The Battle of the Ties: Bow Tie vs Necktie

The Battle of the Ties: Bow Tie vs Necktie
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Clothes maketh the man, but don't tie yourself up in knots when choosing your attire. Understanding when you should be wearing the right accessories will mean you'll always look the part. That's especially true when choosing a necktie.

The fashion conscious have traditionally worn ties for more formal occasions. It's how you wear a Bow Tie or necktie that can also define your style. Here's what you need to know to stay on the right side of your preppy look.

A Brief History of the Necktie and Bow Tie

You'll be in good company when purchasing a tie. Neckwear accounts for three-quarters of a billion dollars in annual revenue for the American economy. The main components are neckties and bowties. So, where did it all begin?

Bow Ties

Bow Ties have their origins as a type of cravat in former Yugoslavia back in the seventeenth century. The French who have always traditionally been fashion trailblazers then developed what we now know as a Bow Tie.

To those who enjoy wearing them, Bow Ties can give a nod toward intellectualism. Fashionistas associate them with respected professions. These include architects, attorneys, and university professors.

Variations of Bow ties have also found their way into women's wardrobes. That was true in the 1980s when professional women, mainly those working in the corporate world, wore them with conservative suits.


Neckties consisting of one long length of fabric really took off in the 1920s. Some were hand-painted, others had military symbolism. Then came the more loud and flamboyant types of ties.

Manufacturers toned these down by the 1950 and 1960s as ties became worn with tapered suits and slimmer lapels. Due to the wide range of patterns available, ties can show that you belong to a specific club, organization or university. 

They're ideal for a preppy look, hung loosely as a casual accessory or in one of a wide variety of knots.

Dress Codes

Dress codes change with the passage of time. Black Bow Ties were always worn for more formal events and were a must-have with a tuxedo and pleated shirt. Neckties were often worn with suits for work.

Now, it's quite common to wear either Bow Ties or neckties at your own discretion. You need to decide on the type of persona you're trying to create. 

If you want to look quirky but slick try a Bow Tie with your favorite jeans or a tan suit. Go for something spiffy by choosing a Bow Tie with a feathered pattern, bold stripe or gingham design. 

The Importance of Quality

No matter how often you plan to wear a Bow Tie or a necktie, the quality of the tie you select will have an impact on the way it looks.

Cheaper neckwear will always have a habit of becoming creased, at times permanently. That's never going to make for a good look.

A necktie is at the peak of men's fashion and the best types of neckties will be made from silk, often handwoven, or from top quality cotton. They're almost guaranteed to stay vibrant and in shape.

If you want a really preppy look go for necktie made from a seersucker fabric. It'll be lightweight and have a crimped surface. A madras plaid tie would also be a great choice or even colorful paisley. 

Tying Methods for Bow Ties

You'd need to be a brave soul to be prepared to tie your Bow Tie yourself every time you chose to wear one. There's a great deal of technique to tying the perfect Bow Tie

Pre-tied Bow Ties are a great solution. Many are also adjustable from shirt sizes fourteen to nineteen. They'll be fitted with adjustable fasteners that let you tie and then unhook the bow tie for later use.

The latest styles may also come with a matching brooch for a touch of extra elegance. They'll look great with a suit or blazer.  

An End of Evening Look

You might be looking for an 'end of the night,' casual style. An untied Bow Tie positioned around the neck can make for a really cool look. A blazer slung over the shoulder will add to the effect. 

If you decide to go for a bow tie that isn't pre-tied, bear in mind the several types available. These include batwing Bow Ties which have a singular, slimmer width. An hourglass Bow Tie is a classic that will fan out at the endpoints 

Tying Your Necktie

If you want to spice things up a bit, you don't have to tie your necktie in a conventional way. There are other styles of knot to choose from. 

The four-in-hand knot is the most common used. That's probably the one you'll already be familiar with. You could also try adjusting the size of the knot or go for a different look with an Atlantic knot.  

If you loosen the necktie and sling your jacket over one shoulder it will give you a great casual look.

Ties Are Accessories

It's sometimes tempting to base your wardrobe around your tie. That can work but it's wiser to think of your neckwear as adding an extra touch to the rest of what you're wearing.

If you own a lot of pinstriped suits then a Bow Tie is unlikely to work. A plain black suit with a crisp white shirt could look very sharp with a colorful and patterned Bow Tie. Neckties have the ability to make men look taller and slimmer. 

There is nothing wrong with throwing convention to the wind as long the final look is clean and neat. It's not only about what you wear but also about how your preppy clothes match together, and that includes your neckwear.

Go for Color and Originality

If the occasion has to be formal, then a black Bow Tie or a necktie with one color might be the solution. For more relaxed situations, then you could choose a tartan Bow Tie or necktie with a bold stripe.

Feeling brave? Read here about how to dress like a preppy villain. 


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