The bow tie, a fashion statement commonly worn today by college professors, hipsters and almost every groom who’s walked the plank, originated among Croation mercenaries during the Prussian wars of the 17th century. The Croat mercenaries used a scarf around the neck which was soon adopted (under the name cravat, derived from the French for “Croat”) by the upper classes in France, then a leader in fashion, and flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. What remains a mystery is whether the cravat then evolved into the bow tie and four-in-hand necktie, or whether the cravat gave rise to the bow tie, which in turn led to the four-in-hand necktie.

The bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, an adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. (Until now!) Wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think. And it’s this “I give zero fucks” attitude that we at The Man Guide happen to love.

So if your ready to own this look: Here are six easy steps to the perfect Bow Tie.

1.  Don a collared dress shirt and button all the buttons. Yes, that means the one around your neck too. Stand in front of a mirror before putting on the bow tie and make sure that it’s adjusted to the correct width of your neck. You can do that by adjusting the buttons on the back. I suggest you make it a bit bigger. You can always make it smaller if needed.

Young man is showing how to tie a formal bow tie

2.  Pop your collar. This will be the only time we suggest you ever do this so don’t get any ideas. Put the bowtie around your neck and make sure it is lying face up. You want to have one end of the tie about 2 inches longer than the other.

Young man is showing how to tie a formal bow tie

3.  This next step is just like tying your shoes. Move the longer end across over the shorter one then bring it up through the neck loop towards your chin and pull it tight enough it won’t move. This will be the only time you can tighten how it feels around your neck. Place that longer end over your shoulder for now.

Young man is showing how to tie a formal bow tie

4.  Now grab the shorter part of the tie near your neck and fold it horizontally onto itself to make a small loop on the side. This should create the shape of the bow. Try holding the loop with your forefinger and thumb and don’t let go until the bow is created. With your free hand, bring the longer section that was placed over your shoulder straight down over the middle of the bow. This will make a loop behind the bow.

Young man is showing how to tie a formal bow tie

5.  Now this is when it gets a bit tricky. Don’t panic you got this.  Grab the end that is hanging down and fold it back towards your chest under the bow. Pinch the sides so that it becomes thinner and push it through the loop. Now you can let go from holding the front bow and grab that section you pushed through to adjust the shape.  Don’t pull too much!  At this point you’ll see if your tie needs to be redone. If it looks good then you’re almost done.

A sad young man wearing a messy bow tie

6.  When you begin pulling on that section you also need to pull on the opposite part of the bow to tighten it. If you pull on the non looped ends of the bow tie it will fall apart and you’ll have to start over. Now lower the collar of your shirt and gently adjust the bow tie to be as even and straight as possible.

Closeup on a young man as he is tying a bow tie

Now you are ready to face the world like a badass Croatian mercenary!

To learn more about when and how to rock a bow tie, we suggest you check out our Ultimate Guide to Bow Ties.