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 this blog, 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 your dapper best.
What to Look For in a Bow Tie
A black bow tie is a defining feature of Black Tie attire, so it's crucial to ensure that this detail is executed perfectly.
When choosing a bow tie, it is advisable to opt for a hand-tied one. Pre-made bow ties often appear lifeless and somewhat artificial, lacking the ability to sit as elegantly. Conversely, a hand-tied bow tie possesses more substance and presence. If you struggle with tying one yourself, you can always purchase a pre-tied bow tie with a discreet clip on the back. Rest assured, no one will be able to tell the difference.
In terms of size and shape, I personally prefer a bow tie that sits neatly within the lapels, maintaining the smooth and uninterrupted silhouette of the ensemble. I appreciate when the bow tie, even from a distance, retains its distinctive shape. Personally, I lean towards deeper bow ties as they exude more character and suit my personality. However, there are various other shapes available, so select the one that resonates with your taste.
Remember, attention to detail is paramount when it comes to completing your Black Tie ensemble, and the bow tie is no exception. Choose wisely and enjoy the elegance it brings to your overall look.
How to Tie a Bow Tie
How to Style Your Bow Tie
Wearing A Bow Tie With A Tuxedo
Wearing a bow tie with a tux, or dressing in "black tie", is perhaps the most traditional setting for a bow tie, so we’ll start there. Typically you would wear 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.
The 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...
Eddie Redmayne at the 2015 Oscars
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.
Wearing A Bow Tie With A Winged Collar
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 a 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 a classic option, although contrasting silk, patterned or textured bow ties can work for more flamboyant looks if the event is not too archetypal.
How To Wear A Bow Tie With A Suit
Now for pairing a bow tie with a suit. First, the practicalities: choose the type of bow tie according to your size – the larger 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.
Image Credit: happypreppy
Another element to consider is pairing your bow tie with a pocket square, choosing a smart or flamboyant fold to best match your outfit. See our YouTube video below explaining how to create the different fold types.
Wearing A Bow Tie Casually
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 grey 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.