Untangle Style: Self-Tie vs. Pre-Tied Bow Tie Battle

If elegance and sophistication are what you are looking for in your attire, a self-tie bow tie is the best option. If you are looking for convenience and ease of use, pre-tied bow ties are the best choice. Pre-tied bow ties are easy to wear and don't require any skill or experience. Self-tie bow ties, on the other hand, require more time and effort to tie, but the result is well worth it.

When it comes to bow ties, the "always, sometimes, never" rule applies as well. In summary:

  • Always self-tie bow ties
  • Sometimes, pre-tied bow ties
  • Never clip-on bow ties (except for the very young)

In this guide, we will focus on the self-tie and pre-tied bow ties. I must say, this isn't a decision to be made in haste, for a solid understanding of the differences, nuances, and etiquette of each is indeed required.

So, have a seat as we ponder the differences between self-tie and pre-tied bow ties and tips for choosing the right tie style for different occasions.

A Comparison of Self-Tied Bow Ties and Pre-Tied Bow Ties

Pre -Tied Bow Tie

The name of this bow tie is self-descriptive, meaning the bow is already sewn into the tie strap, which wraps around your neck. Typically, there is an adjustable hook or clasp to secure the tie. As a result, the bow is already tied for you.

What a time-saver this is, especially if you are unfamiliar with how to tie a bow tie yourself. It will hold its shape and will become your go-to tie. It may even bring back memories of your prom night or those bow ties seen on servers in your favorite upscale restaurant.

Self-Tie Bow Ties

For a pure Southern ritual, tying a bow tie is a cherished tradition. This piece of fabric commands your artistic talent to master the perfect or not-so-perfect finished tie.

As they are self-tied, they offer a certain kind of charm and individuality. The edges aren't too sharp, the shape isn't perfectly balanced, and they seem to have a certain life to them that says, "I put time into this."

Pros and Cons of Self-Tie Bow Ties

Pro: Aesthetic Individuality

Every time you tie your bow tie, you can enhance the look with your individual spin. Absolutely, there is a format to be followed when tying the tie properly, but you may add a personal twist to the uniformity. The result becomes a blend of intention and spontaneous art.

Pro: Balance Between Formality and Relaxation

Whether you wear your self-tie bow tie traditionally or untied, the slightly chaotic allure of an undone bow tie can turn heads in a room.

Con: Learning Curve to Tying the Perfect Bow

You may struggle a bit when trying to perfect the perfect knot, but never give up! It may appear too large, small, or just off-kilter. But with practice, you will have it down to a tee in no time.

Con: More Maintenance

In order to maintain that classy, debonair look, self-tied bow ties must be ironed or steamed between uses, and these bow ties must be stored properly, especially if they are made of delicate materials, such as silk or satin.

Pros and Cons of Pre-tied Bow Ties

Pro: Convenience

What could be easier and faster than a bow tie that is already tied perfectly for the occasion? This allows time for you to concentrate on other items on the wardrobe agenda, like selecting the ideal pocket square.

Pro: Guarantee of Perfect Symmetry

You can rest assured that your pre-tied bow tie will look neat and gentlemanly at any party, no matter how swanky or genteel.

Con: Lack of Individuality

The pre-tied bow tie usually comes in standard sizes and shapes. Therefore, there is not much variety, and its “perfect” form may hint toward being pre-tied versus the authenticity of a self-tie.

When to Wear Self-Tie Bow Ties

Formal Occasions

This elegant style exudes a distinct Southern charm and is perfect for black-tie affairs and extravagant soirées.  The self-tied bow tie sends a subtle message that you pay attention to the smallest details in your sartorial attire.

Parties and Other Fine Dining Occasions

If you are attending a holiday cocktail party, donning a rich velvet or silk bow tie that you tied yourself can really add to your ensemble.

Laid-Back Southern Settings

While partaking in a Sunday church service,  a cotton or linen self-tie bow tie can also be a striking feature.

Evening Festivities

After a night of revelry, let your self-tie bow tie hang loosely around your collar. It echoes the celebration and also provides a relaxed appeal, which is irresistible.

When to Wear Pre-tied Bow Ties

Events Requiring a Bow Tie and Convenience

In the beginning, consider how easy it is to use, especially if you're wearing a bow tie for the first time. This style of bow tie could be a lifesaver! After all, why waste time trying to tie the perfect tie when you could be sipping on some bourbon already?

Themed Events

Pre-tied bow ties are often used for formal occasions, such as black-tie affairs, where everyone is expected to comply with a particular aesthetic. They are also available in a wide variety of designs and themes to suit a variety of events.

Guiding Younger Generation

Younger men wearing their first formal attire will be much more comfortable wearing a pre-tied bow tie than wrestling to tie the tie themselves.

Fit with Personal Style and Comfort

Every bow tie has its time and place, so never forget that it's all about your personal style and comfort.

Choosing Between Self Tie and Pre-Tied Bow Ties

Consider the Occasion

For a black-tie event such as a gala, a self-tie black tie should take center stage. In contrast, a pre-tied bow tie could come in handy if the occasion is less formal or if the event is themed and requires a specific style.

Auditing Personal Style

There is nothing quite like the nuanced look of an expertly tied, slightly asymmetrical, self-tied bow tie to whisper your individuality. If you love fine details and customization, consider a self-tie bow tie.

Conversely, a pre-tied bow tie can be associated with neatness and orderliness since it has impeccable symmetry.

Time Management

If you are running short on time or have a million other things on your schedule, slay that pre-tied bow tie with confidence.

If you thrive on sartorial perfection, taking the time to tie your bow tie will be your crowning jewel.


If you have mastered the self-tied knot, then by all means, wear it proudly. If you have not, a pre-tied bow tie may be your faithful companion. More often than not, I have seen some poorly tied knots by those who struggled to conquer the task. So, there is nothing wrong with reaching for the pre-tied bow tie at the eleventh hour.

Tying It All Together

A well-accessorized Southern gentleman will rule the formal fashion world with a calm, confident swagger. I hope that bow ties will no longer simply be a matter of sartorial choice but a means of true expression. What defines you is not the bow tie but how you wear it.

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