The bow tie is a classic menswear accessory that denotes style and sophistication. While the bow tie is commonly worn to formal cocktail parties, awards dinners, and weddings, the bow tie has seen a resurgence in its popularity of late, with men both young and more mature donning the bow tie to events and occasions that range from the casual to semi-formal.
Bow ties are traditionally constructed of common fabrics like polyester, silk, or cotton, and consist of a strip of fabric that is tied symmetrically in front of the neck so that there is a loop of fabric on each side of the center knot, creating the bow. Since bow ties are traditionally worn for events like weddings, where it paired with a dinner jacket, or tuxedo, most men don't have very many opportunities to tie bow ties. They often find that they have to relearn the process of tying a bow tie every time they have to wear one. In order to avoid having to relearn the process, many neckwear companies market and sell bow ties that clip onto the neck.
While the process of learning how to tie a bow tie is generally accepted as more difficult than tying a necktie, by knowing what the steps are and with enough practice, any gentleman can become a bow tying professional.
History of the Bow Tie
In the Prussian wars of the 17th century, soldiers would use a scarf or handkerchief to tie around their necks. This was to keep their shirts closed, to stay warm. Function creates fashion, and the style was soon widely used by the French upper class. The original name for the first style of necktie was the cravat. It is uncertain whether the necktie or the bow tie was first to evolve from the cravat. Most men's fashion experts say it is difficult to know exactly how the genealogy of neckwear evolved after this point. What is known, is that the bow tie was certainly a bi-product of this style of neckwear.
How to Wear a Bow Tie Properly
Most men don't know how to wear a bow tie properly. Due to the bow tie's waning popularity over the past 50 years certain stereotypes came to the fore about men who wear bow ties. To avoid looking like a scientist, a magician, or a nerd, there are a few style tips to keep in mind when wearing a bow tie.
Wearing a bow tie can be a little risky. One could argue that a bow tie is not suitable for every occasion, but for the man who wears one with confidence, the bow tie is welcome anywhere. When wearing a bow tie, don't try to hide. Be proud and confident of your style choice, and know that because it's a little out of the ordinary, it might attract some looks and attention.
Dress It Up and Down
When wearing a tuxedo, the only choice for neckwear is a bow tie. Bow ties can, however, be worn with other menswear like suits, suitcoats, slacks, and more. The bow tie can also be worn in a more dressed down manner, like a dress shirt untucked with the sleeves rolled up, or with a cardigan and skinny jeans.
Of course no guy is going out to buy a giant clown bow tie, but even a bow tie that is slightly too big or slightly too small can make this accessory look a bit ridiculous on a man. Most ties are sized in accordance with the same neck sizes as men's shirts. Men should buy bow ties that are appropriate for their neck size. Keep in mind that thinner men with lighter builds should stay with the smaller sizes of bow ties, while heavier men with rounder faces or bigger frames can stray over to the larger end of the bow tie spectrum.
Steps to Tying a Bow Tie
To begin tying a bow tie, stand in front of the mirror as this will allow you to see what you are doing with your hands as you tie the knot. Be sure your collar is flipped up so as to not interfere with the knot itself.
To begin, drape the tie around your neck with the left side of the bow tie roughly five centimeters lower on your chest than the right side. For the purposes of these instructions the left side will be referred to as side A and the right side will be referred to as side B.
Cross side A over the top of side B close near to your neck to ensure that when the knot is complete, it will be tight enough. Then, pull the end of side A under side B, creating a loop that can be tightened. It should be pulled snugly to the collarbone, as the bow tie is not tightened much further at the neck during the tying process.
Next, take side B and fold the end of the bow tie that is dangling over itself to make a crease at the end. This fold, generally held in your right hand, will be the first layer of the the bow itself.
Take ahold of side A, which should still be loose at this point. You can even throw side A over your left shoulder until this step to keep it out of the way. Pull the thinner part of side A down over the folded half of side B to secure the bow fold you have in your right hand. Make this loop relatively snug as well.
Pull the bow forward, and you will notice a small loop space that has been created at the neck right by the collarbone. This was created A being looped around and over side B. Fold side A into its respective bow shape, matching the crease you made in Step 3. Pull this folded piece through the space in the material to create the second bow. This finishes the actual tying process.
There will be a bow fold on both the left and right at this point. Grab and pull on each of these pieces to make the knot more snug, and the tie tighter in general. At this point, smooth the fabric and look for symmetry in both the left and right sides of the tie.
Once your bow is properly tied, snug at the collar, symmetrical and smooth, you can fold your collar back down and bring the bow tie out in front of the collar to complete the finishing process.
How to Find and Buy Bow Ties On eBay
Men looking to survey different styles, colours, and sizes of bow ties should know that eBay is an abundant resource for menswear of all types, including bow ties. With an integrated set of searching and sorting functions, eBay makes it easy to find a bow tie.
When you arrive on the eBay home page, simply type the words "bow ties" into the search bar at the top of the screen and hit enter. The search engine will generate a results page with thousands of listings for bow ties. Using the sortable category options on the screen, you can narrow down the search. Bow ties can be sorted by type of material, the main colour of the tie, condition, price, brand, width, length, and more. Since there are many different bow tie variations, men should be sure to read the entirety of any item description for a bow tie. Listings will include important information on how long the tie is, whether or not it is adjustable, how wide the tie is, whether or not it is a clip-on bow tie, and more.
Since bow ties are even smaller than traditional neckties, they are generally less expensive due to the fact that they simply require less fabric to construct. Different aspects of a bow tie can contribute to its price, including features like the material it is made of, whether or not is handmade, and the brand of bow tie.
Bow ties are a classic and distinctive menswear choice that is making a comeback in popular culture. Fashionable gentlemen the world over are adding bow ties to their wardrobes. While there are a few lingering stereotypes related to bow ties and the men who wear them, look no further than hip hop mogul Swizz Beatz, or superspy James Bond for examples of men who exude class, fashion, and power, while wearing a bow tie. When wearing bow ties, men should be confident and know that the unique neckwear choice may draw a few looks. The size of a bow tie is also an extremely important consideration, as the perfect fit for both a man's neck and his body size and shape is essential to pulling off the bow tie look. For those that are unfamiliar with tying a bow tie, budget time in the morning to tie and untie a bow tie three times before wearing it. This extra practice ensures that tying a bow tie becomes second nature in no time. Men should also make use of the wide variety of resources the Internet has to offer, and incorporate diagrams and videos into learning how to tie their bow tie, as sometimes visuals can help. With thousands of bow tie listings in a wide variety of colours and materials, eBay is a fantastic resource for men looking for bow ties.