Neckwear 101: Understanding When to Wear a Bow Tie vs. a Tie and Unique Variations on Classic Neckwear Styles

When working with a client, it is easy for me to recommend an appropriate choice of neckwear for any outfit; however, this is something that can quickly have you tied up in knots. In this blog post, I will explain the basics of neckwear, what type of shirts work without any neckwear at all, and some unique variations on classic neckwear styles. By understanding these aspects, you can make the process of accessorizing with neckwear a lot less painful.

When to Wear a Bow Tie vs. a Tie:

Bow ties and ties are both elegant components of an outfit, but there are specific occasions when one may be more appropriate than the other.

  1. Bow Tie: Bow ties are typically reserved for more formal or celebratory occasions, such as black-tie events or weddings. They can also be worn for more casual events to add a touch of personal style to an outfit. Bow ties work best with a wing or spread collar shirt, and should be tied neatly and firmly to prevent them from unraveling. Well-made pre-tied bow ties are also an acceptable choice, but can look a bit too neat and symmetrical.

  2. Tie: Ties are suitable for a wide range of occasions, from formal events to business meetings. The color of the tie should not blend with the shirt underneath, but instead compliment the overall color palette of the outfit. For example, a bold red paisley tie is a very loud choice, and thus should be paired with a more understated suit and shirt. Ties can be worn with a variety of collar types, including point, button-down, and spread collars; however, the type of knot you choose will be determined by the spread of your shirt collar. Ties should be tied in a classic knot, such as the four-in-hand, Windsor or the Half Windsor. Once you have some experience tying ties, you can experiment with getting a nice attractive dimple under the knot of the tie. Trendy super-slim ties or comical prints can be fun novelties, but are more likely to attract the wrong kind of attention. 

Shirts without Neckwear:

There are also occasions where it is appropriate to wear a shirt without any neckwear at all. For example, a casual weekend brunch or a beach wedding. In these cases, it is best to choose a shirt with a button-down or open collar. In these situations, the collar of the shirt should be well-made and structured enough to stand nicely without a tie. Lower quality shirt collars can crumple easily when worn unbuttoned, and will look sloppy.

Unique Variations on Classic Neckwear Styles:

For those who want to add a touch of personal style to their neckwear, there are several unique variations on classic neckwear styles that can be incorporated into an outfit.

  1. Knitted Ties: Knitted ties add texture and depth to an outfit, and work well in both formal and casual settings.

  2. Floral Ties: Floral ties add a touch of whimsy to an outfit and are suitable for less formal occasions, such as a garden party or a summer wedding.

  3. Printed Bow Ties: Printed bow ties can add a pop of color or pattern to an outfit and are suitable for those who want to add a touch of personal style to their look. These typically look more preppy and are best for those who don’t like to take themselves too seriously.

Neckwear is an essential component of any well put-together outfit, and should be carefully selected based on the occasion. The best practice is to have a healthy rotation of ties and bow ties that can cover a variety of occasions and use-cases. Experiment with colors and styles until you find a combination that fits your personal taste and build from there.