The bow tie comes in a variety of shapes and styles, the three to concentrate on are the classic, modern and batwing styles.
Gentleman’s hint: the bow tie size should be proportional to the size of the face: a quarter of the height of the face and three quarters of the width.
The classic is commonly referred to as the butterfly. The butterfly makes a large bow tie with flared tie ends that creates a taller narrow bow tie. Butterfly ties are generally three to three and a half inches wide with an exaggerated wave. The butterfly is best suited to a wing-tip collared shirt although it works well with a semi-spread turndown collar. Men who are full-faced, or carry extra weight, should opt for the classic butterfly as smaller bow ties will emphasise the bulk of the face and look out of proportion.
The modern bow tie is narrower than the butterfly. It is known as the semi-butterfly because the tie is nearly half the width of the butterfly, at two or two and three quarter inches wide. This narrower tie suits smaller faces, and so should be reserved for men with thin or defined faces.
The batwing, or straight-end, sadly has never been worn by Bruce Wane, but its flat rectangular appearance when tied gives it a unique style. At one and a half inches wide or two inches wide, it is the thinnest of all the bow ties featured here. Apart from its narrow profile, the batwing is unusual in that it does not have a wavy design to the tie. The tie is comprised of two rectangular blocks that are used to create the bow tie, providing the boxy appearance that symbolises the batwing bow tie. The batwing should be reserved for the turndown collar shirt. If you want to take the edge of the boxy appearance, opt for a pointed version to create a diamond bow tie.
Gentleman’s hint: if none of these take your fancy, all the above styles can be bought in a pointed style. The tie’s classic flat ends are pointed, creating an edgy modern alternative to the classic.
The fabric of the bow tie is as important as the fabric of the tuxedo, this is because the first items people notice at a black tie event are shoes, bow tie and tuxedo lapels. Thus the bow tie’s material is essential to get right.
The bow tie compliments the tuxedo’s lapels, so a a satin bow tie would be worn to match a satin lapelled tuxedo. Conversely, tuxedos with grosgrain lapels allow for a greater range of tie options such as Barathea or grosgrain. Barathea is a ribbed finish that contrasts the grosgrain texture of the lapels. This sounds problematic as any contrasts in black tie so far end in disaster (apart from the shirt and tuxedo), yet the difference in the texture is so subtle that it is only noticeable when the light hits the tie and lapels in certain ways creating an interesting and advanced style that will garner the attention of many.
Gentleman’s hint: for the ultimate sartorial style, match the bow tie’s fabric to the that of your tuxedo lapels. The only bow tie colours to go for are black or midnight blue.
By Sam Adam Smith – #3PG – the bow tied gentleman