To the Southern gentleman, a carefully selected bow tie transcends mere neckwear—it becomes a proclamation, an audacious declaration of both style and refinement, quietly amplifying the wearer's distinct personality.
The bow tie dates back to the 17th century. It has become an everlasting symbol of elegance worn by men of all ages - a timeless classic that will never go out of fashion.
Bow ties, whether pre-tied or self-tied, butterfly or batwing, are a staple of the wardrobe of any well-dressed Southern gentleman.
I will venture into the lush wilderness of bow ties, meticulously unraveling their diverse patterns and structures, all while delving into the art of choosing the perfect occasion to adorn these chic accessories. Worry not, for I shall explore every facet with the utmost attention to the refined Southern tradition.
Different Types of Bow Ties
Pre-tied Bow Ties
Pre-tied bow ties really need no explanation. Aptly named, they are already tied in a knot. Just strap it around your neck, adjust it, and you're on your way!
These ties are perfect for newcomers to formal wear or those running a tad late. Below is an example of a silk pre-tied bow tie in deep burgundy - ideal for formal gatherings.
Self-tie Bow Ties (a.k.a. "Freestyle")
Self-tie bow ties are also self-explanatory. While you can create your knot style - with some finesse - the standard procedure for tying these gems is outlined later in this article. Self-tie bow ties are a great option for a more classic look. They are also a great option for those looking to make a statement with their formal style.
Magnolia Periwinkle Bow Tie, shown below, is as Southern as sweet tea in the summertime.
Clip-on Bow Ties
Clip-on bow ties are by far the easiest and most convenient to wear. It fits easily in your pocket as well.
I know - clip-on bow ties might not be the first choice of a dapper Southern gent, but they have their place, especially for young gentlemen still learning to dress well.
The Ascot Tie (the Southern Twist)
As a Southern gentleman, it is unthinkable to omit the ascot tie. (also known as the cravat) Really not a true bow tie; it does have that certain je ne sais quoi element.
Different Shapes of Bow Ties
- The Butterfly, a.k.a. 'The Classic' or 'The Thistle' - This is what one pictures when hearing the word “bowtie.” It looks like a butterfly with its wings spread open.
The full Butterfly, about 2.5" to 3" in height, is ideal for your gala events and black-tie affairs. A smaller version, perhaps 2" to 2.25", is versatile enough for everyday wear.
- The Batwing, a.k.a. 'Straight' or 'Slim' Shape - Featuring a sleek, angular design and a slim profile measuring no wider than 2 inches, presents a contemporary and understated aesthetic.
It could become your preferred choice for professional meetings and elegant dining experiences in Charleston's charming city.
- Diamond Point- For a stylish look, try the unconventional charm of the Diamond Point. Its pointed ends show off its royal flair.
Sporting a Diamond Point at a charming Savannah soiree would undoubtedly serve as an eye-catching conversation starter.
- Club Round - Also known as 'Rounded Club,' this is a less common but uniquely charismatic choice. Its rounded shape is perfect for an upscale afternoon affair, and its sleek lines are sure to draw attention.
- The Art Deco - The Art Deco style adds Southern glamour with its 1920s-inspired geometric design, resembling the Miami skyline for a festive touch. It blends pointed ends and geometric intricacy seamlessly.
Where and When to Wear Different Types of Bow Ties
Understanding the Occasion: Formal vs. Semi-formal vs. Casual
An elegant black silk tie is the perfect finishing touch for an evening gala. I mean, what exudes sophistication like the silkiness of a well-tied black bow glowing under the chandeliers?
For a dinner date or semi-formal soiree, try something livelier. Perhaps a crimson or deep blue diamond point bow tie or a butterfly bow tie with a subtle patter
Here is where you can really express your personality! For an afternoon gathering or Sunday service, donn those bold colors and patterns, especially gingham or paisley.
Seasonal Wear: Exploring Lighter Materials for Summer, Heavier for Winter
- Warm months - For those dog days of summer, opt for a lighter material for your tie—for example, sport seersucker or linen, which allow for better breathability.
- Colder months - Now is the time to pull out those heavier ties like wool or cashmere. Additionally, these will match your winter suits better and provide warmth.
How the South Does It: Incorporating Regional Styles in Bow Tie Selection
Those of us in the South love to incorporate our personalities into our dress style. We do it with gusto, I might add! To illustrate my point:
- Tartan bow tie for a college reunion
- Patriotic Ties for the Fourth of July
- Mardi Gras celebrates with vibrant purple, green, and gold ties
Styling Tips for Bow Ties
You should pay attention to the fabric of your bow tie, as it can drastically change the look of your entire outfit.
For instance, if you're dressing for a black-tie affair, nothing seems classier than a silk bow tie. You are putin’ on the Ritz, and there is no doubt about it!
For warmer weather, enjoy those summer soirees in cotton or linen fabrics.
Bow Tie Color
As a general rule, darker-colored ties such as burgundy or navy rule the formal functions. The lighter-colored ties go with lighter happenings, such as lavender or peach.
However, you Southern gentlemen are all about color, so feel free to play and have fun.
Solids will always have a place. Casual clothing can be jazzed up with stripes, polka dots, paisley, or houndstooth patterns. Don't be afraid to experiment with different colors and patterns to create a unique look.
Proportion does matter. For instance, your bow tie should not extend past the outer edges of your collar. A butterfly bow tie would be your best bet if you are larger in stature. If you are slimmer, a batwing or the diamond point would do the trick.
Outfit Coordination with Different Types of Bow Ties
Selecting the Right Shirt
The bow tie is just one piece of your wardrobe puzzle. Your shirt is your canvas and should remain unadorned. A pastel hue is fine for summer or semi-formal events, but a crisp white shirt should be your main go-to.
NOTE: When dressing in a patterned suit or bow tie, keep your shirt solid to provide a canvas that allows your bolder elements to stand out.
In men's fashion, accessories serve as the finishing touch. The classic white linen pocket square has been a perfect companion to a stylish suit and bow tie combination.
However, don't hesitate to infuse a touch of Southern charm by coordinating the color of your pocket square with a subtle hue in your bow tie.
Step-by-Step Guide to Tying a Self-Tie Bow Tie
Step 1: Drape the bow tie around your neck. Underneath your collar, lay the bow tie flat against your chest.
Step 2: Cross the longer end over the shorter one. You should have an X shape just below your chin. The end of the tie that was on top should now be hanging down on your chest.
Step 3: Bring the long end up through the middle of the X and down.
Step 4: Off to the side, fold the shorter end to create a bow shape.
Step 5: Bring the dangling piece down over the middle of the bow shape.
Step 6: Now, fold the straight end back on itself.
Step 7: Push the double fold through the knot at the back of the pre-folded bow. Tighten both ends of the bow and adjust until balanced to your likeness.
How to Perfect the 'Southern Drape': A Nonchalant Knot Specific to Southern Style
Southern men have a flair for casual elegance, which we call the Southern drape. What do I mean by this?
After you have tied the perfect bow tie per my instructions above, loosen it up just a tad. Not too much, just enough to look like your tie has seen a few dances but hasn't lost an ounce of its elegance.
It is not the easiest task because it involves balancing trying too hard to look nonchalant and achieving it.
Bow ties have an enduring charm that transcends generations and occasions. From the classic elegance of the self-tie bow tie to the convenience of the pre-tied versions, a style suits every taste and event. The butterfly, diamond-point, and batwing designs offer diverse choices for personal expression, ensuring everyone can find their perfect accessory.
Whether attending a formal gala, a wedding or simply looking to elevate your everyday attire, the right bow tie can make a timeless and unique statement. So, embrace the versatility of bow ties and discover the joy of adding a touch of sophistication to your wardrobe.
As bow tie connoisseur Fred Astaire once said, “Do it big, do it right, and do it with style.”
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