Is a Bow Tie Formal?

Is a Bow Tie Formal?

The bow tie is generally considered a less formal alternative to a necktie, with the exception being black tie or white tie events.  Black tie and white tie events typically require a bow tie as part of the ensemble. 


When is it suitable to wear a bow tie?

You can wear bow tie anytime and anywhere that you want, however, a necktie is a more common accessory in most circles.  A few exceptions where a bow tie is always more appropriate do exist.   

Bow ties are more commonly worn in casual settings where a nice, but dressed down, appearance is acceptable.  They pair extremely well with dress shirts worn without a jacket and look great as a standout fashion statement.  Wear bow ties occasionally if you want to draw attention when your outfit changes; wear bow ties every day if you want it to become part of your signature style.


Should a Bow Tie be Worn With a Suit?

If you are wearing a standard business suit, a necktie is typically considered more formal and is more common in the office environment.  Bow ties are considered more casual and can be paired with a suit depending on the event and your personal sense of style.

Avoid wearing a bow tie for business-oriented events such as job interviews, sales events, or business pitches.  Neckties are more common in all of these activities and a bow tie may draw undue attention.

Bow ties are much more common in academia and other professional settings that are more relaxed than large companies and Wall Street like environments.  They are also a great fit for anyone working in a formal setting but in a job where a necktie may create undue risk.  For example, if your job requires close proximity to heavy machinery, bow ties are safer than neckties.



Formal Events Where a Bow Tie is Appropriate

 White tie events are the most formal type of dress code practiced in the western world.  A white, self-tie bow tie is always the correct choice of neckwear for these events.  White tie events include galas, royal ceremonies, and state dinners.

Black tie is considered one step less formal than a white tie event.  The tuxedo is the appropriate form of dress at a black tie the event and should always be worn with a black self-tie bow tie.  


Which Type of Bow Tie is the Most Formal?

            There are three types of bow ties: self-tie, pre-tied and clip-ons.  Self-tie is by far the most formal type of bow tie and this should be worn in all situations if possible.  If you are unable to learn to tie a self-tie bow tie, then pre-tied is an acceptable option.  Be aware, anyone fashion savvy will be able to tell that the tie is pre-tied.  Clip-ons should be avoided at all costs.


Things to Remember When Wearing a Bow Tie

  1. A bow tie reveals more of the dress shirt than a standard necktie, so shirt choice is critical. Choose high-quality shirts and ensure the placket is neatly buttoned.
  2. Bow Ties are the appropriate choice for black and white tie events. If you’re wearing a tuxedo, choose a bow tie.  A good rule of thumb is that if your outfit has velvet or piping a bow tie may be the best choice of neckwear.
  3. Bow ties are a more flexible accessory than a necktie and offer a wider range of patterns and colors to choose from. The smaller amount of fabric means you can be bolder without detracting from the overall look.  If the event you are attending is a black tie event a black bow tie is the most appropriate choice.  Similarly, white bow ties should be worn to white tie events.