Singaporebrides | Fashion

April 2014

Men, Take A Bow (Tie)

The classic bow tie has seen a comeback in recent years. Fu Jinming re-examines its place in the modern gentleman’s sartorial arsenal.

Long seen as something you only wear at weddings and formal dinner functions, the bow tie has had its fair share of critics, most of whom unfairly dismissing it as a fuddly-dudley thing to hang around your neck; something only our grandfathers would wear.

But the fashion world has since witnessed a revival in the once-classic menswear accessory. Thanks in no small part to the slew of trendy personalities who have been seen wearing bow ties – and exuding oodles of cool doing so. From ‘it’ guys such as actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ryan Gosling, to hip game-changers like musician Pharrell Williams and basketball star Lebron James, the bow tie has since become a great way for the sartorial man to achieve that classic, smoky-cool look, or a playful, preppy one.

Not bad for a piece of fabric first forged in war.

Croatian mercenaries during the Prussian wars of the 17th century were looking for a way to hold their shirt collars closed out on the battlefield. They tied a scarf around their necks in a uniquely knotted manner. The unusual, picturesque neckband look was soon adopted by the French (who else), who dubbed it the cravat.

By the 1920s, it had evolved into the butterfly bow tie we know today, and had become a staple in the formal menswear attire. It cemented Frank Sinatra and Sean Connery as icons of cool. And even crossed the gender divide when female legends of the silver screen like Marlene Dietrich and Katherine Hepburn picked up the look.

Men, Take A Bow (Tie) Joseph and Pharrell show you how to dapper

Redefined and re-imagined over and over again, the modern bow tie is now typically associated with tuxedoes and black-tie affairs. Yet it can be worn just as well – and as stylishly – as a casual fashion item for the dapper dude. One that can inject a little chic-cred into your everyday style.

Here are a few tips to help you choose the right bow tie:

1. Choose your material

Think bow tie and chances are, you’d think shiny, silky, and black. Well, think again. There are options these days that make use of textured fabrics to create a look and feel that’s a little more interesting. You can now choose from ties made from wool, flannels, and even denim. So you can match your tie to the occasion, your outfit, and even the weather.

If you’re having trouble choosing, just remember that satin is classy and elegant, while textures like wool give a modern yet sophisticated demeanor – a smart choice for the office.

2. Colours and patterns

Who says bow ties are boring? Besides the standard black and white staples, the bow tie now comes in a wide assortment of colours and patterns. Beau Ties, a company specialising in handmade ties from the US, offers a great selection of shades and patterns – from classy black to stylish stripes to quirky polka dots.

When choosing your colour, wear one that complements the rest of your outfit. So if you’re wearing a black-and-white shirt, try a black-and-white tie. It doesn’t always have to match though. You can pair a cheery yellow bow tie with a clean white shirt. Just avoid colours that take the focus away from your face, especially screamingly loud ones.

3. Formal and black

When it comes to formal wear, nothing beats the class and elegance of black. Any other colour, and you run the risk of re-living your 80s prom night at best, and being mistaken for the wedding singer at worst.

If you’re wearing a slim dinner jacket, go for a similarly slim black bow tie. For that slick, classy look, try silk or soft cottons.

Men, Take A Bow (Tie)

4. Size matters

While subjective, there is a right size to your bow tie in most cases. First rule of thumb is: when worn, the width of your tie should not overcome the width of your face. It should also keep within the width of your collar. Or for a more accurate sizing, keep your finished bow somewhere between the width of your face and the outer edges of your eyes.

Too big, and you’ll look like a clown. Too small, and you’ll look like you have a balloon for a face.

5. Keep it simple

One thing to note when picking out a tie: your bow tie is already a novelty item. Do not let it stand out anymore than it already has with overly garish designs, size or colour lest it becomes a sore thumb, and you become a character off a Saturday morning cartoon.

If you really want to be sure and safe, avoid matching a patterned bow tie with a patterned shirt. Unless you know what you’re doing, too many patterns in one outfit can produce a confusing look. Not to mention a tragically comic one.

6. Imperfection is perfect

Deciding between a self-tied bow tie and a clip-on is like deciding between a bicycle, and one with training wheels. While clip-ons are every bit as stylish as self-tied ones, the ability to tie your own bow is what separates a man from a boy. Besides, a pre-tied bow can look a little too perfect. It’s the asymmetrical, slight irregularity of your hand-tied variant that will lend a unique, somewhat roguish flair to your getup.

This is why it’s almost always more preferable to go for a self-tied bow tie, as opposed to a clip-on or pre-tied one. All you have to do is learn to tie it. Which brings us to our next tip…

7. Tie your own tie

This is what sets a gentleman from a mere pretender. The good news is, it’s not at all hard to properly tie your own bow. All you need is some guidance – and as with most things in life – practice, practice, practice. Treat it like an essential man skill to learn, much like shaving, drilling and driving. Once mastered, you’d have gained another party trick with which to impress the ladies – and the other guys. It’s like discovering an old, lost art. Then making it cool all over again.

Here are some easy-to-follow instructions to tie one from Beau Ties Ltd, a premier men’s fashion accessory brand specialising in bow ties and neckties online:

Men, Take A Bow (Tie)

To learn more about bow ties and how to wear them, check out Beau Ties’s website here. All bow tie images courtesy about Beau Ties Ltd.