How to Tie and Style a Bow Tie

by Welcome to Outsons

Bow ties are back in fashion, and there are many ways of wearing one. Check out our guide on how to tie a bow tie and how to style it.

Summer is just around the corner, and with it come all types of events and occasions. Weddings, graduations, summer balls and parties, and along with them the summery vibe that makes you want to step back from the more rigid tie, and embrace the more personality driven bow tie instead. Don’t think of the bow tie as something that’s either going to spray water in your face, or just be worn by A-listers on the red carpet, and instead see it how it is – a surprisingly versatile accessory that can boost the look of a number of outfits.

There are a few ways you can get the bow tie look, from clip ons to pre-tied pieces – however if you’re a traditionalist and want to customise your look, you’ll probably want to get your hands on an old school one and tie it yourself. How to tie a bow tie doesn’t have to be a complicated matter, so here’s our guide on how to do so, as well as ways to style them to perfection.

Different Styles of Bow Tie

There are a few ways you can get the bow tie look, from clip ons to pre-tied pieces. If you’re a traditionalist and want to customise your look, you’ll probably want to get your hands on an old school one and tie it yourself, but if you’re in a hurry and co-ordination isn’t your strongest point then a good clip on can work in your favour.


The clip-on bow clips directly onto your collar of a shirt by the metal clasp featured on the back. If you get a surprise ticket to the oscars then we wouldn’t recommend a clip on, but if you really don’t have the time to learn how to tie one then this can work if you’re in a pinch.

clip on green bow tie style


  • Easy to wear – no co-ordination necessary
  • Comes in a range of colours


  • Looks fairly unconvincing
  • Can easily slip off
  • Isn’t adjustable


The pre-tied bow tie is a perfect starting point for people new to bow ties. A little similar to the clip-on, the pre-tied bow tie comes pre-tied and the knot is sewn into place and attached by an adjustable neck strap. On the whole the pre-tied bow tie looks a lot more convincing than the clip on and put on correctly can look as good as a self tie one.

black bow tie mens


  • Easily adjustable
  • The bow never looses its shape
  • Comes in a range of colours


  • Can look baggy if the strap loosens with use
  • Can’t be fitted exactly to your neck like a self tie one.


The classic style which has a natural look when tied, it is also known as the ‘freestyle’. Be aware that it is a little challenging the first couple of times you attempt to tie the self-tie bow tie. The entire thing is untied in order for you to do yourself. Nothing really matches this, and some say you can tell the difference between the self-tie and the rest. Another perk is that you can untie it at the end of the night for the dishevelled, chilled look.

self tie bow tie


  • Looks the neatest and the most classic looking out of the three
  • Is easily adjustable so it can fit you perfectly
  • Can be tied in a few ways to achieve different looks


  • Can be tricky to tie, and if not done correctly the bow can look lopsided

Tips on How to Tie a Bow Tie

The answer you’ve all been waiting for. While it’s not a necessity or something you’ll need one a daily basis, being able to tie a bow tie is something every man should learn how to do. Once you learn how to do it, you’ll never have to go back to a pre-tied bow tie again.


Once you’ve mastered the simple tie you can go for more abstract ties, like the diamond tip tie. It’s simply a matter of getting the hang of the technique and ensuring that you get the shape of the bow even and tight enough that it won’t fall apart.

Bow Tie Styles and Shapes

Choosing your style is completely up to you, but bear in mind that some are used for much more formal events or rather, some are less formal than others. You should also remember that these styles have several different names, but are most commonly called by the following.

The Butterfly

The first shape is the modern butterfly and is also known as the islet shape. The butterfly is about 2.3 inches high and recommended as the first style for men to try, as it’s an easy one to tie. It’s also considerably versatile and suitable for various occasions, giving you a traditional and classic look.

Butterfly Tie Fort-Belvedere

The Batwing

This style is also known as a slim bow tie and is the smallest in height. Batwing bow ties are typically less than two inches in height and provide a clean and modern look. This is good if you want to create a twist on the traditional black tie events, without going for anything too garish.

batwing bow tie

The Diamond Tip

An alternative style that features diamond shaped pointed edges as opposed to a flat end. The diamond look is gaining popularity and when styled has an asymmetric look, adding a little character to the self-tie bow tie.

diamond tip bow tie men

The Rounded Club

Now for the least common of the bunch. You probably won’t see the rounded club bow tie rocked on the red carpet, but like most unique looks there are always ways it can be incorporated into an outfit. When you want to gain a ‘flashier’ formal look this is a great option.

the rounded club bow tie

The Right Size and Length

The right size and length of your bow tie is really down to personal preference and what style you prefer.  However, keep in mind that what tie to choose can sometimes affect what length you can go for. For example the butterfly is unique because you are able to make it bigger, while the diamond tip bow works better in a smaller size.


Colour, again is down to personal preference, but you may just want to consider the formality of your event. A safe option is black, white and blue, as they’re the most versatile colours and can be matched with various suits and tuxes. Despite the fact that bow ties are generally less formal looking than normal ties, if you want to create a cleaner look, then something less bold will help give a more put together outfit.

However if you’re going for a less intense look then a bow tie is perfect if you want to experiment with colour and pattern. An all black or navy suit can stand out with a small touch of colour, so a bold red or polka dot bow is perfect for pairing with one.

how to wear a bow tie colour

How to Style the Bow Tie

The next question to consider is styling a bow tie and what outfits to wear with it. A big issue concerning the bow tie is not actually how to tie it or which style to go for, but what to wear it with. They were once considered a casual accessory and a part of your everyday outfit, yet nowadays bow ties are worn as a part of your formal attire or semi-formal attire. If however you want to rock a bow tie in more casual way there are ways that you can incorporate it into your everyday look.

Formal Attire

Formal attire events traditionally calls for a bow tie. The most familiar style of formal dress code is the Black Tie, where bow ties are a staple part of the uniform. When attending a black tie event, you’ll probably opt for a black tuxedo, and in this case you’ll wear a black bow tie. A self-tie is the best option as any other style such as a clip on will instantly cheapen the look. While you should stick with a classic colour, you’ll occasionally have the option of varying in material, otherwise choose a silk or satin.

formal attire bowtie looks

For a classic look keep things simple with a black tuxedo, white or black bow tie and added accessories such as a pocket square or opera scarf if you’re feeling especially fancy.

If you’ve been invited to a white tie event, then the rules on your bow tie are a little stricter. There won’t be a lot of room for customisation, and it’s important that, as the name suggests, you choose a white bow tie, tied in a traditional shape, like a butterfly bow to keep things classic and neat.

Semi-Formal Attire

semi formal bowtie fashion

This is your chance to try out different colours and patterns with your bow tie. Different materials such as velvet and linen are a great way to experiment with your look as well, and can add a subtle, or more intense twist to the formal look.

To stop things looking too busy, coordinate your bow tie with a timeless dress shirt or pocket square. Alternatively match your bow tie to your suit jacket, or if you choose to wear a checked or patterned shirt, match one of the colours with your bowtie as well!

Casual Attire

casual stylish bowtie outfits

Adding a bow tie to your casual outfits is a great way to show off personal style and an alternative look. If you’re going to wear a bow tie casually, the trick is to go all out. You can’t really subtly wear a bow tie, so there’s not a lot of point in trying. Wear a plaid bow tie with a brightly coloured dress shirt, or choose a daring colour or pattern. You may even decide to add to your outfit with supporting accessories such as printed socks and braces.

If you’re unsure of how to wear a bow tie casually, definitely just go for two separate defining colours with your shirt and bow tie. Wearing the same colour or shade can be quite bland – you wouldn’t do it with a tie, so don’t with a bow tie. Also stick with standard and neutral colours such as black, white, tan, khaki, or dark blue.

A Short History of the Bow Tie

The bow tie dates back to the 17th Century when Croatian mercenaries used it as a neckwear to hold the collars of their shirts up. It was a little more like a scarf and called a cravat at the time. Shortly after, the French upper class adopted this look in the 18th and 19th century when they were thought to be the leaders of Fashion.

bow tie history

Over time, the cravat evolved into men’s neckwear and is now known as a bow tie or neck tie. It’s a statement piece of formal attire today, though before the World War Two it was a custom piece of clothing. It is still often worn by academia as an everyday look.

How to Tie a Bow Tie Cheat Sheet

  • Put the bow tie around your next and make the left end (A) of the bow tie a little lower than the right end. (B)
  • Bring the left side (A) across the front of the other side (B) in a downward direction.
  • Then bring (A) the left side around and behind the right half (B) to form a loop.
  • Bring the left side up (A) and through the loop, then tighten it – but not too tight around the neck.
  • Bring (B) level with the knot and fold it to create the bow shape.
  • Then bring the left side (A) down over the right (B), the thinner part of (A) the left should hang down the middle of (B) the right.
  • Bring the (A) left side around the backside of (B) and at this point you may want to hold the new knot between your thumb and forefinger so that it does not change – get big, small, too loose or tight.
  • Fold the left side (A) so that it forms the bow shape.
  • Finally, bring (A) up and through the front of the new knot so that A’s bow sits on top of B’s bow.

On that Note

Wearing a bow tie can be tricky business but it’s definitely a great way to create a relaxed and stylish look. It can also show a side to your personality, especially if you decide to wear it casually. Wearing a clip-on or a pre-tied is handy in when you’re in a hurry, but it really is a rite of passage learning to tie your own.

Be sure to take into consideration colours and style when attending a special occasion, and always check the dress code before jazzing it up prints and bolder colours. Most importantly, have fun with your new accessory. If you’re not going to any weddings or parties, don’t let this stop you from experimenting with bow ties.

Feature image from Pinterest

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