Recently I was browsing the Mrs Bow Tie website for a new bow tie for an upcoming awards event and it really got me thinking about the fashion item as it is the rarest item within my wardrobe. It’s just one of those items of clothing which draws a very fine line between being able to pull it off fashionably in a smart/casual context and being laughed out of the room as too try hard. So what is it with the bow tie that makes it such a tricky item of clothing?
First things first, let’s create some perspective. You don’t have to be a trendsetter from London’s Shoreditch who wears braces, sockless loafers and a flat cap in order to sport a bow tie. There are many different occasions throughout the year that call for wearing one. The most common event for wearing a bow tie is of course the formal ones such as weddings, awards ceremony’s and gala dinners where it’s expected that you will put one on to accompany your dinner suit. The less common, and of course more challenging time to wear one is if you are looking to wear one instead of a necktie for work.
Men’s bow ties are the ideal accessory for looking smart and creating a great impression however there’s a huge number of options out there. So how will you know the best way to wear your bow tie? Is it acceptable to buy a ready-tied one? Should it be plain or patterned? With so many questions, here are my thoughts on what’s what in the world of wearing a bow tie.
Pre-tie or self-tie
There may be a few of you who have avoided wearing a bow tie because you’re not sure how to tie it correctly. Get the knot wrong and of course you’re going to be heading towards a fashion disaster and almost certainly looking more like a clown than a fashion icon.
Now I’m one who definitely opts for perfection and so I personally would always recommended that you bite the bullet and aim for the top with your fashion choices. In this instance it would be to buy a self-tied bow tie. Not it may sound daunting and heck, we’ve all seen those cheesy films where the guy can’t tie his knot in the mirror and his woman has to tie it for him, but it’s a lot simpler than you think. Buying yourself a self-tie bow tie will mean that you can practice repeatedly until you are happy with the perfect knot shape and size. It’s by far the best way for you to learn how to tie one for yourself.
A self-tie bow tie is a charming approach to wearing it in the first place, even if it’s not quite 100% symmetrical. The bow tie’s natural shape will instantly add that element of class you’ve been looking for. All you need is a little bit of patience if you’re not quite accustomed to tying one yourself.
The other option is of course the pre-tie bow tie. This style usually has a perfect, symmetrical bow that is easy to put on. It typically has a small metal hook that clasps into the material that sits behind the knot of the bow tie. The issue with these pre-tie bow ties is that you can sometimes get too loose a fit around the neck as the clasp holes are pre-spaced a bit like the buckle and buckle holes on a belt.
I would suggest that pre-tie bow ties should be reserved for children or others who struggle with the dexterity to tie for themselves. Although they can still deliver style and sophistication that is associated with this accessory, I sure know every time at a awards function or at work if someone has tied the bow tie for themselves or is relying on a clasp; they often create a subtly different yet still obvious look.
Another important factor to consider when it comes to wearing a bow tie is the shape and who knew there were so many options in this space?
The standard shape is the most popular, which is known as the “butterfly”. This is certainly the one that you will be most familiar with and it is certainly appropriate for pretty much every occasion due to the classic design. With a simple, symmetrical style, it is the type of bow tie adopted by the majority of men.
If you are taller or bigger than average, you may want to consider a larger bow tie for a proportional appearance. The large bow tie, or big butterfly, can have a more relaxed silhouette.
Batwing bow ties
Batwing bow ties feature a slim design with flat ends to create a very clean, smart look. A batwing bow tie is slimmer and smaller in height than most other styles. Just make sure it’s tied correctly to achieve the desired look!
The final shape is the diamond point; an eye-catching design that has pointed ends. It is slightly asymmetrical which just adds to its unique charm.
Another way to wear your bow tie is to incorporate some texture into the final look. Bow ties are available in a number of different materials, which can create a different effect. Satin bow ties are particularly popular as they go very well with suits, with an understated but elegant finish. Similarly, silk or faux silk ties also create a timeless, sophisticated look.
For a more luxurious approach to wearing a bow tie, although not particularly common you should absolutely consider velvet. Velvet bow ties tend to pair beautifully with any suit, adding a touch of glamour where it’s needed!
Patterned or plain
The last way to consider wearing your bow tie is the pattern. Many will opt to keep it simple and choose a plain bow tie, but with so many patterns out there, you can add a whole new dimension to your outfit. Whether it is floral, tartan, polka dot or paisley; the options are endless, with most patterns going well with the majority of suits; just be sure to wear the most appropriate style for the occasion!
So that’s it, my 4 considerations for buying a bow tie – tie-type, shape, material and style. Personally I won’t be rushing out to buy myself a new bow tie for work anytime soon as outside of black tie events I’m not really a bow tie sort of guy. If however you are considering venturing into the brave new world of the bow tie be sure to take heed of the above advice and pick something that best suits your personality. Finally, wear it with confidence.