You may be thinking there’s not very much to know about the humble bow tie. But when you delve deeper into the world of this iconic fashion accessory, you’ll discover not only a long history but a multitude of shapes, styles and designs.
The bow tie is first thought to have been worn among Croatian mercenaries during the Thirty Years' War, 1618-48. It’s believed that the soldiers used a scarf around the neck to hold together the opening of their shirts. The idea made its way to Western Europe and eventually through France and to England. The evolution of bow ties and cravats continued throughout the 19th Century and became a staple of the gentleman’s wardrobe. The rest, as they say, is history!
Today the bow tie is an amazingly versatile fashion accessory worn by men and women alike. Here you’ll find a guide detailing the different types of bow tie styles that you can wear.
The pre-tied bow tie is exactly that, it’s pre-formed into a neat and symmetrical bow, attached to a neckband, which can be secured around the collar with a hook and eye. The knot is permanently sewn into place and the neck band is adjustable with a slide buckle, so you can alter the size quickly and easily. This style is perfect if you aren’t confident in tying your own bow tie or if you’re in a rush.
Pre-tied bow ties lend themselves particularly well to thicker fabrics, such as velvet and tweed, although any cotton or silk material will make an excellent pre-tied bow tie. They are also ideal for adding embellishments such as Swarovski crystals.
A pre-tied bow tie does not give you the ability to alter the way it looks, but this is perfect if you want a uniform appearance, in the case of groomsmen for example. Of course, you can always team up your pre-tied bow tie with an un-tied self-tie for a cheeky switcheroo towards the end of a night out!
Some people might question whether it’s OK to wear a pre-tied bow tie as opposed to a self-tie. I firmly believe it’s entirely up to you what you wear and there’s absolutely no right or wrong way to go. Over the last few years I’ve seen royalty and celebrities alike confidently wearing both styles, so as long as you’re comfortable and feel good then it’s the right choice for you.
Having said that, if you ever fancied a change from wearing a pre-tied, or perhaps you’ve never worn a bow tie before, it’s never too late to have a go at tying your own. If you’d like to learn how to tie a bow tie, check out our ‘How to Tie a Bow Tie’ page which has a step-by-step video and written tutorial.
If you’re looking to show more of your own personality in your bow tie you might want to try out one of the next designs in my guide...
Self-tie bow ties are the more traditional style of bow tie. They come in two pieces and attach at the back of the neck with a hook and eye. Like the pre-tied version, the length can be adjusted using a slide buckle, but the big difference here is that you tie this one into your own bow.
The self-tie bow tie is more versatile than the pre-tied. You can reflect your own style and personality by creating a finish unique to you. You can tie your bow tie in any way you wish; jauntily, a big bow, small bow, wide, narrow, the list goes on. But above all, you get the kudos because everyone knows you tied it yourself!
Another really good feature of the self-tie bow tie is that it can be produced in a number of different shapes. For a rundown of those different shapes read on...
Butterfly Bow Tie
The ‘Butterfly’ is the traditional and most recognised bow tie shape. It has a flat end and smooth curve in the middle. It has a good-sized surface area so it’s perfect for displaying funky designs! This shape will result in your standard bow tie. The picture above demonstrates a tied 'butterfly' and the picture below is untied.
Narrow Batwing Bow Tie
The ‘Batwing’ bow tie is a much more contemporary shape. It’s straight and narrow, essentially a rectangle of fabric, which creates a more modest, low-profile bow.
Diamond (Flattened Diamond)
The ‘Diamond’ bow tie creates a clean, crisp finish. It’s relatively narrow so will produce a smaller bow compared to some of the other designs.
Diamond Point Bow Tie
This bow tie has elements of the traditional butterfly in the rounded mid-section, but it has a distinct point on each wing. It’s a very classic shape for a bow tie and adds a touch of glamour and sophistication.
Wings Bow Tie
The ‘Wings’ bow tie is very unusual and modern. This one really stands out from the crowd and is absolutely perfect if you want a bow tie that’s a bit different from the rest.
Most people I meet have very strong opinions on which style of bow tie is right for them. Those who wear both are, in my experience, a rare breed! However, it’s important to remember to wear whichever style and shape makes you feel good. If you’re confident and extroverted, you might prefer a brighter colour and a more unusual shape. If you’re quieter by nature or are attending a very formal event you may wish to wear a more traditional black bow tie in a standard shape. I’ll be writing more articles on how to choose a bow tie and when/where to wear them soon. I hope you’ve found this guide useful. Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions or comments!
Other useful bow tie resources...