All Hail the Bowtie


I have an opinion about men who wear bowties. They are mavericks; truly adventurous dressers who live on the sartorial edge. They are nonconformists and often seen as threatening to the establishment. Yes, look out for the man who sports a bowtie – he probably has an attitude.

For a long time, those who wore bowties were depicted as milquetoasts or mamma’s boys. This situation has slowly changed and bowties have begun to re-emerge as symbols of intellectual rakishness and individual dressers.  Sure, they are not overly common for day wear, but when worn in public they do carry a certain intellectual air. Sill, apart from being paired with a dinner jacket, many men are still afraid to tie one on.

And so there is no confusion, the only appropriate neckwear to pair with a dinner jacket is a bowtie. Please refrain from that annoying Hollywood “look, we’re going against the grain, notice us” habit of wearing bolos, long ties or silly a Nehru collar with a tuxedo. We get it; you’re creative, now just follow George Clooney’s lead you’ll look great.

Bowties have been a favorite of mine for years; I even wore them in college to student government meetings. I felt intellectual when sporting one; even a little dashing. Bowties have so much more personality than regular neck ties and it always seemed to me that interesting people inevitably wore them. A bowtie can provide a natty counterbalance to an otherwise staid outfit – something that a neck tie can’t claim.

I am a longtime fan of journalist George Will, in part because he almost always would wear a bowtie on TV. Recently he has been wearing more neckties, and this is too bad. Sporting a bowtie and that perpetually brainy look, you knew right away that this guy has something to say and that he marches to his own drummer. Bowties have that power.

One reason bow ties are more often the purview of clever men is that at first they are difficult to tie. And let me stop you cold here. Never, under any circumstances should wear a clip-on or prettied bowtie. Ever. They are just so wrong on too many levels. Learn how to tie one yourself and be proud of it. A particularly useful way to practice is using your calf as a stand-in for your neck. Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite simple.

Bowties can be paired with many types of outfits. On the business side, they look good with all nature of suits, though models with a higher lapel stance can visually compensate for the dearth of exposed shirt fabric cascading down your front.

They also can work well in less formal settings, allowing for a bit of dress up when needed. Paired with jeans or khakis, cords or gabardines, bowties can give voice to your inner college professor.


Chris Hogan, an association executive based in Washington, D.C., blogs at A lifelong interest in style and clothing led to sales and management positions at several Ralph Lauren stores and an active wardrobe consulting practice


  1. For any retailers who read your blog, they can go to my website and print out “How to tie a bow tie” customised with the name of their store

  2. Can we have a little more incisive comment on this topic, rather than a verbose rant about why you think bow ties are great?

    Given that not many people would wear one, or would feel very self-conscious about doing so, there needs to be practical guidance here more than in any other area. What colours, sizes, patterns? With what collars and colours of shirt?

    Some practical advice please

  3. Mr Jones,

    You might find some useful information here:



  4. Hello again Sam, thank you for your comments. A verbose rant? Even for someone as excessively critical as you, that’s a somewhat redundant jab. How does one engage in a reserved rant?

    Regardless, Winston beat me to it; I was going to link to his article as well. While the point of my column was to celebrate the inherent creativity of wearing a bow tie, Mr. Chesterfield also included many excellent points on the details of choosing and wearing bow ties.

    Let me add a few additional thoughts. While sober and more restrained colors are often best for business day wear, brighter colors and more vibrant styles are a nice change of pace. Anyone visiting the city of Charleston, South Carolina, is often witness to an explosion of pastels and patterns when it comes to menswear. American preppy styles often favor bright colors like pinks and bottle greens – the point there being to draw attention to the parts of one’s outfit as opposed to deflecting it.

    As to tie sizes, I think a moderate width is best suited to most men’s faces. When tied, wide wings tend to flop downward and resemble something of an Oscar Wilde affect which really does not work for most men. Ties with wings that are either too small or which are tied too tightly run the risk of making your head look like a balloon about to come loose from it’s string.

    The best way to figure out what works with your particular shape is to try on several styles and see which looks best. No one tie size, style or color will work on everyone.

    Still, many of the designer looks that incorporate bow ties right now – Ralph Lauren for example – seem to be showing partuclalry small bow ties. I think it may have to do with the Thom Browne “shrunken look” aesthetic. Not many guys can carry the look, but as with bow ties themseleves attitidue has a lot to do with it. If you like that look, wear and make it your own. If you hit the perfect knot, the wings match exactly, there is perfect balance on both sides and it looks just so, congratulations. If not, don’t worry. One of the bow tie’s more charming traits is that more often than not none of that happens. To me, that is what make s a bow ties so much more personal than a neck tie.

    Collar wise, that’s sort of a personal taste thing, but button down collars are a very good match with bow ties. Short point collars are a good choice for more formal shirting. Spreads are usually alright, but I would avoid full English spreads as the tie seems to float unmoored from the collar itself. However, that’s a personal thing, I find it a bit too Victorian. Some men like that.

  5. I wouldn’t read this blog if there was only practical fashion advice post after post. There are books for that.

  6. Chris,
    Many thanks for your additional thoughts. I also appreciate Fritz’s view that it is important to have both practical advice and personal enthusiasm.

    However, I often feel frustrated when blogs spend their time in such enthusiastic tones that say little original or even interesting. While it is impossible to please everyone, I do feel that your fellow contributors Simon and Winston have a better balance of practicality and recommendation. They tend to be both more insightful and more original.

    And reserved is not the opposite of verbose. Your posts are written with an excessive number of words, which often confuses your point. As such they are verbose.

  7. Sam Jones–
    Sorry for being personal but I don’t see what’s the point of your comments. It’s not like you’re obligated to read something you don’t like. Why not just skip on the bloggers you don’t like to read? Why the rudeness?

  8. Perhaps, he finally found out the definition of “verbose” and wished to share it with us.

  9. Sam,
    We are in agreement that both Winston and Simon are excellent writers and each possesses a wealth of information. I enjoy reading their columns and find their insight invaluable.

    Since you so eloquently laid out your preference for their writing styles, I gather I will not hear from you again as you have no further reason to read my column.

    Therefore, please accept my best wishes for your future endeavors.

  10. Chris and others,
    My apologies if I appeared rude or my criticism was too personal. I suppose I feel quite strongly that there are a lot of blogs out there of varying quality, and no one ever takes the time to criticise them or point out where they might improve. This seemed to overlap into my tone.
    You are entirely right that I do not have to read your postings. My apologies again if my comments were too critical – I meant well even if it didn’t seem that way. It was supposed to be a nudge in the direction of more specific postings, but came out wrong.