The bow tie is a dapper man’s tried and true companion, and many in his collection are prized among his cache of fine accessories. Bow tie fashion rules are, for the most part, timeless. Keep these five on hand and you’ll be prepared for almost every social situation.
1. Mind the Dress Code
Always consider the dress code. One must be conscious and respectful of either an implied or prescribed dress code. Here are some common ones:
Your work attire will likely fit the bill for business casual. For many, that’s slacks and a sport coat or blazer and either a bow tie or necktie. In some cases a polo is acceptable attire - but not with neckwear, of course.
To become a pro at combining style elements like jeans or shirts with your bow ties, read our article on How to Wear a Bow Tie Casually.
Business or Cocktail Attire
Also known as semi-formal, these occasions call for men to wear a matching suit and a bow tie or necktie.
White tie is the most formal of all dress codes and requires a white bow tie and other accessories, and demands either a tux or tails.
Other dress codes are not so obvious - and therefore may require a call to your host. Some of our open-to-interpretation favorites include “A Cool Up Get Up, So You Can Get Down”, “Carolina Casual” and “Fancy Pants”.
If no dress code is specified, either inquire as to what’s appropriate or go with the dapper direction that suits your fancy. When in doubt, risk being overdressed than under.
2. Opt for a Self Tie Bow Tie
There are numerous advantages to opting for a self-tie piece. To start, there are infinite choices of fabric and print at your fingertips. Whatever the occasion, the color story, or your mood, there’s a bow tie for that! The options are many in the pre-tie sphere as well, of course, but the opportunity to show your bow tie personality is more limited.
Then there’s the act of knotting a self-tie bow tie. There’s something special that comes with the crafting of the knot - a little je ne sais quoi that’s wrapped and folded into it that infuses extra swagger.
This is why we cut our bow ties on the bias - they have the ideal amount of stretch, which creates a relaxed knot that’s not only a pleasure to tie but that also maintains its shape. These details support our mission of helping gentlemen feel comfortable, confident and empowered.
Note that we haven’t suggested the need for a perfect or symmetrical knot! Part of the charm of a hand-tied bow tie is it’s minimal, elegant imperfection.
3. Consider Bow Tie Size & Shape
Newcomers to the bow tie scene may neglect to ask an important question: What size bow tie do I need? Similar to when choosing your shirt (see below), you need to think about the size of the neck and the style of the collar.
At R. Hanauer, most of our bow ties are available in four sizes:
- Regular: 15 1/2 to 18 inches
- XL: 18 to 20 inches
- XXL: 20 to 22 inches
- Youth: 13 1/2 to 15 1/2 inches
We offer several styles to choose from as well:
- Classic: Henry 2 ¼ inch
- Butterfly: Philip 2 ½ inch or Stuart 3 inch
- Straight: Jackson 2 inch
- Diamond: Stanley 2 inch or Louie 2 ⅜ inch
- Pre Tied
As a rule of thumb, big and tall gentlemen and those who favor a bold look enjoy bigger bows, whereas men of smaller stature and those seeking subtlety enjoy small ones.
4. Choose Your Ensemble With Care
Some gentlemen are unsure of how to depart from their signature bow tie look - typically a favorite shirt and trouser combination or a full suit. But the possibilities for creative, cerebral and even casual ensembles are endless.
To help build your foundational knowledge, though, let’s talk about what type of shirt to wear with a bow tie. There are more than 20 collar options, the most common being:
Most commonly worn with a tuxedo, the wingtip is the most formal of choices and - with its little wings - simultaneously sets off the gentleman’s face as well as bow tie.
Spread refers to the distance between collar points. Those with a narrow face are best complimented by a wide spread collar, and those with a wider face enjoy a narrow spread.
Most popular among all choices, the pointed collar is the traditional gentleman’s go-to shirt. The look is classic, conservative and accessible.
As its name suggests, the button-down collar is secured to the shirt with tiny buttons which may be visible below the bow tie - a choice generally favored by the modern, preppy man.
5. Accessorize with Flair
While a bow tie can single-handedly create a statement, the well-dressed gentleman can pair a number of fine accessories alongside it to further elevate an ensemble.
The bow tie’s best friend is, of course, the pocket square - which should complement but not match the bow. Also handsome is a carefully selected solid-color or patterned belt, a pair of swanky suspenders, and a pair of classic (or a twist on classic) shoes. These days, one’s safety mask counts for an accessory as well!
When accessorizing, it’s best to mix bold with subtle so as to appear confident and polished, rather than overzealous. At first, go with a one-to-one ratio and build toward more complex curations.
Ready to find your new favorite bow tie - or get it a best friend? For a limited time, R. Hanauer is offering 10% off to loyal readers. Claim your discount:
---At R. Hanauer, we value quality and self-expression above all else. If you have questions about traditional, preppy, or creative looks for the modern man, connect with us! We are here to support your menswear journey. Check out our social media channels for inspiration and how-tos - Instagram, Facebook and YouTube - and tag us with #RHanauer when you post to your own!