied for you. We happen to think that pre-tied bow ties look as fantastic as those you spend time tying yourself.
Yes, they do lack a bit of the rustic, uneven charm of a self-tied bow tie, but they make up for it in the time you save putting it on. All of our pre-tied bow ties come with adjustable neck straps. You could use that time doing something important, like watching every episode of Game of Thrones… again.
The clip-on bow tie is a bow tie with a metal clasp that clips onto your collar. It’s beyond easy to put on and, unfortunately, looks like it was easy. The main problem with a clip-on is that the hook puts the bow tie a bit too high around the neck. Not only is it difficult to look down with a bow tie crammed under your neck, but it also looks like you’re choking – neither of which are good.
While clip-on bow ties are great for children at Easter or your great grandfather at a wedding, you’ll be better suited to a pre-tied or self-tied bow tie.
The butterfly is the most classic bow tie shape and the most popular. When untied, it resembles the wings of a butterfly or the head of a thistle flower (it’s often referred to as the thistle bow tie shape). The butterfly bow tie can be narrow or wide.
This variation of the butterfly has pointed ends instead of flat ones. It’s also called a pointed-tip bow tie or diamond-tip bow tie.
The batwing bow tie has straight ends like a butterfly but is much slimmer in comparison. The name comes from the resemblance to a cricket bat – not to the animal or the Dark Knight. Batwings also go by the name ‘straight’ or ‘straight-end’ bow tie.
The contour of a batwing is quite subtle compared to the large dip of a butterfly bow tie.
The batwing shape can also be finished with a pointed end similar to the Diamond-Point Butterfly.
Looking fashionable in a bow tie is easy if you’re Bond, James Bond. It’s also easy to look like an adult 5-year-old if not tied and styled correctly.
A few simple guidelines will have you looking more 007 than just 7.
The average self-tie bow tie comes in one size and is a one-size-fits-all accessory. All of our pre-tied bow ties have adjustable straps and fit most adults.
As a rule, standard, freestyle bow ties are made to fit neck sizes ranging from 36-50 cm (14.5-20 inches).
To tighten a pre-tied bow tie, first put on the tie and secure it with the hook. Slide the buckle to find the perfect fit.
To tighten a self-tied bow tie, pull the folded parts on both sides to fasten the knot. Depending on the material, you may have to readjust throughout the evening.
You can wear a bow tie with any shirt that has a collar. As a general rule, if a necktie is appropriate, then a bow tie is also acceptable. Some formal affairs have set requirements for the dress code. Double check that wedding invitation or party invite before choosing neckwear.
Also as a general rule… if you want to wear a bow tie, then wear the bow tie! It’s your story – make your own rules.
Bow ties typically go under the collar of a dress shirt. It worked for 007 since 1962, and we’re not going to argue with Bond.
Wearing a bow tie under the collar is especially important with pre-tied bow ties because the collar hides the adjustable buckle.
This is a tricky question. The answer depends on a myriad of circumstances like… first impressions, the actual job, what else you’re wearing, is it a glow-in-the-dark bow tie that also plays music (we’ve seen that one!)... the list goes on and on.
Take a look at what other guys in that office are wearing and use your best judgment as to the appropriateness of wearing one. Bow ties are often seen as ‘statement pieces’ and may help you make a memorable first impression – keep that in mind and good luck at the interview!
Trendhim has a wide selection of wooden bow ties. Avoid open flames and wear one with pride!
If you’re wearing a tuxedo, there’s probably a dress code involved. If it’s black tie, wear a bow tie. If you’re wearing a pleated shirt with your tuxedo, wear a bow tie so you don’t hide the shirt studs. If there is no dress code and your shirt is not pleated, it’s fine to wear a tie.
Events with a white tie dress code require a (you guessed it) white bow tie. Black bow ties are typically required for black tie affairs.
You’ll also find white bow ties in many weddings as a way for the groom to stand out from his groomsmen.
We’re not sure why neckties are more often seen on men than bow ties. We do know that bow ties look different and cause people to take notice of you. The key to wearing one is to not do it every day… unless you’re trying to become the ‘bow tie guy’.
Bow ties and vests go together like ice cream sundaes and cherries. Delicious.
As for braces… your bow tie can easily be seen as an old-timey accessory. Keep that in mind when you pair with suspenders or even a flat cap. It’s a good idea to choose one ‘statement’ accessory and go with that.
It all started with Croatian mercenaries in the 17th century. The French elite liked the scarves they wore around the collars, copied the style and the ‘cravat’ was born. Add years of style, trends, and manipulation and you’ve got the self-tied bow tie we all know and love.
The waiter’s bow tie is different because it’s on the waiter. Your bow tie is different because you’re not walking around delivering soup to a room full of people.
Clip-on bow ties are not tacky if you’re 5. Maybe even 6. If you’re not hanging artwork on your mom’s fridge, then you’re not encouraged to wear a clip-on bow tie.