A Slacker's Video Guide on How to Tie Ties

When my husband and I celebrated our marriage with family and friends at a party this past winter, we decided to shake things up a bit and spring for self-tie bow ties that coordinated with each other’s outfits. We wanted to look fresh and dapper and surprise our guests since we generally don’t wear ties, let alone bow ties.

As we dressed for the party that evening, we both remembered that we didn’t know how to tie a bow tie, but I thought it was an easy enough fix — just call the concierge at the hotel at which we were staying; surely he knows how to do it.

He didn’t, and neither did anyone else at the hotel. In a panic, we rushed across Times Square, half dressed, to another hotel. There’s no way the concierge at this hotel wouldn’t know, we thought. We were wrong, and time was running out. As a last resort, we stopped into the hotel’s restaurant, begging and pleading with the staff to help us locate someone with the skills we required. Finally, we found someone — a female bartender — who, in the end, made sure we looked great but also made us feel pretty silly. Our fault, not hers.

Truth be told, I strive for perfection in everything I do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but I’ve never put much effort into learning how to tie a proper tie, bow tie or otherwise. That’s mainly because I don’t like getting dressed up — I look better in street clothes than I do masquerading as a corporate wannabe — but it’s still not a valid excuse.

I should know how to tie a tie — and so should you. In fact, any guy over age 16 should be able to accomplish this task with their eyes closed. For now, however, keep yours peeled and watch these video tutorials from Tie-a-Tie and Howcast that will have you sporting half-Windsors, Four-in-Hands, and various other knots that you’ve probably never heard of.

Windsor Knot

A “wide and triangular knot, good for spread-collar shirts,” the Windsor knot is thought to be named after the Duke of Windsor, but is in fact named after his grandfather, Edward VII; the latter had his ties specially made with thicker cloth in order to produce a wider knot. This method of tying is often erroneously referred to as a Double Windsor to distinguish it from the half-Windsor; in that case, it should be called a Full Windsor.

Half-Windsor Knot

A “symmetrical tie know that goes with any dress shirt,” the half-Windsor is larger than a Four-in-Hand and Pratt, but smaller than a Windsor. This method of tying produces a neat, triangular knot.

Four-in-Hand Knot

An “asymmetrical tie knot, good for button-down shirts,” the four-in-hand is widely considered the most popular way to tie a tie because of its simplicity — although, that’s relative. While some believe carriage drivers created the style with their scarves, most believe that it originated with members of London’s Four-in-Hand Club, who made it fashionable when they started wearing neckwear.

Pratt Knot

A “tidy and fairly wide tie knot suited for any dress shirt,” the Pratt knot — also known as the Shelby or Pratt-Shelby knot — was invented by Jerry Pratt, an employee of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. It wasn’t popularized, however, until TV personality Don Shelby started sporting it on TV and the New York fashion press mistakenly attributed the knot to him.

Bow Tie

The bow tie originated among Croatian mercenaries during the Prussian Wars of the 17th century, but was popularized by the French, then a leader in fashion, in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Meg Favreau's picture

Oooh, I love a fella who knows not just how to tie a tie, but how to do it with a bit of flair.