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Bow Ties: Style & Fabric Guide

A closer look at all common bow tie styles, along with tips on how to best wear them

Just like there are different necktie styles, there are quite a few different styles of bow ties. The main difference lies in cut, size, and fabric. Below I am discussing each style and give you some tips on when/how to best wear it. Last but not least, I added a few images of some of my favorite bow tie looks ranging from casual to strictly black tie. Enjoy!

The biggest difference here lies in the spread of the bow (horizontal size) as well as the shape of the tips. Usually the spread of the bow tie needs to be proportionate to the rest of your outfit, meaning larger butterfly bow ties usually look best with wider lapels and/or double breasted jackets. Here are the four most common bow tie cuts:

From left to right: bow tie with pointed ends, batwing bow tie, classic (aka Thistle) bow tie (usually: 2″ – 2.5″ spread), butterfly bow tie (usually 2.75″-3.5″ spread)

Fabrics & Texture:
Most bow ties are made from silk, but that is not to say that there aren’t other choices out there. For the summer cotton is an excellent fabric that combines nicely with typical summer patterns and colors (seersucker, pastel tones, and multi colored checks). Another fabric that is a must mention is velvet. Bow ties made from velvet were popular in the late 50’s, and until recently, had vanished from the fashion scene. Today velvet bow ties are back in style. They can be seen on black tie aficionados like George Clooney as well as dapper dudes embracing New York streetstyle. Last but not least fabric textures can add a huge amount of diversity to your bow tie collection. From subtle ribbed textures, worsted wool (winter), formal pique (popular for white tie dress), and many more.

Most self-tied bow ties can be adjusted in length usually fitting a wide range of neck sizes. Fixed length bow ties do exist but should only be bought if you have the chance to try it on. The benefit of the fixed length: the bow tie spread is cut in proportion to your neck size, and they do look nicer when worn with a wing tip collar (check out my dress shirt collar guide for more info).

Some of my Favorite Bow Tie Looks:
Because pictures are worth a thousand words, here are a few examples of some great bow tie looks. For more bow tie matching inspiration, please check out this board on Pinterest:

Velvet bow ties are back in style! George Clooney did a nice job pairing a modern velvet bow tie to your formal black tie ensemble.

A perfect look pairing a glen-check patterned bow tie with a fine herringbone textured blazer and a V-neck cashmere sweater. A perfect combination of color, pattern, and texture.

Something quite unusual but very stylish are so-called Grenadine bow ties. The unique fabric texture paired with the larger butterfly bow tie makes this a stand-out accessory. Nicely paired with charcoal trench coat and checkered shirt.

Who said that “black tie” bow ties have to be solid in color? A nice combination of polka dot bow tie paired with double breasted tux.

Thanks for visiting my blog.


7 thoughts on “Bow Ties: Style & Fabric Guide”

  1. Ryan Cope says:

    Great post! I wore a bow tie for my wedding and wish I would have read this before hand.

  2. Kellee says:

    I love this guide, bow ties are awesome

  3. Angela says:

    I am making 12 bow ties for a questing, the guys have different collar sizes, how do I adjust the pattern to fit? I have read “add 19inches to collar size”, would this work?

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Angela, yes 18-20 inches added to the collar size is a good rule of thumb. But besides neck size, the way the bow tie is tied does play a role. I therefore would recommend creating an adjustable length both tie. You can do this by creating two separate pieces that are connected using simple buttons spaced every 1/2 inch apart. The buttons will lie hidden under the collar. Usually 4 buttons should be sufficient.

  4. Christian says:

    Awesome post! I was wondering if you knew where I can buy a reasonably priced velvet bow tie (self tied please). I found one but the sticker of $149 was a bit too much. I may only be wearing this piece once a year and was hoping to find a high quality velvet bow tie for under $50. Any guidance is appreciated. I thought if anyone knew, then it would be you.

    1. hendrik says:

      Hi Christian, sounds like you are a man of style! I am a huge fan of velvet on bow ties. They look exceptionally dapper when slightly larger in size when paired with DB suit. I found a very nice velvet bow tie at a shop in Como last year. I would suggest you check out Bows-N-Ties.com. I know they got several different kids of self-tied black bow ties. Otherwise check Mr Porter but be prepared to spend a bit more than $50.

  5. Blake McClary says:

    Awesome post! I had no idea there were so many types of bow ties, I guess I should start wearing them more often.

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