Whether you’re sipping mint juleps at the Charleston Cup, attending Sunday worship service in a 300-year-old church, or running for City Council, a dapper bow tie will give you a sure boost on the Holy City social ladder. But unless you think you can dupe the blue bloods with a clip-on — and you can’t — you’ll have to learn to properly tie one on.
Colin Richardson, a salesman at King Street clothier M. Dumas & Sons, says the bow tie is technically a semi-formal accessory, although Southern sensibilities have changed on that topic in modern times, allowing it to make appearances in formal settings. When you plan an outfit with a bow tie, he says, it’s best to wear a spread-collar shirt (with a slightly flared collar that doesn’t button down). In his experience, women learn the technique more quickly than men. For beginners, it can help to tie the bow tie around your thigh before tightening it around your neck.
Just follow these steps, or watch our helpful how-to video at charlestoncitypaper.com, and you’ll be shucking oysters and kissing babies before you can say “Chaahlston.”
1. Pop your collar, drape the tie around the back of your neck slightly off-center, and start the knot the same way you would start tying a shoe, with a simple over-and-under twist of the longer end.
2. Take the shorter end and fold it, pinning the bow-shaped section against the knot with your finger.
3. Take the other end and pull it down over the middle of the bow.
4. Put the two sides of the bow together, forming a sort of taco shell around the end you just pulled down.
5. There should be a loop behind the bow now. Take the lower portion of the tie (the part spilling out of the bottom end of the taco) and push it through that loop.
6. Gently tug at all four portions of the bow (front and back, left and right) until you’re approaching symmetry. Remember, no bow tie is perfect. Try incorporating intentional imperfections, like “dimples” near the center fold or flared wings that stick up from the chest.
7. Go knock ’em dead.