There’s something special about bow ties. Despite their unique style, people from all walks of life can put one on and immediately appear a little classier and a lot more confident. Wear them to formal events with a tuxedo or with suspenders and jeans for a more casual look. Either way, people will praise you for your style and you’ll stand out.
If you’ve never worn a bow tie before, you may be hesitant to wear one out of fear it won’t look good on you. If so, don’t worry — anyone can make the bow tie look good if they wear it right, including you!
In this post, we’ll share some expert tips for wearing a bow tie. Even if you already wear this classic accessory, we’ll share some unique styles you may not be familiar with yet.
How the Bow Tie Came To Be
Have you ever wondered about the origins of the bow tie? Like the necktie, it comes from the cravat, a piece dating back to the 17th century. It was first worn in the Thirty Years War by Croatian mercenaries, who adorned their necks with these loosely tied accessories resembling scarves.
Over time, neckwear evolved, and by the 1830s the style that we know today as the bow tie already existed. They gradually overtook the cravat in popularity, even being worn by Abraham Lincoln in this 1865 photograph. Become a part of this history and adorn one of the bow tie styles we’re covering below.
The Three Types of Bow Ties
Nowadays, there are three different types of bow ties you can purchase: self-tied, pre-tied, and clip-on bow ties. Each has its own advantages, so keep reading to find out which you should choose.
Most men choose the self-tie bow tie because it's considered the most sophisticated. Since self-tie bow ties are most common, they are available in all sorts of styles, fabrics, prints, and colors.
It takes some time and practice to get the hang of how to tie a bow tie, but just like learning how to tie your shoes, it eventually becomes an automatic process.
Although it requires some effort and care, you don’t have to tie a perfect knot. Slight imperfections add character and let others know it’s not a clip-on, which is something you can be proud of.
The pre-tied bow tie is somewhere in the middle between the clip-on and the self-tie. It’s a little easier to wear, so if you need to get ready in a hurry, this may be a better alternative to the self-tied bow tie.
Pre-tied bow ties are also a good option for events where you’ll be moving around a lot or dancing. They won’t come loose or look sloppy, meaning you won’t have to adjust them.
It’s a good idea to have at least one pre-tied bow tie in your closet, just in case you need it.
Clip-on bow ties are the easiest to wear, which makes them ideal for people who just don’t want to deal with the hassle of tying a bow tie. They also don’t come untied when you are moving around or dancing, similar to pre-tied bow ties. The accessibility of clip-ons also makes them an ideal choice for people with mobility issues or the elderly who may struggle to tie their bow ties.
On the negative side, they tend to get crooked or off-center, which makes it more obvious they are not self-tied. Another downfall of clip-on ties is that they aren’t as readily available. Stores may carry a limited selection of colors and patterns since so many people shy away from them.
The Many Styles of Bow Ties for Men
When it comes to styling your bow tie, the color and pattern are the most important factors to consider. You’ll want to make sure they match your suit or tux and are suitable for the occasion (more on that later).
Although it’s not going to make or break your wardrobe, the shape of your bow tie can help you stand out and adds character to your outfit. There are several unique styles to choose from, and some people will likely have a preference for one style over the others. Read more about each style of bow tie and useful tips for wearing each one!
The Batwing Bow Tie
The batwing has a nearly rectangular shape, featuring a small knot with narrow bows that aren’t much wider on the ends than in the center. As a result, it's clean and symmetrical, a classic shape that’s suitable for formal or casual events. However, because of its slender shape, this bow tie is best for slimmer men.
The Butterfly Bow Tie
This bow tie style gets its name from its small knot and wide ends, a shape that resembles a butterfly. It is a very popular shape, especially among tall or larger men. The butterfly knot may be perfect for your tuxedo bow tie, but if you want it to stay put, try to avoid making it too big. This may cause it to come undone throughout the evening.
The Diamond Bow Tie
The diamond bow tie is an asymmetrical knot, just like the diamond point bow tie. These two are often confused, but this version is slimmer. It also resembles the batwing, except it has diamond tips. Choose this bow tie style for a formal event, such as when you need to wear a solid color bow tie with your tux.
The Diamond Point Bow Tie
The diamond point is quite different from the traditional diamond bow tie. It’s asymmetrical with pointed ends, one in the front and one in the back. It is perfectly acceptable at formal events, although it’s not the most traditional shape. If you want to stand out, go for this bow tie style!
The Asymmetrical Bow Tie
The whole point of this style is that it is not symmetrical. The top is different than the bottom and the left side is different than the right. The result is a really interesting shape that adds personality to your outfit. It shouldn’t be your main bow tie style, but if you want to have some fun, this is a good choice.
Tips on Choosing the Right Bow Tie
As mentioned, your dress shirt and suit will help you choose the right bow tie. You obviously don’t want to pick out a bow tie you love, only to find out it doesn’t match the rest of your attire.
Classic bow tie looks can be achieved with silk or satin bow ties, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other fabrics. For example, velvet bow ties are elegant and look great in the colder months. Meanwhile, a cotton bow tie is perfect for outdoor events in the summer because it is breathable.
Meanwhile, certain events call for specific colors, so if you are headed to a formal event you may want to wear a solid black bow tie. If the event isn’t black tie, the general rule of thumb is that darker colors are more formal. Meanwhile, lighter colors and patterns are more casual. So if you don’t want to wear black, you can keep your look formal with a navy blue bow tie. The exception to this rule is white bow ties, which are reserved for white tie affairs, but those are pretty rare these days.
If you plan on wearing a white shirt, you can wear pretty much any color bow tie, as long as it is appropriate for the event. Polka dots, paisley, and plaid bow ties are all excellent choices for semi-formal special occasions. Floral bow ties are great for cocktail parties or lunch at a fancy restaurant, but you can have fun wearing unique prints too.