My favorite letter is ‘B’. It’s the first letter of my name, my wife’s name, and the names of my favorite things: brunch, burgers, bourbon, books — and, naturally, bow ties. I wore my first bow tie to senior prom (see above), but didn’t really start cultivating my collection until two years later; as an androgynous woman who dresses on the more masculine side, I get a lot of odd looks in public, so I decided that if people were going to stare, I’d give them something to look at.
Bow ties make me feel confident, comfortable, and cool. If you’re ready to jump on the bow tie bandwagon, this guide will help you get started.
How to Tie a Bow Tie:
Bow ties come in three varieties: self-tie, pre-tied and clip-on. My deep dark secret is that I buy pre-tied bow ties. For me, they’re a better fit (traditional bow ties are usually too giant for my baby neck; I literally own a bow tie made for three-year-olds), easier to manage, usually cheaper, and look just as spiffy — but if you’re going to the Oscars, or if you just prefer a traditional self-tie bow tie, check out the nifty video above on how to tie it.
My feeling is, if you wear bow ties, you should know how to tie a bow tie — but you don’t have to wear self-tie bow ties all the time, or even ever. Then, when a guy at a party inevitably says, “Sweet bow tie! Did you tie it yourself?” You can say, “This one doesn’t tie, but if it did, I damn well would have tied it myself.” Just in case he’s a plant with a secret self-tie bow tie in his back pocket and he’s trying to test you. I mean, that’s just Butch Survival Skills 101.
Types of Bow Ties:
This handy infographic says “Know your bow tie shapes,” but I didn’t know what any of these shapes were called before I wrote this article; take that as you will. I call them “regular shape in various sizes,” “pointy,” and “weird round thing,” but I guess if you wanted to be fancy, you could say “thistle,” and “batwing” sounds kind of cool.
Patterns and Colors and Textures, Oh My!
Variety is key when building your badass bow tie collection. Find colors, patterns (polka dot, striped, gingham, plaid, floral, paisley, tartan) and textures (knit, silk, wood, wool, cotton, tweed, flannel) that suit the season and complement your personal style.
Wood is more casual and can be paired with jeans, while silk textures and solid patterns are more suited for formal occasions. Gingham and cotton are summer staples. Floral is fun for spring. Knit, wool, flannel, tweed and tartan are your fall/winter options.
Matching and coordinating can be a bit tricky at first. These are my general rules, not absolutes; don’t be afraid to get wacky.
1. Wear solid bow ties with patterned shirts and patterned bow ties with solid shirts.
2. If you want to experiment with patterns, mix shirt and bow tie patterns instead of matching them (i.e. a polka dot bow tie on a striped shirt, not a dotted bow tie on a dotted shirt).
3. Vary the textures between shirt and tie for a nice contrast (i.e. a wood bow tie on a denim shirt).
4. Wear dark colored bow ties on light colored shirts and vice-versa.
5. Shirt to bow tie colors should be complementary. You can match shirt and bow tie colors as long as they are different shades (i.e. a dark blue bow tie on a light blue shirt).
6. Depending on the look you are going for, bow ties can be worn with tucked or untucked shirts, jeans, slacks, suits, cardigans, blazers, vests, sweaters and suspenders. You can dress a bow tie up or down and make it look masculine, feminine or anywhere in between. It’s the Swiss Army knife of accessories.
Where to Buy:
Scour the internet/mall for bow ties that fit your style and budget, check out Etsy or thrift shops, or make your own. If you have a small neck like me, there’s no shame in expanding your search to the children’s section. I’ve listed some of my favorites above; let’s be bow tie buddies!