Move aside, necktie. There’s a new sheriff in town! You may have picked out the perfect suit, but no ensemble is complete without the right accessories. Why not switch it up and try on a bow tie? A man who wears a bow tie exudes class and sophistication. He is a man who is not afraid to occasionally step outside his comfort zone and be daring. The right bow tie can transform your outfit from unimaginative to quirky and confident. Use the following bow tie primer and unleash your inner James Bond.

Where Did the Bow Tie Originate?

Let’s take a ride in our flux capacitor equipped Delorean for a little history lesson, shall we? The bow tie has Croatian roots, dating back to the 17th century. Croatian mercenaries used neckwear, similar to scarves, called the cravat to hold the collars of their shirts together. These were rapidly adopted by the French upper class, who were known as leaders in fashion at the time. Over time, the cravat evolved into the men’s neckwear we know today: neckties and bow ties. At the turn of the century, bow ties were an essential part of formal “full-dress” attire. By the 1900s, the bow tie became a staple in men’s fashion, often worn by surgeons and academia. While bow ties fell out of everyday fashion after the second World War, it has remained a customary part of formal attire to this day.

Croatians Celebrating Cravat Day
Croatians Celebrating Cravat Day

Flash back to the future and you’ll see that the bow tie has stepped out of its stuffy stereotype. In recent years, the bow tie has regained some of its former popularity among fashionable men. Even women are getting in on the trend and are sometimes seen sporting men’s attire, complete with suit and bow tie. Today, you’ll find men incorporating a bow tie into outfits for a variety of events: work, cocktail parties, and casual everyday wear

What’s the Difference Between Self-Tie, Pre-Tied & Clip-On Bow Ties?

The Self-Tie Bow Tie

The classic type of bow tie is the self-tie, also known as the “freestyle” bow tie. “Self-tie” means that it comes untied and you tie it yourself. Once tied, the natural form and slight asymmetry of the self tie shows charm and quirkiness that a pre-tied bow tie can never match. Although it will never have the precise look of a pre-tied model, it helps you stand out from the sea of cookie-cutter bows. An added plus is the George Clooney-esque look of an untied bow tie hanging loosely around your neck at the end the night. Who doesn’t want to look that effortlessly debonair?

The Pre-Tied Bow Tie

Next up is the pre-tied bow tie. Attached to an adjustable neck strap, it has, you guessed it, a pre-tied bow. This style is easy to size and can be worn in a matter of seconds. A disadvantage of a pre-tied bow tie is that it can look stiff and almost too-perfect. Any bow tie aficionado knows that a pre-tied bow will never have the same dimension or character as a self tie. While we recommend the everyone wear a self tie bow tie, a pre-tied can be a great starting point for a newbie or adolescent.

The Clip-On Bow Tie

Last and generally least, we have the clip-on bow tie. It has a pre-tied bow with a metal clasp on the back that hooks directly onto the collar of a shirt. We recommend these for young children or infants, as these look too juvenile on adults.

Sizing Your Bow Tie

A bow tie is a one-size-fits-all affair. With a little trial and error, any adjustable bow tie should fit the average (or not so average) man’s neck. The neck strap on a bow tie should either have an adjustable slider or a hook and holes with pre-marked measurements. To measure your neck length, start by laying a dress shirt with the collar flat on an even surface. With a tape measure, measure in inches all the way around the collar band, starting and ending at the center collar button. This is your neck size. The average neck sizing of a bow tie is 14.5 inches to 17.5 inches. Adjust your bow tie to your neck size and tie it up to see how it feels. It should be snug but not uncomfortably tight (don’t asphyxiate yourself). It may take a couple tries to achieve the perfect the fit, but once you figure it out, you’ll never have to guess again.

How to Tie a Bow Tie

Learning how to tie a bow tie is a rite of passage on the journey to becoming a true gentleman. Tying a bow can be difficult the first few times and takes practice to master. has made the job a little easier with this easy to follow bow tie infographic.

Five Bow Tie Shapes You Should Know

The Butterfly

The first shape is the modern butterfly, also known as the thistle shape. This is the standard style that most people are familiar with. On average, it is around 2.3 inches in height and fits most face shapes. This particular style is very versatile and works for virtually every occasion. It is a great starting point for those who are just venturing into the world of bow ties and should be a staple in every man’s wardrobe.

The Big Butterfly

Next, we have the big butterfly, which has a larger and more relaxed silhouette.  It is sometimes worn for very formal events with a tuxedo. Think Hugh Jackman presenting an award at the Golden Globes. These are typically three inches or greater in height and recommended for those don’t mind looking a bit cheeky.

The Batwing

The batwing shape, also known as a straight or slim bow tie, is the smallest in height. No, this won’t turn you into Batman. But this will make you look a little more like Don Corleone from The Godfather. When untied, this style looks like a long rectangle strip with flat ends. Batwing bow ties are typically less than two inches in height and provide a clean and modern look. It is slightly less formal than the butterfly, but is still acceptable for black tie events.

The Diamond Point

A shape gaining popularity is the diamond point bow tie. Instead of having a flat end, the edges are pointed to give it diamond shape. When tied, this style has an asymmetric look and adds even more personality to the self-tie bow tie. Although very stylish, these are not often seen.

The Rounded Club

The most rare of the bunch is the rounded club bow tie. Like the name suggests, the ends are rounded instead of flat. This style is not for the shy as it is very unique.

Now you may ask: which one should I wear? Choosing a bow tie style is more about personal taste than steadfast rules. While some styles may work better with your proportions or face shape, we recommend that you try a few and just pick the style that makes you feel the best.

When is a Bow Tie the Right Tie?

Now that you’ve chosen your perfect bow tie, you might have a million questions floating around in your brain. “When can I wear it?” “What can I wear it with?” “Should I wear it in black or red?!” No need to panic, we’re here to show you the ropes.

Formal Attire

One of the most common places you’ll see a bow tie worn is at a formal event. The most well-known formal dress code is Black Tie. When attending an affair with this dress code, the standard black tuxedo must be worn with a black bow tie, preferably in satin, silk or grosgrain material. A self-tie is especially important with this outfit as a pre-tied bow tie will immediately cheapen the look of your ensemble. Now simply add a matching cummerbund or waistcoat and you’ll be ready to have dinner at the White House! Another place you’ll see a bow tie is at a White Tie event. Also known as “full dress,” white tie is the most formal of all dress codes. As the name suggests, a white bow tie (always self tie) is absolutely necessary. This is not the time to experiment with colors, or else you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. Although not very common, it’s good to know what a white tie event entails for your outfit. Be sure to take a peek at our article with a complete breakdown of all the formal dress codes.

Semi-Formal Attire

When attending a semi-formal affair, try experimenting with different patterns and textures in your bow tie. Play with polka dots or striped patterns in various colors. Bow ties made with velvet or tweed material add a fun, modern feel to your ensemble. Keep in mind the dress code though, as some hosts may not approve of patterns that are too crazy. You could pair your neckwear with a classic dress shirt under a nice suit with a coordinating pocket square. Prepare to be the center of attention because you’ll steal the spotlight with your awesome bow tie.

Casual Attire

For casual events, we believe in wearing whatever your heart desires, even if it means breaking the “fashion rules”. Want to wear a plaid bow tie with a bright dress shirt and cardigan? Go for it! Show off your own personal style with funky patterns or bow ties made with light materials such as seersucker or linen. You could even frame your bow tie with great supporting accessories like suspenders, printed socks, and bright shoelaces. If you go overboard you may end up looking like Pee-Wee Herman but at least Pee-Wee Herman had style.

Choosing your ensemble is only half the battle. The best thing you can wear with your bow tie is confidence. Too often, bow ties will wear the man, instead of the other way around. Now that you’re educated, put your new-found knowledge to the test and wear a bow tie the next chance you get. Wear it loud and wear it proud—you’re sure to be the best dressed man in the room.

Some of this content provided by: The GentleManuel

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How to Make Sure Your Dress Clothes Fit

Sometimes you slip on that new shirt and it just doesn’t feel right. But what is it? Is it the sleeve length? The collar? The way it looks with a blazer? Well, the confusion ends today.

We have found the following rules and tips for how basic clothing items should fit your body. And while what you wear and how you wear it changes over time, these tips are timeless. After all, getting clothes to feel right goes hand in hand with getting clothes to look right.

button-down shirts

Sleeves & cuffs

Dress shirts tend to shrink after a few washings, so before buying and getting a shirt tailored, make sure the sleeve is slightly longer in order to counteract any eventual shrinkage.

  • So what’s the right length when it comes to shirt sleeves? They should cover your wrist and reach the beginning of your thumbs.
  • As well, your cuffs should be tight enough to prevent them from slipping down your wrist.
  •  If you opt to leave your button-down shirt untucked, it should hang just above your pants zipper (at back pocket level).
  • When wearing a jacket and extending your arms, the sleeves should land between a half-inch and one inch past the jacket. Anything longer is cause for tailoring or buying a smaller shirt.

Collars & shirts

If the shirt’s seams meet at the shoulder, you know it fits quite well.

  • Your forefinger should be able to fit in between your collar and your neck when the shirt is buttoned to the top.
  • The collar’s tips and outer edge should be covered by your blazer or suit jacket’s lapels. To ensure that this happens, always fit your dress shirts and button-downs before fitting your jackets and blazers.


The blazer or jacket’s sleeve should rest at your thumb knuckle when your arm is extended, and the blazer or jacket should cover your backside.

  • The blazer/jacket’s collar should leave about a half- inch of your dress shirt’s collar visible.
  • If you plan on wearing your sports jacket frequently over sweaters, bring a thin or regular knit sweater with you when trying on or tailoring the blazer or suit jacket.



Determining whether you have the right fit when it comes to slacks is fairly simple. Try them on without shoes; they should just touch the floor. With shoes on, the back part of your pants should barely touch the ground (one rule of thumb is that pants should break at about 1/3 of the way down the shoe). And if you need one more sign that your slacks might not fit well, remember that your socks should not show when you walk.

  • When belting slacks, don’t pull too tight, or you risk bunching up the fabric around your midsection. This will make your gut appear larger than it is.
  •  If you’re hemming your pants at the waist, place them below your belly button.
  • And of course, remember that slacks — like shirts — usually shrink when you wash them. Buy (or have a tailor create) pants just a shade longer than what you actually need.

Make sure your jeans, ties, overcoats, and belts look just right… 


Jeans, like any casual clothes, shouldn’t require any sort of tricky tailoring or complex tips to look right. You should, however, be familiar with the basic jean varieties out there, so that you can make a purchase with your body’s best fit in mind.

There are three basic jean styles: regular, relaxed and loose.

  • Regular fit is as the name implies; traditional and somewhat slim-fitting.
  • Relaxed fit features an extra half-inch in the butt.
  • Loose fit includes anywhere between one and four inches of additional fabric in the butt and thigh.

Jean leg styles include straight, flare and boot. Flare-cut jeans are wider around the calf, while boot-cut jeans are flared around the ankle.


The simplest way to ensure a well-fitted necktie is to have a well-fitted shirt to wear it with.

Here are some guidelines to remember:

  • Your tie should always hang barely above your belt buckle.
  • The size of the tie knot should not lift the tips of your shirt collar.
  • The inverted triangle of the tie knot should fit snugly into the triangle created by your buttoned-up shirt collar.

topcoats & overcoats

  • Some resources suggest buying a coat that’s one size larger than your suit size, to ensure that it’ll fit over your sweaters and suits.
  • Topcoats come in two basic designs: knee-length and midcalf.
  • The coat’s sleeve should rest at your thumb knuckle when your arm is extended.
  • The coat’s back should be straight and flat, like a suit jacket. Horizontal wrinkles will indicate that the coat is too small. Vertical wrinkles will indicate that the coat is too large, and requires tailoring.


  • When it comes to belts, you should buy one size bigger than your pants. A 34″ waist means a 36″ belt.
  • The buckle’s notch should fit into the center hole of the belt (usually hole number three; most belts have five holes).
  • The tail of the belt should end just past the first loop on your pants.
  • The edge of the belt buckle, the row of buttons on your shirt and your fly should all line up vertically.

the proper fit

If you know the signs of a good fit when it comes time to buy or tailor clothes, you can be guaranteed that those garments will both last longer and look better.

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Rules on Rolling: Shirt Sleeves

The J. Crew Look
The J. Crew Look

When rolling up your sleeves you
look like either a waiter or a presidential candidate. Politicians are always
taking off their jackets and rolling up their sleeves and pretending to help
build a house somewhere. It’s that getting-things-done look. I don’t buy it.
Part of my “keeping it real” policy means not rolling up my sleeves
unless there’s genuine work to be done

Rolling up your shirt sleeves can be
both a practical reaction and a social gesture, when done in the right

Roll Your Shirt Sleeves

You should be rolling up your
sleeves for one of three reasons:

  • Practical Necessity – If you’re doing work with your hands it’s
        appropriate to cuff your sleeves.  You can roll them back any time
        the shirt’s in danger of snagging or soiling because of the task at hand.
  • High Temperatures
        – A light cotton dress shirt is livable in most temperatures, but when it
        gets really bad rolling the sleeves up can give some needed relief. 
        Context matters here — you might be fine rolling your sleeves on the walk
        to work for most of the year, but rolling them up in the office should be
        reserved for real heat emergencies.  The key to this rule is to only
        exercise it when you really, really need to.
  • Deliberate Casualness – If you want to send a visual signal that you’re done
        with work or that you want everyone to relax a little you can roll the
        sleeves on up.  Do it when you want people to know that you’re ready
        to take things a little easier, and that it’s okay for them to do the same
        (this is especially useful for bosses trying to relax a tense atmosphere).

You’ll notice what you don’t see up
there “to look dramatic”.  Forget the Hollywood boardroom drama idea that
executives take their jackets off and roll their sleeves up when they’re
engineering big corporate takeovers or mass layoffs.  Rolling your sleeves
up in a meeting is just going to make you look sloppy.  Save it for when
you’re working with your hands or when you want to signal that stakes are
lowered and attitudes can relax a little, not for when you want everyone to
focus and care.


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Off to the Races: How to Tie a Bow Tie

In honor of Opening day at DelMar racetrack we offer our first of a series of fashion at the track tips.

Bowties have become widely popular at the horse races. Its a cross between that vintage classic look with a little bit of risk. Men of all ages from young boys to the fashionable seniors have embraced the little bow around their neck to bring their racing outfit to the next level. Many even match their bowties to their pocket squares (but that’s for another day).

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