How to tie your bowtie

  (Photo courtesy of  Flickr .)

(Photo courtesy of Flickr.)

You're not really sure why, or how, you thought it would be a good idea to buy a bowtie.

Because, see, if you buy one then you presumably eventually have to wear one. And if you wear one, you first need to tie one; that's where the pain and the swear words come in. (Of course, we mean the real bowtie here, the one you can't just clip on to your neck and move on.)

Why did you buy one?

It's probably after you had Netflix-no-chill'd your way through House of Cards, or literally any one of another million movies or tv series; but it was probably HOC, because the way Kevin Spacey's Frank Underwood let the thing, the bowtie, hang on his neck, with two fish-shaped flaps on the side, stuck with you. (It's one of the very few things of HOC that did, but that's a different debate.)

It's always looked cool to you to wear a bowtie and, wherever that idea first came from, you wish it hadn’t right now. You've learned better since: for a bowtie to be untied, it first has to be tied. And no one looks cool after stumbling with their hands to their neck for 45 minutes.

Tying a bowtie is a great way to feel wholly inadequate as a person and a modern man—namely, how do you go from here to here? Well you practice; there's a way to learn and improve.

You’ll be confident that you can do this.

And for good reason too, you’ll think. The classic scenario is that you’ll ask yourself oh how hard could this be; "I’ve never had problems putting and tying my tie on," you’ll say.

You’ll think you’ve gamed the system or something, but the joke’s really on you: a bowtie isn’t a tie. You can ride a bicycle, but they still won’t let you ride a motorcycle. Maybe you’ve always been good with ties—who isn't?—but the bowtie is your motorcycle.

  (Photo courtesy of  Flickr )

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

So don’t feel confident, because you have no reason to and because confidence creates and raises expectations. Get that smug off your face.

You’ll fail, often. Accept it.

You’ll practice first, because you’ve Google’d "how to tie a bowtie" and the sheer multiplicity of results made it seem like it must be difficult. "But I’m better than that. How hard can it be?", you’ll ask.

Well you’re not, and extremely so, it turns out—but you don’t know that right away. At first, you’ll think that maybe it’ll do you good to practice, standing in front of your mirror with your phone and a how-to tutorial. It has graphics, you’ll think, but you’ll see that it’s hopeless.

You’ll get caught up while you’re practicing, because you’ll see how tough it is. You’re stubborn and you won’t want to quit, not right now, this is so silly, so you’ll keep at it. It’ll be your decision too; we specify this, because after a long, hmm, 45 minutes you’ll finally tie it. (Beginner’s luck.)

Yay, it’s on. But you’re not even dressed. Arg. Hey don't be mad as us, be mad at yourself; it was your decision to keep going at it when you knew you weren't even dressed. Back to square one.

There is no perfect solution, but relying on a tutorial video helps.

Practice makes perfect, but only if you practice the right way. Since you don’t know how to tie your bowtie, find someone who does. You may have point-form tutorials, but unless it’s a video these are worthless.

Go to YouTube and search for "how to tie a bowtie," or something similar, and sample a few videos. Try to find one that isn’t too long in the preambles, one that keeps it simple and, especially, find the right one for you. Here’s mine—and it’s not because Jesse Tyler Ferguson is my favourite (he isn’t) or because Modern Family is great (it isn’t anymore). It just works for me.

Try again. Then again.

You’ve established that you are failing at this; the previous hour has shown you as much. You’re a fairly prideful individual and, you know, your ego is a little bruised right now but you know you have to keep going. Stopping now will only make the next fight that much harder.

Not all axioms are true, but this one is: practice makes perfect, as we said before. You can perfect the tying of your bowtie if you 1) practice tying it on in the first place and 2) practice it the right way. That’s why you find, and watch, the video that’s perfect for you.

  (Photo courtesy of  Flickr )

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

Find the key step.

You know why it’ll be the video that’s perfect for you? Because at the right time, after so many swear words, one or two slaps on the wall (or do you slap your face when you’re mad? Hey, do you, my man!), after so many tries and as many fails, you’ll figure it out. You’ll watch the YouTube video for the 18th, or 19th, time, or Nth time, and you’ll finally get it.

You had always been stuck at that one stupid place; you kept trying but sensed you were stuck there always, because you lacked one step. One maneuver. One goddamn maneuver. And you couldn't figure it out.

It’s not even a step that’s easy to describe, just one that is so complicated because it is so counterintuitive. Until you figured it out and it all makes sense, and all the pain to your soul goes away, and your blisters are overlooked, and your hand cramp a thing of the past, and your feeling of woeful inadequacy, and…

That’s it. You’ve tied your bowtie.

Keep practicing.

It’s like riding a bicycle, except actually not. Next time you want to wear a bowtie, at least you’ll know how to do it—you know, it’ll take you, hmm maybe 28 minutes rather than 43 this second time.

Yay?