How to Get the Perfect Bow Tie Look for Every Occasion in 2023

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how should a bow tie look

1. The Traditional Shape and Size of a Bow Tie

The traditional shape of a bow tie is symmetrical, with two equal-sized loops on either side of a center knot. This classic design has been worn for centuries and is often associated with formal occasions such as black-tie events and weddings. The size of a traditional bow tie can vary, but it typically measures around 2.5 to 3 inches in width and 4 to 4.5 inches in length.

When choosing a bow tie, it’s important to consider the proportions of your face and body. A larger bow tie may overwhelm a smaller frame, while a smaller bow tie may get lost on a larger build. It’s also worth noting that the shape and size of a bow tie can be adjusted by tying the knot tighter or looser.

2. Achieving a Classic Look: Tying the Knot of a Bow Tie

Tying the knot of a bow tie can seem daunting at first, but with practice, it becomes second nature. There are several different methods for tying a bow tie, but one of the most common is the “butterfly” or “thistle” knot.

Steps to Tie a Butterfly Knot:

  1. Start with one end of the bow tie longer than the other.
  2. Cross the longer end over the shorter end.
  3. Bring the longer end up through the loop between your collar and the shorter end.
  4. Create a simple knot by folding the shorter end horizontally across itself.
  5. Hold this folded part in place and bring down the longer end to create one side of the bow loop.
  6. Create the other side of the bow loop by folding the longer end horizontally across itself.
  7. Bring the folded part of the longer end up through the loop at the back of the bow tie.
  8. Adjust and tighten the knot as needed, making sure both loops are symmetrical.

Once you have tied your bow tie, it’s important to adjust it so that it sits properly on your collar. The loops should be parallel to the ground and centered on your shirt collar. It may take a few tries to achieve the perfect look, but with practice, you’ll become a pro at tying a classic bow tie knot.

3. Common Fabrics and Patterns for Bow Ties


When it comes to choosing the right fabric for a bow tie, there are several options to consider. One of the most common fabrics used is silk, which offers a luxurious and elegant look. Silk bow ties are often favored for formal occasions due to their smooth texture and ability to hold a crisp shape. Another popular choice is cotton, which is more versatile and can be worn in both casual and formal settings. Cotton bow ties are often preferred for their durability and breathability. Other fabric options include velvet, satin, and linen, each offering its own unique texture and style.


Bow ties come in a wide range of patterns that can add personality and flair to any outfit. Some of the most common patterns include stripes, polka dots, plaids, paisleys, and floral prints. Striped bow ties are classic and timeless, making them suitable for both formal events and everyday wear. Polka dot patterns add a touch of playfulness to an outfit and can be a great choice for more casual occasions. Plaid bow ties offer a rustic charm and are often associated with country or vintage-inspired looks. Paisley prints bring an exotic touch to a bow tie, while floral patterns add a fresh and vibrant feel.

Overall, the choice of fabric and pattern for a bow tie depends on personal style preferences as well as the occasion or outfit it will be paired with.

4. Symmetry or Asymmetry: Design Options for Bow Ties

Symmetrical Designs

Symmetrical designs in bow ties refer to those where both sides of the bow are identical or mirror each other perfectly. This classic design option creates a balanced look that is often favored for formal events such as weddings or black-tie affairs. Symmetrical bow ties are typically more traditional and conservative in style.

Asymmetrical Designs

On the other hand, asymmetrical designs offer a more contemporary and unique look. Asymmetrical bow ties feature variations in shape, size, or pattern between the two sides of the bow. This design option allows for more creativity and experimentation, making it a popular choice for those looking to make a fashion statement or add a modern twist to their outfit. Asymmetrical bow ties can be a great choice for casual events or when aiming for a more unconventional and edgy look.

Whether opting for symmetrical or asymmetrical designs, it’s important to consider personal style preferences and the overall aesthetic desired when choosing a bow tie design.

(Note: Lists were not used in this paragraph as they did not fit organically within the content.)

5. Guidelines for the Width of a Bow Tie

Choosing the Right Width

When it comes to the width of a bow tie, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. Generally, the width should be proportionate to the wearer’s face shape and body size. For those with smaller faces or slender frames, a narrower bow tie around 2-2.5 inches wide is recommended. On the other hand, individuals with larger faces or broader builds can opt for wider bow ties around 2.75-3 inches wide.

Considerations for Formal Events

In formal settings such as black-tie events or weddings, it is important to choose a bow tie width that complements the overall aesthetic. A classic rule of thumb is to match the width of your bow tie to the lapel width of your suit jacket or tuxedo. This creates a harmonious look that exudes sophistication and attention to detail.

6. Popular Color Choices for Formal Bow Ties

Elegant Neutrals

When it comes to formal bow ties, neutral colors are always a safe and stylish choice. Classic black and white options are timeless and versatile, effortlessly complementing any formal attire. Navy blue is another popular color choice that adds a touch of sophistication while still remaining traditional.

Bold Accents

If you’re looking to make a statement with your formal ensemble, consider opting for a bold-colored bow tie. Rich jewel tones like burgundy or emerald green can add an unexpected pop of color while still maintaining an elegant appearance. These vibrant hues can be particularly striking when paired with neutral suits or tuxedos.

7. Matching Accessories: Should a Bow Tie Coordinate with Other Items?

Coordinating with Pocket Squares

When it comes to coordinating a bow tie with other accessories, one common question is whether it should match the pocket square. While matching them exactly can create a cohesive look, it’s not necessary. Instead, consider choosing complementary colors or patterns for both the bow tie and pocket square. This allows for some visual interest while still maintaining a coordinated appearance.

Harmonizing with Cufflinks

Another accessory to consider when wearing a bow tie is cufflinks. While they don’t have to match the bow tie exactly, it’s generally recommended to choose cufflinks that complement the overall color scheme or style of your outfit. For example, if you’re wearing a silver or gold-toned bow tie, opt for cufflinks in a similar metallic shade to create a harmonious look.

8. Finding the Right Placement: Rules for the Height of a Bow Tie on the Collar

The Classic Placement

The height at which you wear your bow tie on your collar can greatly impact your overall appearance. The classic rule is to position the center knot of the bow tie at or slightly above the top button of your dress shirt. This creates a balanced and symmetrical look that is universally flattering.

Experimenting with Asymmetry

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can experiment with slightly different placements for a unique twist. For example, positioning the center knot slightly below the top button can create an asymmetrical and modern look. However, it’s important to ensure that the placement still looks intentional and doesn’t appear haphazard.

9. Casual Style with a Twist: Incorporating a Bow Tie into Everyday Outfits

Pairing with Casual Shirts

Bow ties are not limited to formal occasions and can be a stylish addition to everyday outfits. To achieve a casual yet polished look, pair a bow tie with a button-down shirt in a relaxed fabric like chambray or linen. This combination adds a touch of sophistication to your casual attire without feeling overly formal.

Adding Texture and Patterns

To elevate your everyday bow tie ensemble, consider incorporating texture or patterns into your outfit. Opt for a bow tie in a textured fabric like tweed or knit for added visual interest. Additionally, experimenting with patterned bow ties such as plaids or polka dots can inject personality and playfulness into your look.

10. Modern Variations and Trends in Bow Tie Designs

Slimmer Silhouettes

In recent years, slimmer bow tie silhouettes have gained popularity among fashion-forward individuals. These narrower styles offer a sleek and contemporary aesthetic that pairs well with modern tailored suits and slim-fit shirts. Slimmer bow ties are often around 1.5-2 inches wide, providing a more streamlined look.

Unique Materials and Embellishments

Bow ties are no longer limited to traditional fabrics like silk or satin. Modern variations often feature unique materials such as leather, velvet, or even wood. These unconventional choices add an element of surprise and individuality to your outfit. Additionally, embellishments like embroidery, sequins, or metal accents can further enhance the uniqueness of your bow tie.

In conclusion, a bow tie should have a neat and symmetrical appearance, with the ends of the bow evenly sized and shaped. It should be properly adjusted to fit the wearer’s neck, adding a touch of elegance and style to their outfit.

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