Things Guys Should Know, Vol. 1: How to tie a necktie

Things Guys Should Know logoBusiness casual, with its short-sleeve shirts and chinos, is gaining ground at offices these days.

But let’s not bury the necktie just yet.

Teenage guys applying for a summer job, interviewing for a college scholarship or dressing for prom need to know how to tie a necktie. It’s an essential skill of being a guy.

After graduation, tons of careers — bankers, lawyers, salesman — still consider the necktie a part of their office uniform. And they might frown upon a new hire bringing his dad to work to help him tie it properly.

So today, in the first of a new series, I’ll share this Thing Guys Should Know: How to tie a necktie.


Step 1

Put the tie around your neck with the wide end to your right. This end should hang about 12 inches lower than the other end.


Step 2

Lay the wide end across the narrow one and wrap it around the back.


Step 3

Go across the front of the narrow end a second time.


Step 4

Bring the wide end up and under the narrow end next to your neck.


Step 5

Guide the wide end forward and down through the loop in front of your neck.


Step 6

Adjust the shape of the tie as you slide the knot comfortably against your collar.

From the Scout handbook

Like much of what guys should know, tying a necktie is covered in the Boy Scout Handbook. Here’s the relevant page (click to enlarge):


About this series

Things Guys Should Know is an ongoing series about those essential life skills every guy should have in his arsenal.

Cool thing is, everything in the series is a skill a guy learns in Scouting. Maybe he picks it up while spending time outdoors with his troop, team or crew. Or maybe he learned it while earning a merit badge or reading the Boy Scout Handbook. Either way, Scouting helped him learn this skill that helps him become better Prepared. For Life.

See all of the Things Guys Should Know here. And leave a comment if you think of a skill guys should know (and learn in Scouting) that I should cover in a future edition. 


    • This is what is referred to as a “full Windsor” – a half Windsor does only 1 loop before wrapping around the front and tucking in the front… Half Windsors look cockeyed to me, as in they are not symmetrical. FYI, If I remember correctly, one of the Wolf requirements back when I was a Cub in the late 50’s was to tie a tie.

      • It was still required in the 70’s. That’s how this young fella learned: as a cub … book leaned against the mirror. No more clip-on’s for this youngster. 🙂

        Later, as the arthritis started to get to my Dad, I would button his shirt and cinch his tie before we headed off to church.

        (Although, truth be told, I settled for the half-Windsor. Didn’t want to be labeled a cad! 😉 )

      • See a discussion on this down below. Because of the direction of one of the final turns, this would seem to not be a Windsor (half or otherwise), nor a four-in-hand as some have described. This particular image may be something of an oddity!

      • I used my Cub Scout handbook as a guide even after I joined Army. Finally switched to the Pratt/Shelby knot which goes well with my choice of ties. When I became an assistant Scoutmaster at 18 back in 1976, I was expected to wear a tie with the uniform.

      • I learned it in Cub Scouts as well. Don’t recall if it was Wolf or. Bear elective. And it was single-Windsor, as that is the only one I know! Easier for kids to tie too.

        That said, my Life Scout just tied his own tie for the first time last week. Where did he learn? YouTube.

        Not sayin nothin… Just sayin!

  1. “It’s in the Book.” That’s the answer Scouts got from one highly respected Scouter of my youth. He believed that the answer to almost any question could be found in either the Bible or the Scout Handbook….and he tried to live his life that way.

  2. Tying a tie was in the Wolf handbook back in the day. Guess most kids aren’t expected to dress up until they are older now 🙂

    • I have a few ideas but could always use more suggestions. Stuff all guys (not just Scouts) should know that you can learn in Scouting. I’d love some suggestions.

  3. They should know how to sew a button back on a shirt…I’ve done a mini-class with our Scouts, teaching them that & also how to sew their own patches/badges on to their uniform/sash. Also, they should know how to iron those shirts & pants, that they are planning on wearing to the job & college interviews, and prom. None of these things are taught is schools anymore, and teens should be taught these skills.

      • The problem with it being a Tiger Elective, is at that age, the Parents do a LOT to help with the hands on skills, and so by the time you are a Boy Scout, that lesson is forgotten. I think Sewing on a button should be a Second class or Tenderfoot requirement. Would go a LONG way to helping them become self sufficient men.

        • Actually I think Sewing should be a Merit badge. Never know when you’ll have to fix a backpack, sail, or ten in the field.

  4. In early 1970’s 4 years of high school wearing a tie. Handbook on used to learn
    to tie Windsor knot. Still tie today.

  5. There should be a tie for wear with the BSA uniform. They used to make them, but they’re hard to come by.

  6. It’s a Half-Windsor; for a full or double-Windsor you would go around toward the back one more time before wrapping around the front. Both knots tend to be pretty bulky unless you use a fairly narrow tie. For Scouts just starting out, there’s nothing wrong with a four-in-hand knot: quick, streamlined, and old-school classy.

      • The described know is a four-in-hand. The pictured knot is a fill windsor, except that for some reason the fourth step comes out the wrong side (after passing through the collar, every reference I’ve seen says to full it back to the same side it came from before passing it to the front to make the final loop).

        • Heh. Wondered about that part of the Windsor picture too. Didn’t notice that the description doesn’t match the pictures, until you mentioned it.

          Maybe an editor should look at that part of the Scout Handbook?!

          … I’m not claiming they’re authoritative, but judging by the descriptions at the link above (b/c as you note, the last pass in the “triangle” goes across instead of to the same side), the pictured knot is closest to a Windsor, but is neither a Windsor, a half-Windsor, a four-in-hand, nor any other of their several knots.

    • Brian Wendell, you should ask the Mountaineer Council Scout Executive, Jeff Doty about bow ties – he posted on his personal FB page that he ordered a couple bow ties and posted his picture wearing one 🙂

    • Bow ties are easy — you just tie a square bow knot, the same as what you probably use to tie your shoes (although some people tie a granny bow knot). If your laces tend to lay down along the sides of your shoes, you tie a square bow knot (square knot with bows), if your laces tend to point to your toes and up your leg, you’re tying a square granny knot.

  7. I encountered a somewhat cocky group of older Scouts working at the ScoutCraft area of our local summer camp a few years ago. They taught the Pioneering merit badge and claimed they could tie any knot — square knot, bowline, timber hitch, taught-line hitch, clove-hitch, sheet bend, ossel knot, sheepshank, halyard bend, miller’s knot, marlinspike hitch, trucker’s hitch, etc. So I asked these guys to tie a Windsor knot, and they all were stumped. It’s one of the most-commonly used knot in my day-to-day life and I found it funny (and the Scouts found it humbling) that the so-called “knot experts” were clueless of how it tie it.

  8. My dad was left handed, I am not. I learned to tie it by looking at my younger brother’s Bear handbook, then found it in my own Scout handbook a few weeks later.

    • Left handed? My dad was lacking his left arm. Try tying your shoe one handed. That was how I originally learned! Later used TWO hands!
      Same with tying a tie…. His version was , I guess, a Half Windsor. I learned the full Windsor later .

  9. Yes, it’s right here in my 1948 Wolf book, along with instructions on how to tie shoe laces and wrap / tie up a package. The Explorer Uniform of the 1950’s came with a tie, so that old Wolf book instructions came in handy.

    Another lost ‘art’ is how to open a ‘tin can’ with the can opener that came (comes) on your scout knife. And to open another can of worms, how to survive in the wilderness without your pocket-sized electronic wonders. I’ve never seen a ‘charging station’ while on a 6 day hike in the wilderness.

    Steve E. Pack, Troop & Post 54, Queens Council, NY

  10. Bryan & Gretchen –

    Could you also do a “Things Girls Should Know” series for the female Ventuerers out there? Scouting isn’t just “guys.”

    #PleaseAndThankYou #ScoutOn

    – Emily V.

  11. I stand corrected. I tried it myself following the directions, and as this diagram does show going around twice, it is in fact a double Windsor knot.

    It is also a massive, awkward knot when tied with a normal thickness, 21st-c. tie (not one of those ’50s pencil-thin jobs). I’m sticking with the four-in-hand for teaching young scouts or, at most, a half-Windsor. If tied correctly, a half-Windsor is not cock-eyed, but corrects the inherent asymmetry in a four-in-hand.

    To the list of things that “Guys (and Gals) Should Know,” I would add Shining One’s Shoes and How to Eat with Knife and Fork. If you’re thinking of calling me a fop for adding that last, I would ask you to watch a group of modern Scouts eat.

    • Thank you! I thought I was the only person that is disgusted to watch our kids eat. They don’t know how to use utensils properly. This weekend, I watched two different (unrelated) kids hold their french toast still with their fork while they used their hands to cut/tear it. (Thank god the hadn’t put syrup on it yet!)

  12. After all the years of tying a tie, (grade school, high school, college, US Military, professional world), tying a tie is a skill once learned comes automatic. However, there’s always more than 1 way to skin a cat (or in this case, tie a tie). Different occasions, ties and attire call for different types of knots.

    When in doubt, go to the experts at B-Squared (Brooks Brothers). Here you will find examples on 5 different knots for different occasions:
    Half-Windsor, Windsor, Pratt, Four-in-Hand, and of course, the Bow Tie knot.

    Watch these videos and impress your significant other – or your boss – at your next event.,default,pg.html

  13. A few years ago, Scoutson proudly came to me and mom and announced he had done his laundry , by himself. I expressed my pride and gratitude and asked, “how much soap did you put in the machine (one poured it directly into the wash tub with that machine)? He responded “soap?”

    How to do laundry.

    • Laundry is an option for a Webelos pin. The only thing is the Scout should do it more than the two times to meet the requirement.

  14. The knot depicted is a Windsor knot (full/double, same thing), ,because it starts with an overhand knot.

    Look at step 2, that’s clearly an overhand knot, which makes it a Windsor. The half Windsor, on the other hand, starts by making a round turn that isn’t an overhand knot — a round turn that comes out closer to the neck is an overhand knot (and the beginning of a full/double Windsor) and a round turn that comes out farther away from the neck is a half Windsor.

    Both the Windsor and the half Windsor go horizontally across once in front and once in back. The difference is how the tie is wrapped around the side bits.

  15. You’re right, going by the pictures, it’s not technically a Windsor. The Windsor makes the left-side full round turn then goes across and up from the back then tucked in the front. This knot make a half-pass around the left-side, goes down from the back, across the front in the opposite direction, then completes the round-turn that you start with in the final stage of the Windsor.

    Some people have called for the book to be edited, but I think it’s fine. There are many ways to tie a tie, after all. looks stunning when you’re wearing a tie with stripes.

  16. One thing I think all guys (and gals) should know is basic sewing. They should be able to sew on a button or a patch. I don’t think this is taught in Scouting, though.

  17. Suggestions (young men and women)
    a. How to change a tire.
    b. How to make a bed.
    c. How to mow the lawn.
    d. How to keep track of spending. (I’d say balance a checkbook but even I don’t do that anymore.)
    e. How to paint a wall.
    f. How to sew on a button or minor sewing repair.
    g. How to write a thank you card.
    h. How to clean a toilette.
    i. How to jump start a car.
    j. How to listen.
    k. How to iron shirt and pants
    l. How to be cheerful (it is a law, after all).
    m. How to clean a fish.
    n. And last, how to make coffee.

    • Recently I was helping at a non-scouting event with three other men and one of the tasks was to make coffee in one of those extra-large coffee percolators. When we got to that point, we found that none of the four of us drank coffee. What are the odds of that? Fortunately, one of the wives was there to bail us out!

    • Why would anyone want to learn how to brew a drink that has no health benefits and which is addictive enough to give fairly severe migraines when a person tries to stop? Sure, coffee drinkers have slightly lower rates of diabetes, but anyone who regularly takes speed will have a lower rate of diabetes because obesity is the prime trigger for diabetes. One study suggested that coffee drinkers have lower rates of liver cancer, but Utah’s rate of liver cancer is 2/3 that of the rest of the US, and it’s probably likely that Utah has a lower percentage of coffee drinkers than the rest of the US, so I’m taking that study with a grain of salt until more studies are completed.

      Note, I’m not saying that anyone who drinks coffee is bad. Everyone has their foibles, everyone is addicted to something. For some of us it’s marijuana (which is legal in some places), for others it’s coffee, for others it’s TV, for others its cigarettes, or getting too wrapped up in a book. Nobody’s perfect.

      • Interesting point, but imagine that we were having this conversation in person, at a Scout roundtable. Everyone is responding to the question at hand, voicing opinions about types of knots for ties and other life skills that are important for Scouts to learn.

        Would you really jump into that conversation to offer your strongly-held beliefs about coffee consumption, just because coffee-drinking was mentioned in passing? And in so doing insult the coffee-drinkers present? I’m sure there are plenty of forums for this debate elsewhere on the Internet, and maybe this blog has room elsewhere for a discussion of whether caffeine-consumption by adults at Scout events does anyone any harm, but one key to civility on the Internet, especially on a website underpinned by the notion that a Scout is Courteous, is to speak as if you were in the same room with the people you are sharing your opinion with.

        • You first sentence answered your own question:
          We’re addicted and don’t want migraines. 🙂

          Besides, it’s warm and wonderful in the morning … especially on camping trips. Mmmm.

        • Like I said, I’m not denigrating coffee drinkers. I’m just responding to the thought that brewing coffee is something that guys (and girls) “should” know. No, it’s not something that anyone “needs” to know. If you know how, bully for you, I’m happy to see that you’ve another skill to add to your set. There’s no shame, though, in not knowing how to brew coffee, just like there shouldn’t be any shame in not knowing how to fold an origami crane, or knowing how to bake strudel. Is brewing coffee in our culture very common? Absolutely. Is it something that people “need” to know or “should” know? Nope, no more than they need to know how to fold an origami crane or bake strudel.

          Now, let’s move on to how we’re communicating. Are you really equating a forum (namely the internet) where literally everyone can “speak” at the same time and everyone can “hear” what everyone else is saying with perfect fidelity, with a real life conversation? Of course I wouldn’t jump in at a roundtable and say what I said — it’s a different medium and different rules apply, just like communicating via Morse code is a different medium and different rules apply there as well. Every medium carries its own particular “ruleset”. Are there things in common? Absolutely. Are they identical? Not in the slightest. Internet forums literally have multiple conversations happening simultaneously, it’s nowhere near the same as being in the same room as someone else.

          And, last, I presume you think I’m “insulting coffee drinkers” by pointing out its deleterious health effects and addictive nature? Seriously? If you feel insulted by that, then perhaps you should take a time out from the internet.

      • One drinks coffee because a) you like the flavor and/or 2) one likes the “effect” it has and/or 3) It is what one does in a given situation.
        Turkish Coffee: In a sufficiently large pot, add one heaping tablespoon of coarse ground coffee per each 8 ounce cup desired, plus one, AND one cup of water per each cup desired, plus one AND one teaspoon of sugar per each cup desired plus one . Stir and bring to a BRISK boil for one minute. IMMEDIATELY pour into serving/drinking cups. Allow to settle for one minute. Drink all but the last half inch.

        • Whatever floats your boat, I guess. I prefer drinks that don’t have bitter dregs, but that’s just me.

      • I teach hunter’s safety and one of the components of that is to learn what to do when lost in the woods. To that end: stay put, build a fire, and drink something warm to raise your body temp (in presumed cold hunting weather). Coffee would be that something warm.

        • “Coffee would be that something warm.” If you have warm coffee, then you have warm water. If you have warm water, there are plenty of alternate choices for a warm beverage that are easier to make than coffee, especially in a survival situation, beverages which have no bitter dregs which must be avoided lest they induce vomiting (which would just make the situation worse because it would hasten dehydration). Whatever you would have used to hold the coffee grounds, just use it to hold something else instead, dump that something else in the water, stir, drink, no need to strain or steep anything and no extra trash generated afterward from a filter or whatever. Hot chocolate and apple cider come immediately to mind, but I’m sure there are other choices as well. Promoting coffee as a survival aid when lost just seems a little extravagant, what with the extra overhead involved. If you’re used to drinking it daily, then yeah you’re going to need to carry it with you or you’ll have withdrawal symptoms laid on top of whatever else is going on while you’re lost, but if you’re not a regular coffee drinker then I don’t see the point in coffee as a survival aid.

    • Some of these are in Merit Badges:

      d. Personal Management (Eagle required) 2a.
      e. Painting MB 3a
      m. Fishing 9 or Fly-Fishing 10

    • Points A and H are addressed in Auto Maintenance Merit Badge. I would like to add that when I thought I needed to jump my car’s battery, the battery itself needed replacement because a cell died.

  18. When I started college in Aug 1967, the dorm had wringer washers, the school colors are maroon and gold (not Minnesota). You can probably see where I am going with this. The gym uniform was a maroon/gold reversible short with maroon gym shorts. ou should have seen the pink underwear that resulted from the unwary throwing all their stuff in the wash at once. I helped my mother wash the family clothes at the local laudromat so I knew to sort clothes by color.

    Regarding pressing and ironing mentined above, most of the clothes a gent would wear on a job interview are probably permanent press. You can’t let the dry clothes sit in the dryer.

  19. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, attending a school dance entailed pressing your shirt and slacks, shining your shoes and dusting off the sportcoat or suitcoat — nowadays the kids show up to most dances wearing blue jeans, with the exception of Homecoming and Prom, and then they usually wear clip-ons and the ties come off as soon as they walk out the door.

    My own sons learned how to tie a necktie in Cub Scouts, but by the time they needed to wear a tie for a high school event, I had top give them a refresher course. We stood side-by-side before the bathroom mirror and I guided them through the steps . . .

    I attended high school in the mid-70s, and we had one student in our class who wore a tie to school everyday – it was just his style! I always kind of admired his ability to be a maverick before his peers.

    Tying a necktie is indeed starting to become one of the lost arts of becoming a man, and we should encourage it stays in the Scout books.

  20. It is in the current (unitl June 1 2015) Wolf Book – Elective 17f!!!

    I was the last kid in my third grade to learn to tie his shoes. And I only did it to earn my Wolf Book. I was perfectly happy with Mom’s double knots!!!

    Commissioner Dave

    • And I thought I was slow learning to tie my shoes just before 2nd grade started. Makes me feel good I wasn’t the slowest in the world to learn.

  21. Proper technique to escort a lady and escort a gentleman. Including following up stairs and leading downstairs. Understanding why you escort someone helps dramatically.

    Besides Proms, ECOH and other High heel occasions, my parents have started to need help walking, we frequently escort them. Especially when the are dressed up.
    I know that when I escorted my girlfriend’s mother at a restaurant when I was a teen. It gained her approval to go on unchaperoned dates because I had such good manners.

  22. How to react to a “alledgedly” handicapped person. Blind? Hearing impaired? Wheel chair? Cane/walker? Hold the door? Ask first? Assume? Hold their arm/elbow? Place their hand in your elbow crook? Write a note? Kneel down to their level? Speak to them or their escort? Speak LOUDER? S-l-o-w-e-r-?

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