So you’ve decided you want to try out bowties. Cool. The great thing about bowties is their variability with a mans wardrobe. If you are tired of looking at your rack full of wide and skinny ties that makes you feel constricted in attempt to feel fashionable, bowties just may be for you. If you want to experiment with different color palates, shapes, patterns and enjoy the versatility of this classic accessory – look no further. You may have doubts to whether it is something you can truly ‘pull off’; yes, I have heard this quote from David Sedaris, “A bow tie announces to the world that you can no longer get an erection”. Ive seen this line thrown around here almost every time a bowtie thread comes up and I do not see why it is considered a relevant, let alone valuable, opinion. If you are willing to embrace the variety and flexibility this staple menswear piece provides to some outfits or occasions, you will be rewarded with a new appreciation for this creative outlet of fashion. This guide will attempt to tell you everything you need to know to wear one successfully.
When choosing a design for a bowtie you should keep track of pieces in your wardrobe you can coordinate it with, mainly shirts. A golden rule for both ties and bowties with shirts is to keep one of them patterned and the other solid. Think contrast. So if you want to get a print or striped bowtie, keep the shirt solid. If you get a solid bowtie, get a patterned shirt. Don’t keep both solid unless it is a black tie event. Rarely attempt making both patterned – it can be done, but perhaps only if the shirt is a very subtle pattern.
Here are a couple examples
This is another detail that makes the most sense when looking at the outfit as a whole. The key here is to create contrast with different fabrics. This keeps the ensemble interesting and makes it look like you really know what you are doing, which is the key to pulling off a bowtie. Bowties can come in tons of different fabric options including, but not limited to, silk, wool, linen, cotton, and velvet. If you choose a heavily textured fabric like wool or velvet it would be a good idea to pair it with a fine/refined fabric jacket. Similarly, soft and smooth bowties of cotton or silk would look killer with a heavily textured jacket like tweed or seersucker. Here are a couple examples.
There are three basic shapes available for bowties: butterfly
.Butterfly’s are the most traditional and may come in a wide and/or narrow modification to the original shape which is roughly 2.3-2.5”. If you are just getting into this I would recommend getting a classic butterfly shape as it is the most original and least aggressive in cut.
Diamond Points are very similar to the butterfly shape except both tails end in a point instead of blunt shape; a tied version will show only one of the points. This shape is most unique in its asymmetry and as a result is a very trendy option. It is usually available as wide as 2.5” down to 1.5”.
Batwing/Straights are possibly the most narrow option, often being available in 1.25-1.75”. This shape has less of a belly than the butterfly, hence why it’s named straight. This is probably the shape easiest to screw up with an outfit as it depends on a more sleek and sharp aesthetic.
Keep in mind that these shapes are actually cut permanently so you dont expect to buy a butterfly shape and make it diamond point through some tying voodoo. The measurements provided are not set in stone and retailers often vary the actual width of the basic shapes within a quarter inch or so. You also may see something like a diamond/straight fusion shape; don’t be scared away but approach with caution.
There’s not much to remember here except the most popular option is the button down collar. Collar points are the last thing you want attracting attention when sporting a bowtie as you risk creating a concentrated casserole of fabric corners in one area. Button down collars will stay put in the background and keep focus on the tie. A good portion of the population, myself included, also use wide/spread collars but this option should be reserved for larger shapes like butterflys that can effectively mute the collar points.
This area is pretty straightforward too. Just make sure to keep the shape of the bowtie in proportion to the lapel width. So if you decide to get a batwing shape you should stick with relatively narrow notch lapels. A classic butterfly is good enough for moderately sized lapels like those on traditional tweed jackets. And if you decide to go with a larger butterfly, go full retard with wide peak lapels a la Tom Ford
How to Tie
I really like the way this video shows a straightforward technique in proper tying. Getting the basic knot formation is a very small part of the final product. IMO, adjusting the knot by pulling both sides and playing with it until it is crisp and tight will make it look considerably less half assed than many rookie knots out there. Heres a longer vid that teaches a detailed technique.
- Because a bowtie covers less surface area of the torso than a tie, it would be a good idea to layer with a cardigan or vneck like this
to make the upper body look less “naked” under a jacket. Though, I would not consider this a rule but more of a preference as climates don’t always permit excessive layering.
- Plaid is still kind of acceptable but kiss madras good bye for a long time. Seriously don’t get anything madras. Stop it.
- In terms of outfit context, the rules of bowties and ties are the same – dont wear them without jackets. Again, feel free to take advantage of cardigans or vnecks to layer under a jacket, but don’t consider them a substitute.
- Be mindful of the context of your environment when you wear a bowtie. This is not a recommended piece for interviews or kickback parties or any occasion you attempt to intentionally one-up everyone you interact with. If you don’t really give a fuck about that then…
- WEAR THE BOWTIE WITH CONFIDENCE. The number one way to mess this up is looking uncomfortable. Don’t fidget or whimper for attention. It is the golden ticket for approachability so don’t be afraid to be forward and gregarious but keep it toned down so you don’t look crazy enthused.
- As with all areas of fashion, stick to the fundamentals until you are comfortable and knowledgeable enough to branch out and experiment with any particular style that speaks to you.