Q And Answer: How Formal Are Bow Ties?

December 13, 2011

Q and Answer: How Formal Are Bow Ties?

Ken asks: Is a bow tie more, less, or equally as formal as a long tie, or does formality depend on pattern/texture etc? What about a diamond tip bow tie v. a traditional bow tie?

Bow ties aren’t really more or less formal than long ties. They’re different.

The most formal occasions call for bow ties. For black tie or white tie events, the black or white tie in question should always be a bow. These ties, of course, are very specific – either satin or grosgrain, in solid black or white.

Because of this association with evening and dinner clothes, any color bow tie is particularly at home after dark. It’s a little more fun than the long tie, and so it travels well to parties, openings and the like.

During the day, though, I’d describe it as a more casual choice. It’s certainly more eccentric. You can wear a bow tie in a business context, but only in a business context where it’s appropriate to stand out. Because stand out you will, even at a meeting of Republican thinktank employees or popcorn magnates.

One aside: when wearing a bow tie, remember that it will leave much more shirt visible on your chest. For this reason, the bow looks best with a three-button coat, or a waistcoat. Without that higher V, the expanse of shirt will make the outfit look unbalanced.

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