Ties and bow ties alike are timeless staples of formal style. But when does the occasion call for a tie and when is it more appropriate to opt for a bow tie? Knowing when to wear which tie can make all the difference in whether your look comes off as graceful or gauche.
While bow ties are typically viewed as the more formal of the two, both are highly versatile accessories. Which one you go for depends on the style of the tie as much as the formality of the occasion.
So, take the time to educate yourself and find out whether you should wear a tie or bow tie in these 5 common situations.
1. When You’re At a Black-Tie Event
When the event you’re attending has a black-tie dress code, you’d better be wearing a bow tie. Think of events like awards ceremonies, fancy balls, grand weddings, and milestone birthday parties. For such occasions, it’s better to be safely overdressed than sorry. Stick to a black or midnight blue bow tie for maximum elegance.
2. When You’re At A Black-Tie Optional Event
When the event is just slightly dressed down from a black-tie, you have the choice to wear a bow tie or regular tie. In either case, stay tasteful with a tie that’s black and white or one solid color, and you’ll be best served by fabrics in satin or silk.
3. When You’re Feeling Casual
When the event is business casual or smart casual, it’s safe to go for a tie or a more casual bow tie. Opt for more fun or daring styles at your discretion. A casual bow tie can be perfectly charming for occasions like garden parties, brunches, or more casual weddings. Bow ties in brighter colors or patterns like polka dot and paisley make for a dapper yet laid-back look.
4. When You’re Wearing A Tuxedo
If you’re wearing a tuxedo, a bow tie is the only way to go. Tuxedos are different from suits due to their satin details like satin buttons, satin lapels, and satin side-stripes along the pant leg. They must be worn with a bow tie, as a regular tie would obscure the buttons or button studs. The tuxedo and bow tie combo is the pinnacle of formal fashion.
5. When You’re Wearing A Suit
If you’re wearing a suit, you’ll probably want to don a regular tie along with it. Unlike tuxedos, suits are made from just a single type of fabric throughout the jacket. They are best suited to be paired with a long tie, especially in business settings. However, if you want to stand out a little from the crowd, it’s also permissible to match a bow tie with a suit jacket or just a dress shirt. Whether you opt for a tie or bow tie, a good suit will project a formal yet freshly modern sensibility.