This article will deal with the different types of bow ties and how to work them into your wardrobe. If you’re interested in information on different types of ties, see our guide to neckwear.
Below, we’ll discuss:
- How Bow Ties Should Fit
- How To Tie A Bow Tie
- When To Wear One
- Bow Tie Styles
- Where To Buy
- How To Make Your Own Bowtie
- Why You Should Avoid Pre-Tied Bow Ties
The bow tie is a controversial item. Beloved by dandies, college professors, and the sartorially adventurous but generally not appropriate for most business settings, the bow tie is the rare menswear item that has a cult following alongside a cult loathing.
We are firmly on Team Bow Tie. Nothing else will do for black tie or white tie. Their festive nature makes them an excellent choice for grooms. If worn in a workaday fashion, they tell the world that the wearer is someone who is not concerned with what the world thinks of him.
In a world where it’s acceptable to wear faded jeans and sneakers to a decent restaurant, the act of wearing a bow tie shows an admirably aggressive disregard for the casual sartorial world we inhabit.
How Bow Ties Should Fit
Any bow tie, regardless of its style, should be approximately the same width as your face when knotted. If it’s too large, your head will look puny. Conversely, if it’s too small, your head will look comically massive.
Tying A Bow Tie
We have a full page dedicated to how to tie a bow tie. Click the preceding link for an easy-to-follow, step-by-step graphic on how to tie a bow tie.
Bow Tie Styles & Pairing Them With Your Face Shape
Not all bow ties are created equal. There are three main styles that are different shapes. While anyone can theoretically wear any style bow tie, the proportions of each style are such that they work better on some faces than others.
With that said, we invite you to take five minutes to determine your face shape if you haven’t done so already.
The butterfly bow tie is also known as a “thistle” bow tie. This is arguably the most common style of bow tie and is typically seen in two sizes: regular and jumbo.
Regular-sized bow ties look good on just about any face shape while jumbo thistle bow ties are better for men with larger heads. The curved proportions of butterfly bow ties serve to balance out the angularity of Square, Triangle, and Diamond face shapes.
Sometimes referred to as a “straight” bow tie, the batwing is just that: pretty much a straight line underneath the face. It exudes a sort of 1960’s, Sean-Connery-as-James-Bond cool that syncs very nicely with the slimmer proportions of tailored clothing we’re seeing today.
Men of smaller stature tend to do well with batwing bow ties as the proportions of it tend to be quite slim.
Square, Triangle, and Diamond faces should stray from batwing bow tie. The angular proportions of the tie simply add more sharpness to these already-sharp face shapes. Heart and Round faces, though, will do quite well with batwing bows because that same angularity harmonizes with their softer features.
Oblong faces do well with batwings, as this tie offers the least amount of verticality and, therefore, the most width. This balances out the Oblong face’s length.
Diamond tip bow ties have -you guessed it- tips that are diamond-shaped. These bows have a particularly dandy vibe to them, and they work well on men of any stature.
The pointiness of the tips make this tie a very good fit for faces with softer features, such as Round and Heart. Square, Triangle, and Diamond-shaped faces can get away with it but are still better off opting for a butterfly bow tie.
Where To Buy Bow Ties
Many classic tailored menswear brands make bow ties. Our favorites are:
- Ties.com: If you’re looking for a reasonably priced ($20-$25), good-looking tie, check out these guys out. Are they the best quality in the world? No. Do they provide much more than $25 worth of value? Absolutely!
- Beau Ties: Based in Vermont, Beau Ties offers a dizzying array of styles, colors and patterns for their bow ties. At $45 or so, they’re reasonably priced and offer excellent quality.
Making Your Own
For the guys out there with a bit more of a DIY ethic, we can’t strongly enough suggest that you try making your own bow tie. It’s a fun project of whose results you can be stylishly proud.
If you’d like to know how to make one, see our guide on how to make your own bow tie.
Why It’s Important To Avoid Pre-Tied Bow Ties
There are plenty of pre-tied and clip-on bow ties available for sale everywhere. This feeds into the unreasonable anxiety men have around being unable to tie bow ties. They’re the same as shoe laces, just around your neck!
You should not buy pre-tied bows unless you have a condition such as arthritis or a sports injury that prevents you from tying one comfortably.
The main reason for this gets into a deeper conversation on sprezzatura, which is the Italian concept of looking elegantly disheveled.
Sprezzatura, as it relates to the bow tie discussion, means that your bow tie is supposed to look a bit imperfect. Not only does it show that you tied it yourself (like a big boy), but it demonstrates a lack of fussiness, which is a key element of innate style.
Conclusion: When Should You Wear A Bow Tie?
As with so many things in life, good judgement is important here. Bow ties are not for every guy, or for every situation.
If you’re making a first impression like on a date or a job interview, we advise against a bow tie. The presentation is too unorthodox for these scenarios where playing it on the safer side is advisable.
We also have to dissuade folks from wearing bow ties to funerals. A key aesthetic factor of the bow tie is its whimsicality, and a funeral is the last place on Earth you want to look whimsical.
However, if you’re already established at your office? Go for it. Lunch date with your significant other who’s well aware of your proclivity for dressing up? Why not? If you’re wearing a tuxedo or tails, you must wear a bow tie.
If you’re in a situation where you won’t be penalized for having some fun, have some fun and throw on a bow tie.