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Can't Tie His Tie

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Roger: I've already destroyed this telethon [undoes Stan's bowtie] and untied your bowtie!
Stan: No! You've given me a relaxed demeanor!

It's standard protocol for men to wear either a necktie or bow tie when dressed up formally. But in many cases, the guy just can't do it. Often, if there's a female companion, she will end up doing it for him, although he will not always be happy about it. This is also sometimes used as a form of Ship Tease due to the necessary proximity required, and may or may not result in a Necktie Leash.

Often Truth in Television, since guys these days have the option of clip-on ties or just don't dress up often enough to get used to it, or both.

Another common form is a mother tying her son's tie. Usually accompanied by comments about how handsome he looks, or how grown up he's become.

If a character manages to get their tie but does it incorrectly, then it may be a Wardrobe Flaw of Characterization.

Zip Me Up applies a similar Ship Tease element to female attire. For another excuse to stand beside your love interest and touch them, see Hands-On Approach.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Akuma no Riddle: In this case, her tie; In the final chapter, Tokaku and Haru are adults, both wearing suits. Noticing Haru's loose tie, Tokaku tightens it up for her.
  • Blue Exorcist: At the beginning, Rin is lent a suit to apply for a job, but can't work out the tie at all. Similar to other examples, he claims he's going for the smart-casual look, but Father Fujimoto calls him on it and ties it for him.
  • Fruits Basket: In the second chapter/episode, Tohru helps Yuki fix his tie after accidentally transforming him. Yuki's reaction is stunned but pleasant surprise at the fact that she genuinely doesn't care about his curse and still wants to be his friend. Not necessarily romantic, but definitely heartwarming.
  • In the anime of THE iDOLM@STER: Cinderella Girls, Mishiro fixes the Producer's tie within seconds of their first encounter.
  • In one of the many Ho Yay moments in Hetalia: Axis Powers, Austria straightens Italy's tie, and Italy whispers, "Austria..." while blushing with roses in the background.
  • In the Yuri Genre manga I Don't Blame You, one of the two unnamed main characters is another rare female example. She's unable to tie her tie on her own without her kohai's help, but it's implied that she deliberately ties it badly so her kohai will do it for her.
  • In Moriarty the Patriot, Sherlock rarely wears a tie and when he is first seen struggling with a necktie, he tells John he hasn't worn one since graduating from university. This is a repeated character flaw and is underscored when John agrees to help him fix one before meeting with Queen Victoria after a fight, signifying that they've made up.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Angelic Days uses this in its final volume. Asuka fixes Shinji's while complaining about how she has to do this, and how Shinji can't, and other things while blushing. The others take it as a sign that their Relationship Upgrade is holding.
  • School Zone Girls has Rei, who's a rare female example. While the school requires girls to wear neckties as part of the uniform, Rei doesn't wear hers. Possibly as a result of this, she's utterly hopeless at tying it when she has to wear it to a school assembly, forcing her best friend Kei to help her.

    Comic Books 
  • Iron Man: After getting his memory rebooted, Tony Stark discovers he can't remember how to tie a tie. His friend Jim Rhodes has to help him.
  • A "Lighter Side of..." strip in MAD magazine had a husband complaining about how hard tying a bowtie was and his wife responding that it was no harder than tying an apron (NOTE: regardless of which is more difficult, tying an apron and tying a tie are very dissimilar techniques). He says if it's so easy then she should do it for him. She does, by turning her back and tying it with him sitting behind her.
  • Superboy (1994): Roxy has to tie Superboy's tie for him when he tries to dress nice for a date with Tana since he never learned how to do so himself.
  • In Superman: The Wedding Album, Clark is struggling with his bowtie, and Jimmy Olsen says, "Let an expert help with that," before turning out to be Mr Mxyzptlk. (It doubles as a Mythology Gag since the Silver Age Jimmy and Mxy both wore bowties all the time.)

    Films — Animation 
  • In Peter Pan Mr. Darling is having problems tying his bowtie properly when he and Mrs. Darling are getting ready for their evening out, and she has to tie it properly for him. Given that he was in the middle of a rant as he was trying to tie it though, it's not entirely clear if didn't know how to tie it, or if he was just too flustered to concentrate on it.
  • During the opening montage in Up, Ellie is seen straightening Carl's tie. She's seen doing it many times as they grow older. The rest of the movie, which takes place after Ellie dies, only ever shows Carl wearing a bowtie, showing that he never learned how to tie his tie even after Ellie died.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • At the start of 13 Sins, Shelby ties Elliot's tie for him when he goes in for an interview with his boss that he thinks is going to result in a promotion.
  • In The Batman (2022), Bruce has so little interest in his civilian ID that he is almost leaves to attend the mayor's funeral wearing a shirt with uundone cuffs because he couldn't find his cufflinks. Alfred cannot allow him to leave the house like that and removes the cufflinks from his own shirt and puts them on Bruce's.
  • In God's Army, there's a sequence where Elder Allen has a hard time getting his tie to the right length. Elder Dalton finally gives him a pre-tied tie.
  • He is not actually wearing a tie, but Coco straightens Junior's collar and the lapels on his jacket before he leaves to collect the ransom in Judas Kiss.
  • Minority Report: When preparing for the ceremony, Burgess has trouble tying his bow tie and asks Anderton's wife for help. It leads to a pivotal I Never Said It Was Poison revelation.
  • The Ripper (1997) opens with Inspector Hansen agonising over how to properly tie his cravat for dinner with Sir Charles at Sir Charles' Smoky Gentlemen's Club, and complaining that there are over a dozen different ways to tie a cravat; to the bewilderment of his assistant Sergeant Bell. Later, when Hansen confronts Prince Albert during a pheasant shoot, Albert looks at Hansen's cravat and tells him that a reverse Clarendon is really only appropriate in town and unties it before retying it in an ascot, which he says is much more appropriate for the country.
  • In Sorority Row, Cassie unties Andy's tie on the pretext that he has put it on wrong and she is going to retie it for him. However, she then pulls him down on to the bed.
  • When preparing for his homecoming date, Spider-Man: Homecoming's Peter Parker is shown consulting a Youtube tutorial on the Windsor knot.

  • In Animorphs #21: The Threat, Ax needs to disguise himself as a human Controller, but the disguise includes a tie, which none of the guys know how to tie. Rachel ends up doing it.
  • In The Automatic Detective, Mack's big smashy hands are simply incapable of tying ties and he requires assistance. A later short story establishes that he switches to clip-ons and loves them.
  • Eighth Doctor Adventures: In The Last Resort, Fitz doesn't seem to be doing a good job tying a tie when he's forced to pass as a respectable businessman, so Anji helps.
  • Robert A. Heinlein's Glory Road. Oscar can't tie his tie before his dinner with Star, so his valet Rufo does it for him. Oscar has to lie down, as Rufo learned to do this while dressing bodies in a funeral parlor.
  • In Honor Harrington, the Grayson military's uniforms come with ties, and Honor has to wear them sometimes. She can't do the tie, so her steward MacGuinness does it for her.
  • Job: A Comedy of Justice: Part of the early indication that there was a relationship between "Alec" and Margrethe is her willingness to help Alex into his formalwear, including tying his tie.
    Tying a bow tie properly involves magic. She knew the spell.
  • Laura Caxton: Arkeley's inability to tie his own tie after his injuries is another example of how far he's fallen, which contributes to his decision to become a vampire.
  • Near the beginning of Peter Pan, Mr and Mrs Darling are dressing to go out for dinner; Mr Darling can't get his tie to work ("Not round my neck! Round the bed-post! Oh yes, twenty times have I made it up round the bed-post, but round my neck, no!") and has to get his wife to tie it for him.
    "It is an astounding thing to have to tell, but this man, though he knew about stocks and shares, had no real mastery of his tie. Sometimes the thing yielded to him without a contest, but there were occasions when it would have been better for the house if he had swallowed his pride and used a made-up tie."
  • In Seeds of Yesterday, Chris ties his tie, and then promptly asks Cathy to redo it for him.
  • Star Wars: Resistance Reborn: While preparing to infiltrate a fancy party, Finn needs Poe's help to tie his suit's tie, embarrassingly noting that the First Order obviously did not teach its stormtroopers how to do so.
  • Right at the beginning of Little Women Part II, Meg finishes getting dressed and ties her husband-to-be's cravat for their wedding, dispensing with the usual superstition about how a groom shouldn't see the bride before the vows and demonstrating how simple and domestic their wedding is to be. When Aunt March arrives and is instantly greeted by Meg, she tries to tell her that she shouldn't be seen yet, but Meg laughs it off.

    Live-Action TV 
  • As the World Turns: Noah has trouble tying his tie and Luke helps him, leading to their First Kiss, which is the first male/male kiss shown on American daytime.
  • CSI: In the episode "Formalities" at a fancy dinner, Grissom has trouble with a bowtie and grumbles that he needs a clip-on, so Catherine steps in to help with a dry "you need a woman" comment.
  • Adam on CSI: NY has trouble when getting ready to go to the 10th anniversary memorial of Sept. 11, and Lindsay ends up tying his.
    Lindsay: By the time you're done, it'll be the 20th anniversary.
  • Daredevil: In "Penny and Dime", Matt is about to put his tie on when Karen shows up at his apartment as he's getting dressed for Grotto's funeral. She decides to tie his tie for him (even though he's more than capable of doing it himself), the two of them gently flirting the whole time.
    Matt Murdock: Not that I can verify, but you seem good at this.
    Karen Page: [smiles faintly] Uh, well, my brother wasn't, so... that's where I came in.
    Matt Murdock: You never said you had a brother.
    Karen Page: never asked. [runs her hands over Matt's shoulders]
  • In the Dexter TV show, his sister has to tie Dexter's tie on the day of his wedding. Bit of subtext there, since their actors were married to each other at the time.
  • Sometimes used as part of an absent-minded characterisation of the Doctor in Doctor Who:
    • The Second Doctor can tie his bow tie, but never straight or evenly. The knot is correct but askew.
    • The Fourth Doctor almost always ties his cravat incorrectly, although the precise way in which it's incorrect depends on the story itself. He tends to twist it up and just double-knot it, or occasionally just pins it together.
  • Joey from Friends gets others to tie ties for him. One scene begins with Ross apparently doing up his own tie only for him to take it off and hand it to Joey instead.
  • Stan on The Golden Girls — Dorothy winds up tying it for him.
  • In the BBC's 2002 production of The Hound of the Baskervilles, Sir Henry struggles with his white tie when dressing for dinner, and Watson finally does it for him.
  • On The Jeffersons, there was a flashback to George getting ready for a meeting with a banker for a loan to start his own cleaners. He put on his suit and was having difficulty with his tie when the banker arrived. George told him he was just taking it off.
  • In Married... with Children, it's not indicated that Al can't tie his necktie properly, but Peg doesn't like the way he does, and insists on adjusting it, which results in their kids and the next-door neighbors being treated to an Innocent Innuendo-laden conversation.
    Al: Now it's too long!
    Peg: Most women like it that way!
  • Earl from My Name Is Earl. One time he was going on a job interview and Randy had untied his tie that their grandfather had tied for him who-knows-how-many years ago. Earl complained, but Randy said he wanted to show Earl what he'd look like as a yuppie at a concert (tie tied in a simple square knot around his forehead).
  • For one MythBusters test, Jamie and Adam both had to don full tuxedos. Jamie had to get their guest expert to tie his bow tie for him.
  • NCIS: In "Institutionalized", Gibbs walks into the lab to discover Kasie attempting to tie a necktie. When Gibbs asks her what she is doing, she explains that an old friend has a job interview and doesn't know how to tie a tie. She promised him she would tie it for him, only to discover she doesn't know how to tie one either. Gibbs takes the tie from her, ties it around his own neck, and hands it to her. Kasie's friend later turns to be the main suspect in the Mystery of the Week.
  • Ryan Atwood of The O.C. cannot tie his borrowed tie on his borrowed suit. He attempts to hide this by claiming he prefers the untied look and Sandy calls him on it, then helps him. A few seasons later this replays with Ryan's brother, Trey.
  • Person of Interest. In "Provenance", despite being known as "The Man in a Suit", Badass in a Nice Suit John Reese still needs instruction from Sharp-Dressed Man Harold Finch on how to do up his tie for a Black-Tie Infiltration. Sameen Shaw enters and promptly lampshades the Homoerotic Subtext.
    Finch: It's just like a shoelace, Mr Reese. I find that it helps if you practice on a leg. Or a collarless neck if you're out of practice.
    Reese: I can field strip a .45 upside down in the dark, Finch. I think I can handle a bow tie.
    Finch: Of course. [beat] Is it butterfly or batwing? [Death Glare from Reese] Never mind, take your time...
    Shaw: Hate to interrupt this mildly erotic moment, gents, but the invitation advises us not to be late.
  • Devon in Raven's Home; he ends up going to Raven for help.
  • On Roseanne, David is lamenting the fact that his dysfunctional parents aren't showing up for his wedding, while his older brother Mark argues he shouldn't even care. David, meanwhile, is trying to put on his tie, which Mark eventually does for him. Mark mentions that their father taught him how to do it, but that it's really the only thing he can remember him ever doing for him.
  • Runaways (2017): In "Metamorphosis", Alex has trouble tying his tie. Geoffrey offers to help him with it, but given the previous episode, Alex isn't too keen on it.
  • Sports Night: Casey ("I used to have a wife for that"), which is why Kim is tying it for him in "The Hungry And The Hunted".
  • Twin Peaks: In "The Return: Part 5", Janey-E ties Cooper's tie, when he leaves the house with it still around his neck untied.
  • In W817, Tom needs his fiancé Ellen's help to properly tie a tie:
    Ellen: Who tied it before I came along?
    Tom: My mom...
  • The West Wing: On at least one occasion Donna Moss has had to do up Josh Lyman's bowtie for him which only ramped up the Unresolved Sexual Tension between them.

    Video Games 
  • In Heavy Rain, the police chief is shown struggling with a tie, as he usually wears a clip-on to avoid it being used against him by a suspect.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Dave in Alvin and the Chipmunks. Simon has to help him with his bow tie while they’re talking in "Chipwrecked", as Dave’s getting ready to have dinner with the captain.
  • In the American Dad! episode "Phantom of the Telethon", Roger sabotages Stan's CIA telethon and then undoes Stan's bowtie which he can't redo.
    Stan: No! You've given me a relaxed demeanor!
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: Given that he spent much of his adolescence on the run or in lockup, Kevin has never had much experience with school dances and struggles with his tie in "Save the Last Dance". Ben does it for him.
  • In one story on Hulk Hogan's Rock 'n' Wrestling, the good wrestlers are helping a friend run a hotel. Hulk Hogan couldn't tie his bowtie and Wendi Richter had to help him.
  • The Patrick Star Show: In "Bummer Jobs", Cecil ties his tie, but ends up making it too tight. Later on, Patrick tries to put on a tie himself, but ends up getting it wrapped around his arms and legs and strangling himself with it.
  • Clumsy has a few fumbles tying his tie in The Smurfs (1981) episode "The Golden Smurf Award".
  • The Simpsons: Homer Simpson teaches Bart how to put on a necktie by presenting his clip-on: "The hook goes over the top, and these things go in there!"
  • Steven Universe: In "The Big Show", Buck gets some flack for being completely unable to tie a tie despite being the son of the previous mayor, who wore them every day. He admits that Bill wore clip-ons.

    Real Life 
  • Bill Nye has this rather amusing anecdote about how his grandfather learned to tie a bowtie:
    I started wearing bow-ties when I was young, in highschool. My father showed me, his father showed him. There's a story behind this that I find quite... remarkable. My grandfather attended a convention in Philadelphia, and even in those days you rented tuxedos, and the tuxedo came with a bow-tie. An untied bow-tie. He didn't know how to tie a bow-tie, so he took a chance and went to the hotel next door and asked, "Excuse me, can you teach me to tie my tie?" and the guy said "Sure, just lay down on the bed." My grandfather wanted to have the tie on, and wasn't sure what he was getting into. He was said to have laid down on the bed and the guy tied a perfect bow-tie knot! Quite reasonably, my grandfather said "Thank you, but why did I have to lay down on the bed?" The guy said "I'm an undertaker. It's really the only way I know how to do it."
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt cannot tie a bowtie. This proved a problem at the 2013 Oscars. Fortunately for him, his date — Sally Field, who played his mother in Lincolndid know how to tie one. The result was adorable.
  • The Nostalgia Critic: One behind-the-scenes video shows Doug Walker, being unable to tie his trademark red tie, right before shooting his crossover with James Rolfe, The Angry Video Game Nerd. He asks all the men present in the house for help, including the cameraman (his brother Rob), Mike Matei, and even James Rolfe himself, who tries and fails multiple times to tie the tie. In the end, James Rolfe's wife is the only one who is able to do it.
  • Many people who suffer from conditions affecting hand-eye coordination such as dyspraxia find it difficult, if not outright impossible, to tie a necktie, and will often require the assistance of another person - who may or may not be their partner - in order to put it on correctly.
  • A lot of people can go months (or longer) at a stretch without going to an occasion that requires formal wear - it used to be that people wore ties/cravats pretty much daily, now most people are only expected to wear them at weddings, funerals and job interviews - and as such simply never have any need to master the art of doing a tie. This results in difficulty when they hit the few infrequent occasions when they actually do need to wear a tie.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cant Tie A Tie


But I never said she drowned!

Anderton's wife asks about Anne Lively's death, and Burgess pretends not to know about it but says he'll see if "anyone drowned a woman by the name of—what did you say her name was?". At which point Anderton's wife realizes that Burgess knows more than he lets on because she never mentioned the drowning.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / INeverSaidItWasPoison

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