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Be Bold, Wear a Bow-tie - But Read This First!
Erin Gray (Pronoun: she/her) is a Portland, OR based writer with an affinity for working behind the scenes with companies that offer something unique to their market. When she’s not writing, she likes to roam around mossy hiking trails, wear leather hats, and build stuff. You can find her on instagram @rawhidelaces or email her by clicking on the little envelope below:
Let’s talk about bow-ties - after all, they’re on our logo for a reason!
Nothing says “dapper” quite like a bow-tie.
Bow-ties are fun and playful in a way that regular ties aren’t.
Regular ties go to work. Bow-ties go to picnics!
They make you look friendly and approachable.
But if you’ve never worn this friendly little accessory out in public before, you’re in for a surprise.
Despite their geek-chic aura, you actually need real guts to pull off a bow-tie. Way more than a regular tie, in fact.
Because wearing a bow-tie always makes a statement.
That statement is usually some combination of the following:
“I’m not here to blend in - I’m fine with standing out, and I don’t give a damn what people think.”
At any given event (unless it’s a black tie event or Easter Sunday) you might be the only one wearing a bow-tie - and you’ve got to own that.
Bow-ties are the opposite of effortless - thanks in part to the fact that people know they’re really hard to tie (which is why we’re down to rock a pre-tied bow-tie - in truth, most people aren’t going to notice the difference).
In a bow-tie, you own that effort you made to plan this outfit. You did not wake up like this.
In the knot of every bow-tie there exists a magical intersection between nerdy and cool… that’s why you see them on both extroverted comfortable-in-the-spotlight types and the smarty-pants shy characters (who just so happen to be the hero of the story).
If you’re normally timid in social situations, you just might find that they have a boosting effect on your confidence as well.
They also have the ability to soften a look that is too edgy, or sharpen up a look that would otherwise be too boring - a pretty handy trick to have in your arsenal.
So are you prepared to attract attention and get some compliments?
Good, because we’ve got some things you need to know first:
#1 - Know thy bow-tie history.
Anyone can throw on a bow-tie, but knowing the origins of what you’re wearing is next-level dapper.
After all, You can’t pull off the sexy professor look without knowing a little history, amiright?
Like lots of garments we now think of as dressy and refined, neckties trace their origins back to people in uniform.
Their first documented appearance was in the 17th century, when Croatian Mercenaries would tie scarves around the open collars of their shirts during the Thirty Years War.
This had a practical purpose (keeping debris out) but it also looked hella dapper and got noticed by the French (because of course).
Among the French upper class, this trend evolved into an upscale version of the neck scarf that we don’t see too much nowadays: the cravat.
If you were a dapper gentleman in the 18th or 19th century, you definitely rocked a cravat (or their other billowy brothers - the ascot or the stock tie).
Somewhere along the way, some stylish genius decided to tie all that loose fabric into a nice neat bow - and thus the bow-tie was born.
No single individual is credited with creating the bow-tie, but it became the favored attire of several notable people, including heads of state (like Theodore Roosevelt), visionaries (like Steve Jobs before he got into turtlenecks), and beloved fictional characters (like Doctor Who and Indiana Jones... at least, whenever we see him in a suit - he is a scientist, after all).
As the New York Times put it: “A list of bow-tie devotees reads like a Who's Who of rugged individualists.”
We couldn’t say it better ourselves.
#2 - Know when to wear a bow-tie.
Unless you’re attending a super formal black or white tie event, a bow-tie is almost always an optional accessory - and that’s a great thing!
It means that when you see someone (or someone sees you) wearing a bow-tie outside of these formal settings, you always get the sense that it’s what they really enjoy wearing (unlike a regular tie, which can sometimes feel like an obligation).
So the best place to wear a bow-tie is a place where you want to radiate that kind of self-possessed swagger.
Is it ok to wear a bow-tie at work?
Just make sure it’s a day when you can afford to be distracted by people commenting on it (though this effect will wear off if you start wearing them on the daily).
Instead of becoming the “bow-tie guy” (or “bow-tie butch”) around the office, you might save a bow-tie for when you need to step into a room and command attention - such as when you’re giving a presentation to a group, or attending a networking event.
It also goes without saying that a bow-tie is guaranteed to make you the toast of the company picnic.
What about family gatherings? Parties? A first date?
Bow-ties are great at pulling double duty for both work and play.
As long as your bow-tie isn’t made of black shiny fabric, you are pretty much safe to wear it in any casual setting. Bonus points if it has an interesting pattern.
The great thing about bow-ties made of more casual fabrics (like cotton or wool) is how they can step up the dapper level of almost any casual outfit without making it too dressy.
Wear a bow-tie to dinner at your parent’s house, and your mom will totally forget to be miffed about your new forearm tattoo (for the night, anyway).
Toss a bow-tie on with your leather jacket, and you can keep that jacket on all night without anyone thinking that you think you’re too cool for school.
Pair a bow-tie with your hoodie on your way out to the bar and it looks like hey, at least you tried to look presentable?
Now when it comes to that pesky first date...
Just understand that a bow-tie is a bold move. You risk tipping your cards that you really like this person (remember - bow-ties radiate effort). It can go really well or it can go south quickly - but that’s dating in a nutshell.
If you’re at all unsure, save the bow-tie for your 1 year anniversary dinner. By then, your boldness is surely welcome.
#3 - Know what to wear with a bow-tie.
Let’s start with your first visible layer: your collared shirt.
You can pair a bow-tie with any button-up shirt or polo that buttons all the way up to the top (and if you don’t believe a bow-tie can be worn with a polo shirt, prepare to be proved wrong in the next section).
Bow-ties are especially great for summer months because their smaller size creates a better proportion with short sleeve shirts.
The key to effectively pairing a bow-tie with your shirt (and any other layer you throw on top) is achieving balance between the patterns and colors.
As a rule of thumb for starting out: Aim for a one-to-one ratio of bold and subtle.
Bold = Loud patterns or bright colors.
Subtle = Subdued patterns and solid, muted colors.
So the more layers you add, the more bold elements you can mix in as well!
For example: if you’re just wearing a button-up and a bow-tie, look for one item to be bold and one to be subtle.
But if you add in a sweater or blazer on top with a neutral solid color, it can balance out the combination of two bold items underneath.
And just because a bow-tie has a preppy print, don’t be afraid to pair it with unexpected fabrics like denim - it’s another great way to achieve that magic nerdy/cool balance in your look:
And of course, as you get bolder, you might have the urge to “power clash” - throw on a ton of patterns all at once.
As long as you perfect the art of owning your effort, we say go for it!
Fortune favors the bold.
Bonus - Find your “Bow-tie Style Icon”
Who’s your favorite bow-tie sporting style icon?
Let us know in the comments!
Ready to stand out? Shop Bow-ties here!
Thinking about adding suspenders to your bow-tie look? It’s a great idea, and we’ve got a blog for that too: How to Rock Suspenders (and Why You Might Want To)