Mastering the Bow Tie: A Guide for the Modern Gentleman

Bow ties have long been revered as a symbol of timeless sophistication and refined style in men’s fashion. Originating from the 17th century Croatian mercenaries, who used cloth tied around their necks for practicality during war, bow ties have since evolved into a beloved accessory embraced by gentlemen across the globe.

What makes the bow tie enduringly charming is its ability to effortlessly elevate nearly any formal or semi-formal outfit. Whether adorning the necks of dapper gentlemen at black-tie events or adding a touch of flair to everyday wear, bow ties exude a sense of elegance and individuality.

In this guide, we transit into the art of mastering bow ties, exploring their history, types, and how to impeccably style them for various occasions. Whether you’re a seasoned fan of bow ties or embarking on your bow tie journey, this comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge and finesse to confidently rock this iconic accessory with panache.

Man wearing cravat - guide to bow ties | The Sharp GentlemanTHE HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF THE BOW TIE

The origin of the bow tie can be traced back to the 17th century, where Croatian mercenaries serving in France during the Thirty Years War wore a scarf-like cloth tied around their necks as part of their military uniforms. This distinctive neckwear caught the attention of the French upper class, who adopted it as a fashionable accessory known as the “cravat.”

The cravat evolved over the centuries, with variations in size, shape, and tying methods. By the 19th century, the bow tie as we know it today began to emerge, characterized by its compact size and symmetrical bow shape. It became a staple accessory for formal wear, particularly in the realm of evening attire and formal events.

During the early 20th century, bow ties gained popularity among intellectuals, artists, and professionals, symbolizing sophistication and refinement. They were worn with tuxedos, suits, and even casual attire, adding a touch of elegance to any ensemble.

In the mid-20th century, bow ties experienced a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to prominent figures like Winston Churchill and Frank Sinatra, who frequently sported them with style. The bow tie became a symbol of individuality and confidence, breaking away from the conventional necktie norms.

Today, bow ties continue to be a versatile accessory appreciated by fashion enthusiasts and trendsetters. From classic silk bow ties to modern iterations in various materials and styles, they remain an integral part of men’s fashion, adding a dash of personality and flair to any outfit.


  1. “Self Tie” Bow Ties: A “self-tie” bow tie is a type of bow tie that requires manual tying by the wearer. This style of bow tie allows for customization in terms of size, tightness, and knot style, reflecting craftsmanship and adding a touch of individuality and sophistication to one’s attire.
  2. “Pre Tied” Bow Ties: A “pre-tied” bow tie is a type of bow tie that comes already formed and is secured with an adjustable band around the neck. Unlike self-tie bow ties, pre-tied bow ties do not require manual tying by the wearer. They offer convenience and ease of use, making them a popular choice for individuals who prefer a ready-to-wear option without the hassle of tying a bow tie themselves. However, pre-tied bow ties may not provide the same level of customization and authenticity as self-tie bow ties.
  3. “Clip On” Bow tie: A clip-on bow tie is a type of bow tie that features a metal or plastic clip mechanism attached to the back of the bow. This clip is used to secure the bow tie directly to the collar of the shirt, eliminating the need for tying a knot manually. Clip-on bow ties are easy to attach and remove, making them a convenient choice for those who want a quick and effortless bow tie solution. However, they may not offer the same level of sophistication and authenticity as self-tie or pre-tied bow ties, especially for formal events.

tie illustration - guide to bow ties | The Sharp Gentleman


Styling a bow tie is an art that adds elegance and personality to any outfit. We want to look into practical tips for color coordination, patterns, and fabric choices. Whether you’re a novice or a seasoned enthusiast, these insights will help you craft a stylish and sophisticated look that reflects your unique style.

When it comes to styling bow ties for different events, there are several key factors to consider, including color coordination, patterns, and fabric choices. Here’s some practical advice to help you achieve a polished look for various occasions:

casino royale movie poster - guide to bow ties | The Sharp GentlemanFormal Events (Black-Tie Dinner or Gala):

Opt for classic colors like black, navy blue, or deep burgundy for a sophisticated touch. Choose silk or satin fabric for a luxurious appearance that complements formal attire. Consider a subtle pattern like a small polka dot or a delicate paisley for added interest without being overpowering.

Business Meetings or Corporate Settings:

Stick to neutral colors such as gray, charcoal, or navy for a professional look. Select a silk or high-quality microfiber fabric for a refined finish. Solid colors work well, but you can also experiment with subtle stripes or geometric patterns for a touch of personality.

Casual Gatherings or Daytime Events:

Embrace lighter shades like pastels, light blue, or soft pink for a relaxed yet stylish vibe. Cotton or linen bow ties are perfect for daytime events, offering breathability and comfort. Explore playful patterns such as stripes, checks, or floral designs to add a playful element to your outfit.

Weddings (Guest or Groom):

Coordinate with the wedding theme or color palette if you’re a guest, opting for colors that complement but don’t overshadow the bridal party. For grooms, consider a bow tie in a shade that matches the wedding theme or complements the bride’s attire. Silk or textured fabrics like velvet can elevate your look for this special occasion.

Seasonal Events (Holiday Parties, Summer Soirees):

During the holiday season, embrace rich colors like deep red, forest green, or gold for a festive touch. In summer, light-colored bow ties in breathable fabrics like linen or seersucker keep you cool while maintaining a stylish appearance. Play with seasonal patterns such as snowflakes, holly leaves, or nautical motifs depending on the occasion.

Wherever you find yourself looking to stand out from the crowd of regular neck ties, the bow tie is an excellent option. They’re iconic, timeless, and cover the spectrum from silly to sophisticated. Give the bow tie a try!


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The Author

Gabriel Osom

Gabriel Osom

Gabriel Nsinneabasi Osom, is a Stylist, Writer, Founder of Osom Penmanship Institute, Handwriting Expert, and devoted Christian. With a flair for style and a pen dipped in creativity, he weaves fashion tales influencing both young and old individuals, educating people on basic fashion techniques, and blending fashion and faith.