Bow ties have enjoyed a real mainstream renaissance in the last few years. What was once the domain of the quirky, is now a men’s accessory staple. Bow ties can be wonderfully charismatic, but it can take a while to work out how a bow tie can cohere with your wardrobe and persona.
In the post below, we’ve set out some general rules for wearing a bow tie and the different looks you can employ to ensure that you always look at your dapper best.
Wearing a bow tie with a tux is probably a good way to gently ease into how to wear a bow tie, so we’ll start with that. We do lean strongly towards wearing this ensemble for formal occasions, regardless of the contemporary fashion for wearing ties in these situations – a bow tie will set these outfits and evenings firmly apart.
First rule of thumb: never go for pre-tied bow ties or, even worse, a clip on. They lack that essential individuality and imperfection that is part of the charm of the bow tie. If you're looking to make an impression, a clip on is a dead giveaway of someone not appreciating the finer points of the bow tie. Tying one is no harder than tying a tie, and you wouldn’t dream of a clip-on tie...
Image Source: Express.co.uk
The other obvious point is if using anything other than a self-tied bow tie, you miss out on the opportunity to have the very satisfying and aesthetically appealing option of untying your bow tie and wearing it loose around your open collar at the end of a memorable evening.
We have a particular weakness for a bow tie worn with a winged collar to black-tie or white-tie events. When doing so, a tuxedo rather than a cutaway suit should be chosen; a cravat is the more appropriate companion to the former. Taking inspiration from the Gladstone collar, named for the past prime minister, the winged collar is marvellously distinctive. One final point is to be sure to tuck in the wing tips behind the bow tie!
For evening-wear, a black or white self-tie in the same silk as your lapels is classic, although contrasting silk, patterned or textured bow ties can work for more flamboyant looks if the event is not too archetypal.
Take care with your pocket square if wearing a bow tie with your dinner suit; the combination can definitely work beautifully, but these articles should not compete sartorially. White is the prescribed choice for the pocket square; pattern is possible, but keep it subtle. If you crave variation without too much risk, a pin on your lapel is a modern, elegant option.
Now for pairing a bow tie with a suit. First, the practicalities: choose the type of bow tie according to your size – the larger in size you are, the bigger your bow tie should be. This then will dictate the size of your collar, which needs to be in proportion to your bow tie. Your button-down and classic collars should be reserved for wear with a tie or on their own when incorporated into a suit. With a bow tie and a suit, you want to go for a small or narrow collar corresponding to the size of your bow tie. A rounded club collar has character; a slim or normal bow tie is best with this collar.
Casual day-to-day wear is where you can really let loose and experiment with colour and all collar types. The same basic rules for matching pattern, texture, and colour to your shirt and the rest of the outfit apply to bow ties as to ties. As bow ties are more lively than ties, be aware that the effect of mixing pattern and texture will be heightened – advantageously or disadvantageously. A multi coloured bow tie on a light coloured shirt will always look striking, while pairing different fabrics and hues will add further interest.
Image Source: Lookastic.com
A red bow tie or blue bow tie is a safe choice for your first venture into wearing these distinguished accessories casually. For a refined look, choose muted, rich tones and play against similar hues – we love the way the maroon works with the different shades and textures of gray in the image below for instance, making for a nuanced outfit where the bow tie works in a relaxed, effortless way.
Image Source: MrPorter.com
Once you feel at ease with wearing bow ties as part of these relatively simple looks, you will be well on the way to choosing more daring combinations that are true to your personal aesthetic.