In my memory, I see my dad standing beside his desk in a home office that no longer exists, flipping up the collar of his starched dress shirt, wrapping a polyester tie around his neck. To a boy desperately hoping to prove his manhood, this feels like a rite of passage, similar to the time I learned to shave before I had any facial hair. To pull off the half-Windsor, he explains, looking down at me, start with the larger end of the tie dangling just above the knee. I watch, eyes wide, struggling to follow the mechanics, distracted by the possibilities.

The half-Windsor is the everyday tie knot, the knot nobody notices, the knot your dad probably taught you, too. Adapted from its more intricate cousin about 100 years ago, it was named for the Duke of Windsor, King Edward VIII, a “godfather of fashion” who famously abdicated the throne to marry an American divorcee. Unlike the full Windsor or the uber-complex Eldredge knot, with its many folds, the half-Windsor works for just about any occasion when a man ought to wear a tie. That doesn’t mean it’s easy to master.

First, hang the tie around your neck and cross the two ends, wide over skinny. Wrap the big end behind the small one, pull it up through the neckhole, then down toward the floor. Loop it around the front in the same direction, feed it up through the neckhole again, then down through that same loop. Pull the whole thing tight. Clasp the skinny end and shimmy the little triangle toward your neck. If the tip doesn’t align with your belt, start over. Confused? So was I. But my dad would not do it for me, so I practiced. Over and over and over. Manhood, after all, was not about wearing a knot below my Adam’s apple; it was about putting it there myself.

The day I finally nailed the half-Windsor, it felt like a hug around my neck. Like the fabric itself was congratulating me on a job well done. I still crave that feeling. If I don’t get that point right at my beltline, even if it’s close, I dismantle the whole project and start over. In the age of hoodies-as-business-casual, the details make this humble knot feel pretty grown-up. By the time you read this, I’ll have a son of my own. Sometimes I wonder which tie I’ll use to teach him, or worry that he won’t care to learn. Most days, I just imagine the look in his eye when he struggles to follow the mechanics, distracted by the possibilities.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the Duke of Windsor as King Edward VII. He was King Edward VIII.

This story appears in the April 2024 issue of Deseret Magazine. Learn more about how to subscribe.