It may not be the oldest trick in the book, but it’s in there, and pretty effective too -- at least in Hollywood:
Girl steps in close to Boy. Real close. “Oh, come here. Let me.”
She’s going to help out this silly, undercover dreamboat by tying his necktie for him, because clearly he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He’s nervous and all thumbs or maybe he’s never really worn one of these goofy things before. Doesn’t matter. Girl takes command of the silky sash and artfully loops here, gently pulls there, all while glancing up into his eyes.
Maybe she’s saying something coquettish -- put your lips together and blow, Lauren Bacall-style -- or she’s quiet and letting her spider-lash eyes do the talking; either way this is more than a moment in haberdashery, it’s connection, seduction, it’s movie magic.
Of course, the real life version of this is wildly different, right?
For starters, quite a few of us -- especially men! -- have no clue how to properly tie a necktie. And let’s not even get into its fussy, old-timey cousin: the bow tie. Save that thing for Charles Osgood (who is excellent) and the barbershop quartet singing at your hipster brunch spot, amirite?
In fact, just last month at the Oscars, indie-darling-gone-big-time actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt copped to not knowing how to tie his own bow tie for his dapper tux. Sally Field had to do it for him in the limo.
Then there was that sweet scene between Jennifer Lawrence (also excellent) and The Coop in "Silver Linings Playbook," where their characters were hurrying to get ready for a dance competition and neither of them could quite get the tie thing worked out. They skipped it, but not before having the required eye-to-eye melting moment.
Oh! And remember that season one flashback scene between Olivia Pope and Candidate Fitz on "Scandal"? She rips the tie from some other fool’s neck to replace Fitz’s “too busy for morning TV” original choice, and they talk all hushed and cute.
I’m telling you, as far as rom-com tropes go, the necktie-tying thing is up there along with Meet-Cutes and full-heart confessions in the driving rain. And being a classic rom-com kind of gal, I figured that was proof enough that learning how to tie both a straight and bow tie should have a place on my I Got This List.
My husband is pretty darn natty on any given day, but as a magazine editor he doesn’t typically wear neckties. Plus, he already learned his way around a straight tie from his mother. So I set off to gather intel elsewhere, this time from a true pro: Jim Acker, a personal stylist at Nordstrom’s men’s department.
When I rolled up, completely unannounced, Jim was just punching in for the day and –- of course -– had an untied bow tie draped over his fly brown and orange windowpane suit. He was eager to help, highly knowledgeable and, more important, patient.
We started with the straight tie. Here’s what I learned:
There are at least five different types of knots from which to choose, but the Half Windsor is the most common one. However, Jim says, the Full Windsor –- with its wide, symmetrical triangular knot -- is a more distinguished, professional choice, so we did that.
1. Flip the shirt collars up and drape the tie around the neck so the wide end hangs longer on your (the woman doing the tying) right. Jim says aim for the end to hit the top of the belt buckle (about 12 inches). A tie hanging too short looks ridiculous.
2. Take the wide end (W) and cross it over the narrow end (N) and pull it to your right.
3. Make a basic knot (pulled tight) by swooping W up through the loop between the collar and the tie and down again. W should be underneath/behind N, pulled to your left. You’ll see the back of W.
4. Time to make the “face” of the tie, as Jim calls it, or the main triangular knot. Swing W across the front from left to right so that the inside of tie faces away from you, towards the shirt.
5. Bring W up through the loop so that it’s pointing straight up. The inside of the tie should be facing you now.
6. Now bring W down and slide it through the front of the knot (behind the “face”). Tighten the knot to finish now by firmly pulling down on W and drawing it up snug against the collar.
7. Kiss that man or at least get yourself a glass of bubbly from the champagne tower, because you did it!
As for the bow tie, Jim says it’s just like tying your shoes. “It’s almost the same knot just in a different location,” he says.
But after watching him demonstrate this finger dance art a good three times, I say leave that mess to Sally Field! I’ll be over here batting lashes and oozing sexy while tying my husband’s Full Windsor. (Not a euphemism. Maybe.)