How to Tie a Bow Tie: An Illustrated Guide

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 16, 2012 · 62 Comments

in Accessories, Dress & Grooming, Visual Guides

Start with tie around neck, allowing the left end (A) to be a little longer than the right end (B). Cross end A over end B.  Take end A and tuck it up in the hole between your neck and tie.  Fold end B at widest part, holding it sideways. It should look bow-shaped.  Drop end A over folded end B. Fold end A up.  The tricky part. Pass folded end A under and behind folded end B on your left and through the loop behind folded end B.  Tighten knot by holding both folded ends and pulling carefully. Straighten as needed.

Check out our how to tie a bow tie video!

Tying a bow tie is a little trickier than tying a necktie, but once you learn how to do it, it’s a breeze. When I was learning how to tie a bow tie a few years ago, I was disappointed with the illustrated how-to guides out there. So Ted Slampyak and I put our heads together to create the visual how-to guide on bow tying I wish I had had when I was learning. While we think it does a good job of showing how to tie a bow tie, it will still take some practice and trial and error before you get it down pat.

With this guide and a bit of practice, you’ll be rocking a bow tie just like my man, Charles Osgood. I love CBS Sunday Morning.

{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ben April 16, 2012 at 6:29 pm

There are many instructional videos on YouTube as well. It’s how I learned.

2 Menachem April 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Think of it as tying shoelaces, but from behind.

3 Rob April 16, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Thank you for this! I’m excited to go try it out. I too found the other illustrated guides available confusing and have looked at a lot of Youtube videos but didn’t find them helpful. The problem with videos is that they really can’t show step 4, which is where I always mess up…

4 Zach April 16, 2012 at 6:46 pm

I’ve been waiting for you do one of these. I wear bowties all the time and learned how to tie them a while ago. There are definitely a manly part of any wardrobe. A part that is sadly lacking from most modern men’s wardrobes.

5 creesto April 16, 2012 at 6:48 pm

In the early to mid 80s, when I was a young urban professional, I took to hand-tie bowties, Stetson fedoras, Allen Edmonds shoes (when they were all handstitched), silk button braces…I was a walking ad for the Go-Go-Reaganaut years, and I had a HUGE impact on my dad’s business fashion! To this day, he still wears them! And I still have all the above mentioned accoutrements…it always pays to buy quality merch

6 Jeffrey Vasquez April 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

There’s actually a much easier way I use that I’ve never seen on any youtube video, so I created one myself. It involves using the front side instead of the back. Check it out here and please consider supporting my cause. I’m wearing a different bow tie for 1,000 consecutive days to raise awareness of the achievement gap!

7 Sugapablo April 16, 2012 at 7:36 pm

My grandfather was a pharmacist and always wore one because he said it was the only way tie someone could see nicely over his lab coat. :)

8 Hal April 16, 2012 at 8:22 pm

I wear bow ties for every tie kinda event except for funerals and job interviews. They stay out of the way (important if you’re leaning over moving parts or dirty stuff), and they don’t blow in the breeze. Since they’re a smaller piece of fabric, you can get a little crazier with the patterns and colors and not be “that guy with the crazy tie”.

One note on Step 5: I like to include a half twist when I push it through the loop. It helps to give the “wrap” over the middle of the tie a cleaner look. Play with it a bit, and you’ll see what I mean.

Oh, and don’t try to make it perfect. It needs to be ever-so-slightly imperfect so it doesn’t look clipped-on. Besides, half the fun of wearing bow ties is getting your much prettier half to straighten it up a bit for you.

9 Bill April 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm

I wear a bow tie once a week at work. It’s always a random day. Now people get a kick out of finding out that it’s “bow tie day”.

In the illustration above, in step 5, make sure that you tug “B” out of the way (to the man’s right…assuming we’re looking straight at him) in order to facilitate the “tricky part”. The tug creates a bit of a gap. Also remember to push the thinnest part of “A” — not the fat part, not the middle through that gap. The rest will follow.


10 David Hungate April 16, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Been wearing bow ties for years because, let’s face it, anyone can wear a regular necktie. Plus, you have the option at the end of the day to untie it, looking like Sinatra after an evening at the Sands.

A helpful hint was given to me when I was learning. Practice tying it on your leg, just above your knee. You can see what you are doing, you get a good feel for it and you can work out the details before attempting it around your neck.

11 GregJD April 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm

I just started wearing bowties and love them. I couldn’t get the “tricky part” until I saw a video that demonstrated it. One tip I can give is not to pull the end down the middle too tight. If you do, the the loop in the back will be too tight. Fold the two sides over the middle and pull away from your neck. You should be able to find the loop with your finger.

It also takes a bit of adjustment to get the length right before you start to tie. For me (I wear a fairly loose collar), the tie size is a full inch smaller than my collar size. Until I figured that out it didn’t come out right.

Hope that helps. Enjoy your new look and don’t forget to own it.

12 Dave April 16, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Not as easy as it looks! I’ve tied one several times, and I still have trouble. When I travel and plan to wear a bowtie, I always carry a spare long tie just in case I can’t get it. Still… when it works out, its worth it. Always gets a lot of compliments when I’m able to pull it off.

13 Andrew April 16, 2012 at 9:28 pm

I look forward to trying this method out. Most others are so confusing.

14 Chummy April 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm

Perhaps it’s just my browser, but is that an eye test at the top of this article, rather than the instructional graphic I was anticipating? It’s all blurry and illegible.

15 Darrell April 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm
16 Brendooon April 17, 2012 at 1:46 am

Ted’s toons are a real treasure!
Cartooning’s always been a very manly art, I reckon.
How ’bout a “so you want my job” article from Ted or one of his manly predecessors?

17 Timothy April 17, 2012 at 6:50 am

You know, this would have been absolutely fantastic A WEEK AGO when I spent several hours stressing over how to do it ;)

18 Ish April 17, 2012 at 8:21 am

Will enjoy giving it a try *own a few Bowties, never could wear them though*

Still waiting for Brett McKay to do a Video on it, like the great ones for the various ‘long tie’ knots

Either way, thanks

19 Ish April 17, 2012 at 8:22 am

Will enjoy giving it a try *own a few Bowties, never could wear them though*
Still waiting for Brett McKay to do a Video on it, like the great ones for the various ‘long tie’ knots
Either way, thanks

20 David Hibbert April 17, 2012 at 10:56 am

Wear them every day. Best tip I have is DON”T LOOK IN THE MIRROR until you are finished.

21 Jared April 17, 2012 at 11:46 am

Very informative.

I hate that I can’t wear them but my neck is too short/thick. To quote a tv show “it looks like somebody gift wrapped a stump”.

22 jeremy April 17, 2012 at 11:48 am

Love your instructions, I learned by practicing the knot around my leg and then trying on my shirt. The best place I have found for bow ties online is THe Bow Tie Club.

23 Gary House April 17, 2012 at 11:57 am

I haven’t wore a bow tie since the mid 90′s. This how-to has reminded me how fun it was to stand out in a crowd of long necks :-)


24 Paul April 17, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Perfectly timed illustration, I had just received my first bow tie yesterday and was trying to find how to tie it when I saw this. Very helpful, but the tricky part is best viewed from a video that gives you a side view to see exactly what is happening during it.

25 Brett McKay April 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm


Ted was one of our original SYWMJ participants!

His illustrations are a real treasure!


I do plan on doing a video someday…

26 andres April 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm


27 Will April 17, 2012 at 3:43 pm

@Menachem: “Think of it as tying shoelaces, but from behind.”

Exactly the way I’ve always thought of it.

The tricky part isn’t so much the tying, as the rearranging/tweaking. But once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy. And as David Hungate says, you can look “like Sinatra after an evening at the Sands.” Try doing that with a clip-on bow tie.

28 GusT April 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm

The best way to learn consists of three steps.
Just like when you fire a weapon, repetition is the best teacher and slow is smooth. Probably 45 minutes after I finally got it my Wife found the best Youtube video on how to do it. I already knew,but watched it. I cannot remember which fraternaty it was,but it was a traditionally black one and it was the best demonstration I have seen to this day. Also,women seem to like the bowtie if it is on a confident man. Most criticism comes from guys who cannot think for themselves,as you will see when you tie one on.

29 Keith April 17, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I thought it was going to be a joke!

30 Taylor April 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm

what’s great about the illustrations is that you do actually make these faces when you tie your bowtie!

31 Hal April 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm

… and for those of you wanting to step up and add some to your tie drawer: – $15 bucks a tie, huge selection – a bit more expensive, but much more artistic patterns.

32 Mike Floyd April 17, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Thanks for this; it’s so hard to find clear illustrations (that, yes, also show the facial expressions) on how to tie a bow tie.

I’m trying to get more guys to sport them in real life. Maybe this will help!

33 Isaac April 17, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Bow tie is coming back. Seeing young lawyers rocking them all the time.

34 John April 18, 2012 at 12:18 am

I wear a bow tie usually once a month since my collection is rather small.

Surprisingly I got the hang of tying one the very first day. It’s not as hard, or even hard at all, as people make it out to be. Once the mystery of the “how did you do that?”, and with a little practice, the intimidation wears off. It’s almost like tying a shoelace.

35 Rod @ Mask IP Tools April 18, 2012 at 6:50 am

I’d bet that 9/10 men don’t know how to do this. Really. I can’t say I’ve ever been to an event where I needed to wear a bow tie though…

36 Matt W. April 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm


Great article! My grandfather wore bow ties almost everyday to work and then once he retired for all of this social functions and Barber Shop concerts. By the time he passed away about 8 years ago we figure he had over 100 bow ties. Many we gave to a “bow tie buddy” of his from the Barber Shop group they were apart of. Yet I got a select set that my parents chose of the nicest ones from the collection. I eventually went to college and as I played in a jazz band and needed to dress up often for performances learned to tie them and began wearing them more than straight ties. So those ties got to go back on stage performing and I got to treasure them since they were my grandfathers.

Now as a medical student, I wear them almost exclusively and rather vary the routine with a straight tie every now and then. They look great over the white coat and I don’t have to worry about tickling my patient’s bellies as I examine them and having a straight tie dangling down onto their abdomen!

Here’s to hoping more guys join my grandfather and the rest of the current bow tie wearers!

37 Chase Christy April 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Love the guide. After trying some knots outside of my norm, I’ve come to appreciate the goodness of a clip-on…not that I wear them or anything.

38 Mike Cali April 18, 2012 at 3:55 pm

At my school, we have to wear a shirt and tie on wednesday for mass (i go to a catholic school) and without fail every guy wears a straight necktie. I have to admit, i have a soft spot for the straight skinny ties of the 50s. Anyway, I prefer to wear my bow ties but the only problem is i get dress code violations for them. I keep wearing them and their argument is that they aren’t real ties. So i guess now Frankie, Dino, Sammy, Cab, Louis Armstrong and many others have been wearing “Fake Ties” for years? despite their taboo, i have successfully gotten them to catch on with some people. LONG LIVE THE BOW TIE

39 Kris Childers April 18, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Great handmade bowties for $14.99 free shipping.

40 Jeffrey Armando Vasquez April 19, 2012 at 11:56 am

Here’s a list of 34 awesome bow tie vendors – all of which are sponsoring my cause. I’ve worn a bow tie in the classroom over the course of my 12 years of teaching in NYC and this year I decided to rock one for 1,000 consecutive days. Check it out!

41 Grant H. April 20, 2012 at 3:34 pm

I love the facial expressions, especially on “the tricky part”!

42 Alan April 20, 2012 at 8:33 pm

Last year I began experimenting with bow ties, and now I wear them almost exclusively. I prefer them to long ties because they don’t flap around, dangle, or get in the way. I get lots of compliments on them, particularly from the ladies. I have the dorkiest job in the world (Latin teacher), so I can pull it off.

43 Dante' April 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm

In the words of the 11th doctor, “Bow ties are cool”. Someone needed to say it.

44 Equals42 April 22, 2012 at 1:20 pm

I found a couple of things were important as I learned to tie one for my wedding last year. (I refused to contemplate a clip-on.)

First: real bow ties don’t look like clip-on ties. There’s a free end in front of one side. That’s OK.

Second: buy a cheap one to practice with that ISN’T BLACK. It is too hard to see what you’re doing in the mirror with a black tie. Get a white on or some patterned tie to make it easier to see what you’re doing.

It’ll take some practice but they can look damn good.

45 Somegamerkid April 22, 2012 at 7:18 pm


46 DP April 23, 2012 at 11:34 am

the funny part is i find it eassier to tie a bow tie becuse that is what i wear. i almost alwase need to look up how to tie a strait tie when i were one

47 Nic April 24, 2012 at 8:25 am

Still cant seem to get the bow right… need more practice :S

48 Ryan April 26, 2012 at 12:41 am

The best advise I can give to those struggling with tying the bow (between step 4 and 5) is to when you have side A hanging down, take both ends of side Band pinch them together in front of A. If you feel behind the bow at this point, you’ll feel an opening. This is the opening that side A will go through. Make sure that the flap from A is on the same side as the bow on side B at the end. that is to say, if side B is bow/flap, side A should be flap/bow.

49 Matthew April 30, 2012 at 1:46 am

This video is from Columbia, SC and has a couple key tips to make sure you rock the bow tie first time and everything. The “lock” was especially helpful.

50 K. Cross October 2, 2012 at 11:32 pm

@Jeffrey Armando Vasquez –
Awesome video sir! I like your technique and will definitely have to try it.

@Dante’ –
Yes…”bowties are cool!”

51 Noel November 19, 2012 at 8:07 am

Of the many Youtube videos available on this topic, I suggest How to tie a bow tie – fully explained.

It covers the topic in much greater detail and more successfully than any other.

52 Edwin November 19, 2012 at 10:27 pm

@Jeffrey Vasquez That’s a brilliant technique you’ve got there! Makes a much neater bow and easy too!

53 Jared December 18, 2012 at 12:17 am

I’ve also heard (and generally follow) the rule that a bow tie should look well-tied, though not perfect. This would show that you do, indeed, know how to tie the bow tie, ensuring that it isn’t a pre-tied model. Also, nobody’s perfect, right?

54 Tom Carr January 3, 2013 at 2:15 pm

OK I have tried and tried to tie a dang Bow tie and I just can’t get it down. I do great until the pull through to the other side. Driving me crazy. Going to give this a try once more thanks for the tips

55 Jake January 23, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Awesome! Thank you!

56 AndyHartley February 13, 2013 at 6:11 am

I read this article, then went on youtube to find some videos explaining it. In my opinion, the trickiest part is holding one end while tucking in the other through the loop.

This video i found on youtube gives a simple and slow down demonstration on how to do the whole thing. And it’s only 2mins long :)

57 Wasim March 9, 2013 at 9:51 am

I was confused in the fourth (or is it forth?) and fifth panels.

58 albert March 26, 2013 at 10:29 am

Very informative and easy to follow. Thank you very much.

59 Ryan B April 18, 2013 at 10:49 pm

With bow-ties becoming more fashionable of late, I’ve been keeping a copy of this illustration handy at the retail shop where I work. This makes it very easy for me to show my customers how to tie their knots and hopefully also directs them towards your page.

60 Daniel June 21, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I wear bowties now, bowties are cool

61 Jack July 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Great illustration here. From my experience videos help a lot to go in the motions of tying your bow tie for the first time. Like anything, practice makes perfect.

62 Richard October 19, 2013 at 12:08 am

I’ve been having a lot of trouble and I am 90% sure that it is a sizing issue. I’m a size 15.5 in collar and even on my bowtie’s smallest size (13.75 in) when I cross the two ends together I just know that the fish I lay over the top is going to be too long. As a result, when I fold it up, under and behind the first bow it comes out the other side very poorly. I can usually tease it all into place decently, but as a result the back right half of the bow is very skinny and not full.

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