Posts for Category Good to Know

How to tie your shoes

You're probably tying your shoes wrong. This year, resolve to learn to do it right. Or at least faster.
Jan 282014

Happy New Year, Faithful Reader!

I see that I managed two posts in all of 2013, and made the usual promises about doing more. What will 2014 bring? Perhaps Warren Buffett could sponsor a $1 billion prize for the person who correctly guesses the full Bill’s Head posting bracket for this year. (We did accomplish a Very Significant Goal over at Bill’s Day Job World Headquarters late last year, so this year the work pace will perhaps be less frantic, leaving me more time and energy to waste here at Bill’s Head World Headquarters. As always, prepare to have your hopes dashed.)

Now that we’re 28 days into the year, are you still casting about for a New Year’s resolution that will improve your life in a massive, revolutionary way, but also will be really easy to keep so that you won’t find yourself, come December 31, despondent that you didn’t accomplish a single one of your self-improvement goals for the year? What if I told you it could also reduce by ⅔ the amount of time you spend performing a common chore? Look no further, dear friend. Simply amend your resolution list as follows:

list of New Year's resolutions, amended to include "Learn to tie shoes properly"

That’s right: “Learn to tie shoes properly” should be number 1 on your list of things to do this year.

“But wait!” you say. “I am a grownup and I already know how to tie my shoes.” Let me tell you a story.

Late last year, E——, who had been complaining about her shoes not staying tied, applied her sailor’s knowledge of knots to an analysis of how she was tying her shoes. “Oh my god!” she told me. “I’m tying my shoes wrong. That’s why they don’t stay tied.”

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “There’s only one way to tie shoes. You can’t be doing it wrong.” So she demonstrated. And then I looked at how I tied my shoes.

“Oh my god!” I said. “I’ve been tying my shoes wrong all my life!” Why? I was doing both phases of my knot “left over right,” which results in a Granny Knot. When you do it properly,  the two phases of the knot go in opposite directions (“left over right” and then “right over left”) producing a proper Bowknot.

After I got over my initial shock that I’ve been doing something so basic incorrectly for nearly 40 years, my first impulse was, of course, to go do a Web search to find out if anyone else had had the same revelation. It turns out that there are a lot of people doing it wrong, judging by the number of articles on Internet demonstrating the correct and incorrect technique.

Based on my highly scientific survey of people I know, there’s a pretty good chance you’re doing it wrong, too. How can you tell? Do your shoes come untied a lot? You’re probably doing it wrong. Do the bows on your knot end up pointing toward your heels and toes (below right) instead of draping nicely across your shoes (below left)? You’re probably doing it wrong.

photo demonstrating correct and incorrect shoelace knots

It didn’t take me long to come across Ian’s Shoelace Site, because of course there has to be one of those. Here you can learn everything you never wanted to know about shoe laces and how to tie them, including the revolutionary Ian Knot, which, according to Ian, allows him to tie his shoes in ⅓ the time as compared to a standard knot.

I have adopted the Ian Knot myself (along with Ian’s Secure Knot for more demanding situations). Have I achieved that sort of performance improvement? You may be surprised to hear that I have not gone so far as to time myself. But I will say that learning and converting to the Ian Knot was easier than overcoming all the years of bad technique and getting myself to tie a proper Bowknot.

Still skeptical? When I saw my family at Christmas I told them all about my recent shoe-tying revelation, and of course they all laughed at me for not knowing how to tie my shoes. Until I made them all show me how they do it: every one of them was doing it wrong, except for my 5-year-old niece, who clearly was taught to tie her shoes by someone other than her parents. They were all still skeptical that it mattered, but I have subsequently heard independently from both of my parents—who have had to overcome a lot more years of bad habit than I—who have changed their technique and find their lives better for it. Lest you think I am making this up, here is the actual testimonial from my father:

I should also tell you that I have taken to tying my shoes your “new way.”  I will readily admit, it is vastly superior to the way I did it for the first [middling-large number] years of my life.  Amazing what tricks we old dogs can learn from our children.

So don’t wait. Hurry over to Ian’s Shoelace Site* and accomplish something significant in 2014.


There’s even a shoelace app for you iPeople. Ian also published a book, Laces: 100s of Ways to Pimp Your Kicks, which E—— got me for Christmas so I can keep it on the coffee table and lecture everyone who comes to my house about how to tie their shoes properly.
Dec 072006

A recent Washington Post article brought this fascinating tidbit to my attention: in Quebec, words like fuck and shit won’t offend anyone if you toss them around. But be careful if you start talking about tabernacles, chalices, or christ: like many religious words, they’re used as profanity in Quebecois French.

Linguist André Lapierre explains:

You swear about things that are taboo… [In the United States] it is not appropriate to talk about sex or scatological subjects, so that is what you use in your curse words. The f-word is a perfect example. In Canadian French, you have none of the sexual aspects. So what do you replace it with? You replace it with religion. If you are going to use a taboo word, it would be anything related to the cult, to Christ, the Communion wafer, Jesus Christ, vestments, and elements of the altar like tabernacle. There’s quite a few of them.