How To Tie a Tie: Learn to Tie a Necktie

Learn the Proper Way to Tie a Necktie

Man adjusting his tie

Okay..... it's a've managed to get an interview for the job that will jump-start your career. Step one is to dress appropriately; a coat and tie are a must (pants, shoes, shirt and socks, too, of course).  

Wearing a tie won't prevent you from imploding once you begin to speak, but at least you'll get off on the right foot.  Unfortunately, the trend to more "business casual" attire has produced a generation of young men who have no clue how to tie a necktie. This article will address this cultural void so you can learn the proper technique.    

Please note, if your style is more "clip-on" or "cowboy" string tie, read no further. You have bigger problems than this article can resolve. The instructions below are for the GQ wannabe with the desire and manual dexterity to make a fashion statement and learn to tie a necktie.

Before we get into the step-by-step instructions, the reader should realize that tying a tie is not a simple process. Frequent failure should be expected at first. With practice, however, the success rate will increase, but even the most experienced practitioner will on occasion need a re-tie to get things looking "just so".

For purposes of instruction we need some definitions. The end of the tie that we wish to have showing when we are done will be referred to as the FAT side (F-side or F). The end of the tie that lies under the F-side is the SKINNY side (S-side or S). Historically, fashion has always dictated that the F-side is the side we wish to show. In the future some fashion pioneer may indeed popularize a skinny-side-out tie. The reader will then need to change the definitions that are used in this article. The following are some excellent step-by-step instructions: 

  1. Stand in front of a mirror that allows you to observe yourself as you struggle through Steps 2 through 11. Remember that in the mirror, right and left are reversed. Don't let this bother you.
  2. Turn your shirt collar up and button it. Drape the tie around your neck with the F-side to the right. (The procedure can be started with the F-side to the left but you will then need to adjust the instructions by switching left, right, clockwise and counterclockwise).
  3. Adjust the F-side length until it is about twice the length of the S-side.

    Note: this is a critical stage where experience and practice pay off. Each tie will be a bit different in terms of length and fabric characteristics. Heavy fabrics produce big, thick knots and the starting F-side length will need to be longer. Thin light fabrics produce skimpy knots and you may well need to shorten the starting F-side length accordingly.

    An improper starting position in Step 3 will produce one of two unacceptable outcomes:

    • the S-side extends below the F-side and is visible
    • the F-side extends so far down past your belt that you run the risk of zipping your tie into your pants

    Neither of these situations is likely to produce the impression you are trying to create. So, don't be hesitant to tie and re-tie until you get it right.

    Interestingly, if you wear a tie often enough, the tie begins to stretch and distort in the area where the knot is formed. This stretching then becomes an indicator of where the knot should properly be formed which greatly simplifies the Step 3, F-side length adjustment.From here the knot tying process becomes mechanical:

  4. Cross F over S (to the left) with the intersection being one to two inches below your neck. This intersection will become the knot in just a few steps.
  5. Bring the entire length of F up behind and then over the intersection/knot so F is draped over S. If at this point F is already shorter than S, go back to Step 2 and lengthen the F-side starting position. You can now see the knot in its infancy.
  6. Wrap F clockwise around (behind) the knot making sure that the inside of the F-side is making contact with the knot. As F reappears from behind the knot, tuck F back over the top of the knot (toward your chin) and let it hang down behind S. If you have done this correctly and are looking in a mirror, you should see the S-side on the outside of the F-side. Plus you should see the seam on the backside of F.
  7. Now, reach across the front of the tie with your left hand, grab F. Begin another wrap but in the counter-clockwise (CCW) direction. Just before F wraps over the front of the knot, reach up with your right hand and grasp the knot between your right thumb and first two fingers. Thumb goes behind the knot and right index and middle fingers on the front. The front fingers will create a gap (once the fingers are removed) that will make the final steps easier.

    Continue the wrap CCW over these fingers and around to the back of the knot. Then tuck F up over the knot from the back and down through the space occupied by your two fingers (as you simultaneously remove your fingers). In essence you are tucking F under itself as it comes over the knot from the back. Pull F all the way through the gap and let it hang down freely.

    The hard part is now over.

  8. At this point, the knot should still be an inch or so from your neck. The knot itself will need a bit of adjusting to tighten it into a smaller size and make it more symmetric. Do this adjusting by pulling down gently on the F to tighten the knot and by moving the "wraps" as needed.
  9. You can now hold F with your right hand and slide the knot up to your neck with the left. Appearance should dictate the final position of the knot but blood flow restriction to the brain should also be a consideration.
  10. You're nearly done. Make any additional minor adjustments so the knot is more presentable. This step is by necessity vague. What needs to be done depends on how well Steps 1 through 9 were completed as well as one's personal obsession with perfection.
  11. Finally, a little QC. Check that the F-side is longer than the S-side but not too long. Ideally, F should extend down to your belt buckle. You should not be able to see any shirt buttons below F. Everything fine? Great. See, you can learn to tie a necktie. Tell your friends! Turn down your collar. Button down if appropriate. Go conquer the world.

Now you can tie a tie!


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