The Playbook For The Modern Man

Bow Ties Aren’t Just For Eccentrics; Here’s How To Wear One With Style

There’s something undeniably fancy about a bow tie. Maybe it’s because of its inextricable link with the tuxedo or perhaps it’s due to an illustrious history of being worn by great men. Regardless, this accessory is an indisputable marker of class, distinction and elegance.

Today though, opportunities to sport a bow tie are scarce. Save for an annual gala or a black-tie wedding, most gents will be lucky if they wear it once a year. But despite common misconception, there are ways to sport this posh sartorial marker beyond the penguin suit.

This week, we explain how a bow tie can be the ultimate finishing touch, without even a hint of eccentricity or foppishness creeping in.

How To Wear A Bow Tie With A Suit

Suits and neck ties are the modern gentleman’s uniform. Invariably combined with a white shirt and a smart pair of black or brown Derbies, it’s not an easy ensemble to add flare to. Cue the bow tie.

While some might think a bow tie with a suit is the domain of a mad professors, done right it can be a fresh take on the day-to-day work outfit. The trick is keeping it simple. Match a statement bow tie with a plain white poplin shirt and either a navy or charcoal suit. Save your splash of colour for the tie itself, playing with pinks, pale blues or even textured neutrals during the cooler months.

If you’re feeling especially bold, a bow tie paired with a three-piece suit makes for an even stronger sartorial statement. Just be sure to keep all other accessories muted or non-existent. With a bow tie, you may even want to do away with a pocket square; the bow is enough.

How To Wear A Bow Tie With Separates

If you’re headed to the races or polo over the next few months, there’s a good chance you’ll be opting for separates – a blazer paired with a contrasting pair of trousers or chinos. With so many adopting this look though, it pays to think about how you can stand out from the pack and a bow-tie may well be your answer.

Not to be mistaken with the bow ties that are reserved for formal occasions like your black or ivory satin styles, the more casual bow tie looks fantastic with semi-formal outfits and is an easy way to show off your fashion chops. For example, think about pairing a navy blazer and beige trousers with a yellow and pale blue striped bow-tie for a fresh take on preppy.

How To Wear A Bow Tie With Black Tie

A tuxedo is virtually defined by its accompanying bow tie. Simple, elegant and the most formal most people will ever get (we’ll get to white-tie another time), a black satin bow tie is timeless and a classic piece that you’ll have forever.

However, with so many versions on the market, one would be forgiven for being a little overwhelmed with choice. My suggestion is to eliminate options by keeping things simple. Stick with a black satin version that’s either pre-tied or a self-tie. Wear it with either a plissé front shirt with concealed placard or a studded bib front dinner shirt. Whatever you do, when wearing a bowtie with a tuxedo it’s essential to opt for a shirt that doesn’t show buttons. This is an easy way to distinguish a dinner shirt from an everyday work shirt and lends a sense of occasion to your look.

If you absolutely insist on straying from the traditional black for a formal event, keep your bow tie monochrome with minimal patterning. A discreet dot or paisley is an easy way to add flare without diverging too far from the dress code.

Pre-Tied Versus Self-Tie

For many gentlemen the very mention of a bow tie is enough to make them hot under the collar – not because of the accessory itself but rather because of the threat of needing to tie it. This leads us to the question of pre-tied versus self-tie.

For the purists, there really is no beating a self-tie bow tie. Elegant in its invariable imperfection, a self-tie is the marker of a true gentleman. Often made out to be more difficult than it really is, this bow tie uses a traditional shoelace knot to form two even loops. The key is keeping the knot itself tight and opting for a starchy fabric. This stops the bow from drooping over the course of an evening.

However, all this is not to say that a pre-tied bow tie is in anyway wrong. Indeed, for many there simply isn’t time to struggle with a self-tie and there are a growing number of tasteful pre-tied options on the market. The finest amongst them are from the incomparable Tom Ford who does a range of extra chunky bow ties in luxurious satins and velvets.

Whatever you do, avoid a clip-on. With such good pre-tied versions, there really isn’t a need and you can spot them from a mile away for all the wrong reasons.

Bow Ties FAQ

Can I wear a bow tie with a suit?

Of course. Just keep your suit simple, like a navy suit with white shirt, and reserve the pop of color for the bow tie. You can experiment with bold colors during the summer, but keep it subtle during the cooler months.

Can I wear a bow tie in semi-formal setting?

Yes. Choose a more casual bow tie with your semi-formal attire. Stripped bow ties in pale colors like yellow and blue will look great with a navy blazer and beige trousers.

What is a pre-tied bow tie?

A pre-tied bow tie features a neat, symmetrical bow stitched and attached to an adjustable band. This makes it easy to size and put on.

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