Whenever I go to a black-tie event, I always notice who has a hand-tied bow tie, and who has the cheapo clip ons. A hand tied tie is a small touch of class that separates you from the crowd and gives you a slight James Bond/Frank Sinatra air. Even if you don't own a tux, it is worth it to spend the $20 and get a real tie.
Tyeing a bow tie is technically as simple as tyeing your shoes. However, it is something about doing it around your neck that is really awkward and frustrating. Many years ago, I got pretty good at it because I went to several black ties a year. Recently however, I had to dust off the tux after a long hiatus from formal events and discovered I lost the skill. Yes, I did finally get it right, but swore that I would find an easier way to 1) make my life easier in the future, and 2) encourage others a chance to impress their friends (the coup de grace being the moment at the after party when you casually untie your tie, and let it casually hang down like a genuine Rat Packer.
The last step includes some advice on buying and wearing a tux.
IMPORTANT: THIS TIE IS BEST WITH A TUX SHIRT THAT HAS A "LAY DOWN" COLLAR OR A COMBO WINGTIP-COVERED BACK COLLAR. IF YOU USE THIS WITH A REGULAR WINGTIP, BUT SURE TO KEEP YOUR JACKET ON ALL NIGHT.
Step 1: What You Need
Okay, this is the important part. For this project you need two ties. The "real" one MUST be a hand tied tie that has an adjustable buckle in the back that allows you to loosen and tighten the tie. Keep your eyes open when you are in Target or Marshals. Mine cost about $20. The second tie you need is a clip on version. The cheaper the better. You can get them for as little as $5. What we really want are the metal hooks and loops.
For tools, you will need a dremel with a cutting wheel and some tape (preferably black electrical, but scotch tape will work as well.
Step 2: Cutting the Loops
First, remove the metal HOOK and LOOP from the CLIP ON TIE by just cutting away the fabric. You will find the LOOP just behind the bow of the cheap tie. Once you have these, get out your dremel (with the cutting wheel attachment. CAREFULLY cut a slot in on the back sides of the HOOK and LOOP. They only need to be the width of the cutting wheel.
Next. and be really careful with this part, you need to cut the metal loop that connects both halves of your hand tie. I've tried to highlight this below. Just DON'T cut the adjustable loop.
Us pliers or a vice grip to hold the loop when cutting to protect both your fingers and the cloth of the tie.
Once it is cut, you can bend the loop to remove it. When you are done you should have a loop and hook as in the first photo and two halves of a tie.
Step 3: Attaching the Loops
On each half of the hand tie, you will notice two nicely sewn cloth loops. Through the little slot you cut. Attach the metal LOOP on the half with the adjustment buckle and the HOOK on the half of the tie without the buckle. This is the only "difficult" part. It just takes some patience to make sure you don't snag the cloth on the cut part of the HOOK/LOOP. Hint: bend the loop apart a little to give you more room to work with. When done, carefully bend it back flat.
Right now you may be asking yourself, "Hey why don't I just use Velcro?". The reason I didn't use Velcro is because, 1) I was a afraid it would leave a noticeable lump under the collar and 2) Where is the fun of that when you can use your dremel?
Once you have done this and it looks like the first picture, cover the cut gap in the LOOP with a piece of electrical, or some other tape. The loop is on the adjustable half, and the tape will keep it from snagging on the cut when you adjust the length. you will need to turn the cloth loop inside out to get at it. There is no need to do this on the half with the hook. .
Step 4: Tie the Tie!!
clip the halves together and tie the tie AROUND YOUR LEG. I won't go into how to tie a bow tie here. You can find instructions all over the web and I've included a link to one example here. It is very easy to do around your leg. Remember, a hand tied tie is NOT supposed to look perfect. Once you have something you like, carefully unhook the finished tie.
Hint, adjust loop to make the tie as big as possible. This will give you more material to work with.
Step 5: Shaken or Stirred Mr. Bond?
Now it is just a simple matter of hooking the tie on under your collar and adjusting the loop to make it tight. Hint: Bow tie knots have a "top" and "bottom." Make sure you put your tie on so the prettiest, smoothest part of the know it on the top. After you tighten the loop, you may have to do a little 'primping" to get your tie just right.
As I said earlier, this is meant for shirts that have a covered collar in the back. Mine is a wingtip, but it also has a a folded down collar in the back to hide the hooks and loops.
Step 6: The PAYOFF (or How to Be a Rat Packer)
Okay, once you've done this be sure to find an appropriate moment after the wedding or when the party is winding down to untie your tie! Don't call attention to it, I guarantee others will. Your friends will be jealous as they sit there with their geeky clip ons hanging off their necks and most likely you will hear at least one woman say "Honey, you should learn how to do that."
TIPS FOR BUYING A TUX: If you think there is a chance you will have to wear a tux once a year, then you should buy one. The time/convenience factor alone makes it worth it. Two keys to buying a tux.
1. Get a shawl collar (it never goes out of style)
2 Never wait until you need a tux to buy one. The best strategy is to just keep your eyes open and when you see a good deal, grab it. If you are on the East Coast, Syms has great prices and when they are having a sale, it can be a steal.
TIPS FOR WEARING A TUX: It is hard NOT to look good in a tux, but some people can pull it off. Usually it is guys who are wearing a tux for the first time. The secret to always looking good in a tux is to "ACT LIKE YOU ARE WEARING JEANS, NOT A TUX." Don't stand ramrod straight, don't constantly fuss with buttons and cuff links. Act like you wear one every day. That's how Frank did it.