An Easy Guide to Tying a Bow Tie in the Year 2023
Oscar Wilde once said, "The first step in any serious endeavor is a properly tied tie." Like many sayings about men's fashion, beneath its easygoing surface is a profound message.
In the same vein as other esoteric initiations — an immaculately clean wet-shave, for example — the art of tying a bow tie, and a tie in general, is a lot trickier to pull off than one might think. In other words, learning how to load and unload a dishwasher is a rite of passage into mature independence.
If we break it down, a tie is just a piece of fabric that gets wrapped around your collar in an artistic manner; are we putting too much stock in something so simple? Not even a little Dressing in black tie is the single most effective way to boost a man's confidence and alter his outward appearance. Two shining examples of this truth are Prince Harry (looking dapper on his way to his wedding reception) and Javier Bardem (looking classically elegant at the Cannes film festival). And their crowning achievement Bow ties that obviously weren't tied by anyone else were worn by them.
Timothy Everest, a tailor and designer, argues that "dress codes are ostensibly egalitarian." You can always tell who has put in the effort and done it right from who hasn't, even if they're all dressed in black tie." ”
Keep reading to find out how you, too, can steal the show at your next black-tie affair. It's time to take bow ties seriously, from learning how to tie one to learning how to wear one properly.
Putting On A Bow Tie
For a "million dollar trooper," as the American songwriter Irving Berlin put it so famously, all you need is a bow tie and these six simple steps. In the same way that you can't tie a tie without first learning to tell the front and back of the tie apart, you need to study the anatomy of a bow before you can properly use one.
Adjust the length of the bow tie so that the notched end (the "neck") fits into the notch on the notched end of the other side. The longer side should be on the right if you're right-handed, and the left if you're left-handed.
Bow ties are worn by folding the longer end over the shorter end and crossing the strap at the top of the bow tie's "leaf." Slide under the middle and through, pulling firmly enough to feel but not so hard that it chokes you. Over your shoulder, throw away the longer side.
Fold the other side up horizontally with the neck of the bow tie in the middle, as if you were making a bow tie, and observe the result in a mirror.
Reintroduce the long side by pulling it downward so that it is perpendicular to the other horizontal spread. When doing this, only the bow tie's strap, not the leaf, should be used, as it will be the latter that forms the knot in the center.
As a result of this action, a tiny gap will form between the initial knot and the horizontal spread's back neck. Slide your thumb through the opening made by bringing the vertical spread under the horizontal spread. Gently push it through, taking care not to twist it as you do.
When finished, stand in front of the mirror again and give it a good yank by grasping each of the folded ends. Next, experiment with different options until you find one that works. The slight inconsistency is the perfect sprezzatura-style top note of imperfection that will communicate that a) it's a genuine DIY job and b) raffish dandies like yourself have more refined concerns than hospital corners.
Origins of the Bow Tie
Black tie as we know it originated in the military before being adopted by civilians, much like duct tape and microwave ovens. During the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, Croatian mercenaries sported a knotted scarf around their necks to prevent their shirt collars from flapping open (and, presumably, distracting them from their swordplay). This was the earliest known example of the bow tie.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, fashionable neckwear in silk or grosgrain became de rigueur, and the item was quickly adopted by upper-class French dandies under the name 'cravat,' derived from the French for Croat. This developed into the foundation for both the modern bow tie and the traditional four-in-hand necktie. Even though the idea of dressing up for the evening has become somewhat chic, it actually has a very practical history. It's a throwback to the days when most men's activities revolved around horses, from riding to caring for them. They needed to be groomed, and the rider needed to change clothes so that he wouldn't bring the ripe equine scent into the dining room or ballroom with him. (This is why dinner jackets should never have a centre vent; it's a metaphorical whiff of horsey pursuits.)
Bow Tie Etiquette
So you've tied yourself in a knot. We can then proceed to tales of formal attire. Dressing the Man author Alan Flusser advises that a man's bow tie should be smaller than his face but larger than his eyes when knotted properly. For the best look, a custom-made tie should be worn at all times instead of an adjustable one (especially when sporting a wing collar).
Marcella, a clean, dimpled fabric with a stiffness that makes it perfect for bib-fronted shirts, is the traditional British dress shirt fabric, and we're not just saying that because of the collars. A cotton pique is simple and reliable, while a pleat front makes for a lighter garment. To wear ruffles requires an unredeemable sense of style (or Ryan Gosling).
Whether you wear a wing or turndown collar and whether or not you use studs (although platinum or plain onyx studs will never let you down) on your shirt is a matter of personal preference; however, the cuffs must always be double and fastened with cufflinks. At the "cigar end" of the evening (though you might want to think twice before literally undoing all those man-hours' worth of hard-won skills), it is acceptable to unknot the tie and let it hang rakishly loose, Rat Pack-style.
In the Hands of Alice
Key Bow Tie Designs: 3 Examples
When in doubt, stick to the classics: a peak-lapelled or shawl-collared dinner jacket, a clean, stud-fronted dress shirt, and a chunky black tie (think Justin Timberlake during his "Suit & Tie" phase). To further clarify, imagine Bryan Ferry during his Lounge Lizard era or any era of Cary Grant.
While we encourage trying new things, we do not recommend "going the full Jared Leto" by, for example, donning a red carnation instead of a black tie. Instead, channel your inner Donald Glover and wear a midnight blue velvet bow tie with a matching dinner jacket (which, confusingly, looks darker under artificial light than black tie itself). You could also use this occasion to experiment with more unconventional tie shapes, such as the large butterfly or diamond tip.
We've purposefully left out the word "creative," which has become shorthand for those miscreants whose idea of "black tie" is a black necktie and shirt with a dinner jacket, but who should know better. no tie at all, which is even worse Try a silk jacquard bow tie or a knitted silk pique example for that extra dash of sworn-to-fun, loyal-to-none elan while still sticking to the formula.
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