Karl von Schwarzenberg

Managing the Bow Tie Look

How does one handle the bow tie look? There are many theories and opinions out there, but many style experts advise men to simply allow the act of wearing a bow tie to make the statement instead of augmenting that piece of neckwear with zany colors and patterns.

Slate‘s Gentleman Scholar Troy Patterson was asked that question last week, and in Take a Bow!, he provides some advice. The desired effect is to have people say, “He’s not wearing a tie; he’s wearing a tie!” So, how does one do that?

Patterson states that it is important for a man to not feel too self-conscious. If he’s preoccupied with his wardrobe, then other people will likely pick up on that and sense the discomfort. Seemingly out of jest, Patterson suggests that one should start wearing bow ties while young to start the habit early or to wait until one is old enough to no longer care about how others feel about their fashion. Well, who has a time machine? I certainly can’t go back to my youth to influence my mom’s neckwear taste nor would I desire skipping past most of mid age (unless 60 is truly the new 30) to qualify for senior citizen discounts.

He continues to advise, while quoting The Men’s Fashion Reader, that a bow tie “becomes a sign that there is an ineffable ‘something more’ to the wearer.” Thus, this further emphasizes the importance of the wearer’s self-confidence. A potential source for that je ne sais quoi is a quirk or idiosyncrasy that one doesn’t mind embellishing or accentuating. As examples for such blokes, Patterson offers the lovable geek, affable rake, skinny Hoboken crooner, and portly Alabama lawyer as gents for which — for better or for worse — neckwear can enhance their visibility.

That’s why it is important to reiterate the importance of avoiding extreme colors and patterns. When wearing a bow tie “excitement is implicit,” Patterson states. People will notice the bow tie due to their contemporary rareness and don’t need to have that fact slapped in their face. Further, it also important to avoid pre-tied options; one should tie their own tie. Perfection is not expected; off-kilter alignment is actually preferred. That goes back to the necessity to avoid preoccupation with oneself. How can one avoid that if they are obsessed with a perfectly tied and position knot?

Remember that neckwear should enhance one’s appearance — not steal the show. For some inspiration, check out the Pinterest board below of pictures of notable bow tie devotees. Note that Patterson doesn’t have pleasant things to say about conservative American political pundit Tucker Carlson who once religiously wore them. Even though he considers Carlson an “upper-class twit,” he defends bow ties by stating, “People despise Tucker Carlson because he is Tucker Carlson.” So, regardless of how you feel about this politico, rest assured that even his divisive reputation hasn’t ruined bow ties for the rest of us. Phew!

Follow Bow Tie Aficionado’s board Notable Bow Tie Wearers.