How to Tie a Bow Tie: Easy Step-by-Step Video

Unsure how to tie a bow tie? Follow our how to tie a bow tie video and easy step-by-step instructions.
The Knot
Updated Apr 09, 2020

From fancy weddings to semiformal dinner parties, a variety of occasions call for a bow tie. These butterfly-shaped accessories allow men and women to express their style and personality:Bow ties offer a sleek and sophisticated look when paired with a formal tuxedo, or they can add a pop of pizzazz to a vest or jacket for more relaxed occasions. While some brands offer clip-on bow ties or pre-tied bow ties, chances are, you'll prefer to tie your own. Although the process may seem daunting to a first-timer, our step-by-step video and instructions make tying a bow tie fast and easy.

When to Wear a Bow Tie

Bow ties are appropriate for white-tie and black-tie events. For these very formal occasions only white and black bow ties are appropriate, as the name indicates. Semiformal affairs offer an opportunity to experiment further with color and texture, but because these events are still somewhat formal, people should steer clear of bold patterns and colors that are too bright. Plaids and tweeds make good options for semiformal affairs. Casual events allow people to wear whatever style, color and pattern they please, from seersucker and velvet to polka dots and stripes.

Types of Bow Ties

Bow ties come in a variety of sizes and styles to complement different facial features and outfits. People commonly choose from five types:

  1. Standard butterfly bow tie (or thistle tie): Found in the men's department of many clothing stores, a standard butterfly bow tie features wings that measure between 2.25 and 2.75 inches. This classic tie works well for any facial structure and is a good choice for formal occasions, especially in solid neutral colors like white, black, gray, navy or brown.
  2. Large butterfly bow tie: Featuring wings measuring 3 to 3.5 inches, the large butterfly bow tie looks best on people with a wider neck and facial structure. Because of its size, it should be worn in solid colors for a formal event. In bold prints and colors, this tie offers a fun and whimsical look for more casual wear.
  3. Batwing bow tie: The batwing bow tie features narrow wings measuring 1.5 to 2 inches. Some people prefer this thinner style for formal occasions, while others may feel as though it offers an appearance that is not formal enough. The batwing style looks best on people with a thin facial structure and collar size.
  4. Diamond point bow tie: Offering stylish diamond points at the ends, the diamond point bow tie delivers a unique asymmetrical appearance for formal events. This style of tie comes with wings of varying heights.
  5. Rounded club bow tie: Because the rounded club bow tie features unusual rounded ends, it's often chosen by people looking to stand out in the crowd. This tie also comes in varying sizes.

Sizing a Bow Tie

Before tying a bow tie, it's important to get the correct size. Many bow ties come in one size that fits all necks, but other bow ties have adjustable features such as buttonholes or sliders. To measure neck size, place a well-fitting dress shirt on a bed or tabletop with the collar laying flat. Use a sewing or tailor's measuring tape to determine the number of inches from the center collar button all the way around the collar band. This determines neck size, and bow ties should be adjusted to match.

Tying a Bow Tie

People learning how to tie a bow tie need a tie, dress shirt or tuxedo shirt, and mirror. Tying a bow tie involves nine simple steps. After practicing several times, the process becomes second nature for a quick and easy style.

  1. Put the dress shirt or tuxedo shirt on. Button it to the top and stand in front of the mirror with the bow tie in hand. Place the bow tie around the neck, making sure that the right end falls about 1.5 inches lower than the left end.
  2. Holding both ends of the bow tie, cross the longer end over the shorter end.
  3. Loop the longer end up through the neck hole. Adjust the tightness of the tie for a comfortable fit.
  4. Putting the longer end aside by flipping it up over the shoulder, double the shorter end at the widest part so it resembles a bow and lays sideways across the collar.
  5. Holding the bow shape with one hand, retrieve the other end and pull it down over the center of the bow shape with the other hand. At this point, the tie resembles a bow tie from the front.
  6. Bring the sides of the bow together in front with one hand; pinch them and pull. This creates a hole behind the bow.
  7. Use the other hand to make another bow with the longer end of the tie by doubling it like the first bow.
  8. Push this bow through the hole.
  9. Pull on the folded ends of each bow to tighten the knot of the bow tie.
how to tie a bow tie

Give the bow tie the final finishing touches by gently tugging at the folded ends and adjusting the flat ends to make sure both sides are even. Adjust your collar if needed, and enjoy your achievement and the personal style a bow tie delivers.

Whether for a casual or ultra-formal occasion, bow ties offer a unique and personal fashion statement. For people that enjoy wearing them, learning how to tie a bow tie is a process worth knowing. Five easy steps result in a style accessory surging in popularity. People looking for tips on tying straight ties can view our How to Tie a Tie article for quick and easy instruction.

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