How to Match a Bow Tie with an Outfit

How to Match a Bow Tie with an Outfit

The right accessory can elevate an ensemble from handsome to dashing. For a true gentleman, the devil is in the details – no accoutrement is insignificant when it comes to looking sharp. 

The bow tie, of course, is the king of the trappings of elegance. So how do you match it with your outfits? Here's our style guide to help you choose the right bow tie.

Things to Know About Bow Tie Outfits

Front and center, the bow tie does more than just complement the outfit. It tells the world something about the wearer. There’s a boldness to a bow tie; a sophistication unmatched by traditional neckties. 

The details in a bow tie can be as unique as the man who wears it. From the pattern and fabric to the size and shape of the wings, high-quality bow ties round out a wardrobe in a way few accessories can.

Let’s take a look at the myriad options found in handmade bow ties and how to match a bow tie with an outfit to accomplish the composition for the look you want. 

Bow Tie Size Considerations

Some say fashion and comfort don’t mix, but we disagree. At R. Hanauer, we create every piece with the gentleman in mind and advocate for a well-fitting suit and hand-picked accessories.

One of the first things to consider is the size of your bow tie – the measurements of the bow itself (fashion), the length of the neckband, and cut of the fabric (comfort). 

Bow tie size considerations include the bow, the neckband and the cut..


The most important size factor is by far comfort. The advent of the adjustable bow tie alleviated the inconvenience of getting the length of a bow tie just right, but measurements are still important. At R. Hanauer, our bows range in length from 15 ½ to 22 inches, and we carry bow ties in youth sizes as well. 

It’s worth noting, too, that all R. Hanauer bow ties are cut on the bias, giving the fabric important stretch. This is important for comfort, as well as for staying power. A bias-cut bow tie is more likely to maintain its carefully hand-knotted shape.

Now, fashion. Different shirt types have varying collar sizes and shapes that may affect how the bowtie sits on your neck and accentuates the intended look. As a general rule, the larger the collar, the larger the bow tie should be. The same goes for body type and face shape. It’s all about alignment and proportion. Accessories should complement, not aim to distract, and matching sizes is essential to getting that right. 

The Important Subtleties of Shape 

Choosing the right bow tie shape involves more than personal preference.

Tuxedos, suits, blazers, and casual dress shirts all require a different look when it comes to neckwear. R. Hanauer bow ties come in a variety of shapes just for this purpose. 

The right bow tie shape can make the outfit

    • Classic
      This shape is the most popular – hence its name! It is the quintessential bow tie. At R. Hanauer, we call our Classic bow tie the Henry, and once tied, it forms a dapper 2 ¼ inch wing.    

    • Butterfly
      The Butterfly bow tie is the most versatile. It works with most any outfit and is a great staple to have in your collection. We have two Butterfly-style bow ties at R. Hanauer: the Philip (2 ½ inch wings) and the Stuart (3 inch wings). 

    • Straight, or Batwing
      This is the smallest bow tie shape available and, as such, is generally best for casual events. Our 2 inch Straight bow tie is called the Jackson

    • Diamond Point, or Diamond Tip, Diamond End
      This cut results in pointed ends sticking out farther than the edge of the bow. The resulting look is a bit more custom, as you can control how much of the point sticks out. The two Diamond shaped bow ties we carry are the 2 inch Stanley and 2 ⅜ inch Louie.  

Less considered these days is how we can change the shape of a bow tie by altering the knot. Knowing how to tie a bow tie at all is enough for many gentlemen, and so most of us stick to the basic knot. There are easy and impactful ways to add a little extra flair to your bow and, in truth, it’s mostly about how much you tighten the basic knot and not learning a set of new knots.

Bow Tie Color and Pattern Matching

The color of your bow tie is perhaps the most obvious element of its fashion. It’s the first thing people will notice about the accessory, and, depending on what approach you choose, will send a strong message about your sense of style. 

Bow tie color matching is important because the bow tie in itself is already such a strong statement that the color must be deliberate. For a more subtle, safe-bet approach, choose a solid color. Going with a lighter or darker shade of a color already incorporated into your outfit will create a sophisticated, buttoned-up look. 

Young man with a well done bow tie color matching job

If you’re looking for more visual impact, donning a bow tie in a contrasting color can draw attention in all the best of ways. Strategically adding a pattern can amplify the effect even further. 

You can use this technique for both your shirt and jacket, and it can extend to all the elements of your outfit – just don’t go overboard. Understanding color theory and how to pair similar or opposite colors will make light work of assembling the perfect ensemble.  

Choosing the Fabric

More subtle than color but just as important is the fabric from which your bow tie is crafted. It impacts how the knot sits, how the wings fall, and the overall look of the bow tie and wearer. 

Popular fabric choices for bow ties are silk, cotton, wool, and velvet - and each has its place in the world of sartorial elegance. Silk is perhaps the most popular, thanks to its versatility, light sheen, and formality. Cotton and wool are typically paired with more casual looks. 

But it’s not just the look of these fabrics that’s remarkable – their differing weights lend themselves to opposite seasons. Cotton is breathable, making it ideal for spring or summer events, while the heavier thickness of wool is perfect for chilly winter gatherings.


Matching your bow tie fabric to the rest of your outfit is important.

How to Match Your Shirt to a Bow Tie

Choosing the best shape and color bow tie to match the rest of your ensemble is one thing - but there’s more to coordinating an outfit. What’s under the knot matters, as well. It’s good practice to choose a shirt with a collar that jives with the bow tie you’re wearing. 

Your shirt collar is the frame for the beautiful bow tie you’ve selected, so taking your discernment one step further will ensure visual success.  

  • Button Down
    This is the most popular collar type for the modern-day gentleman. The button-down collar is secured to the shirt front with tiny buttons.

  • Pointed
    This is also a very popular collar type today. Both are suit-appropriate, with the pointed collar being slightly more formal. 

  • Spread
    Spread” is the distance between the points of the collar. The spread collar is best chosen by the gentleman with a particularly narrow or wide face. As a general rule, opposites win the day here – narrow faces with a wide spread collar; wider faces with a narrow spread. 

  • Wingtip
    This is the smallest and most formal of collars, typically seen on a tuxedo shirt.

 Example of a bow tie outfit for every occasion

A Bow Tie Outfit For Every Occasion

The bow tie has a long history of helping gentlemen stand out from the crowd. Knowing when to wear a bow tie is almost as important as knowing how to wear one.

Consider some common situations for which you may find yourself in need of the perfect accessory: 

Essential Accessories to Complement your Bow Tie Outfit

What’s a classic accessory like a bow tie without interesting pieces to pair with it?

Cufflinks, tie clips, pocket squares, and cummerbunds are all fantastic ways to round out your look, and can go a long way in elevating your level of formality, as appropriate. 

Accessories polish the bow tie outfit in this example.


What’s your favorite #RHanauer bow tie and complementary accessory? To share your outfits or gather inspiration, find us on social media – we’re on Instagram and Facebook.