Roundup: Wedding Bow Ties

Last summer, David and I were picnicking near a wedding, and I noticed that all of the groomsmen looked like they’d been dressed up by the bride like so many Ken Dolls. I casually asked David what it felt like, as a groomsman, to be dressed up in whatever struck the bride’s fancy. He glowered darkly and muttered, “Not good,” and “Embarrassing.” And indeed. Bridesmaid’s dresses are hardly the best, but if they were picked by some guy who’d never worn a dress in his life? (I mean, just when you thought bridesmaid’s dresses couldn’t possibly get worse…)

The last time we did a groom (or ladies who tie) style roundup, some questions came up in the comments about how a woman should pick a tie she liked for her partner. I posited that you shouldn’t. Men should pick their own clothes. But not all guys (or partners) immediately know what they want to wear. And that’s where our roundups come in. Think of them as a jumping off place for discussion. “Do you like this? No? What do you like?”

Today we’re discussing the bow tie, which has two specific uses: part of black tie, and as a personal style statement. The bow tie is Men’s Style: Advanced. It’s for men who have something to say with their fashion. It’s not for Ken Doll dress up. No one should be put in a bow tie without consent. That just leads to looking like an uncomfortable penguin. It’s the equivalent of the female jumpsuit: hot if you can rock it, deadly if you’re being forced into it. However, there is nothing better than a bow tie done right. So without further ado we bring you Bow Ties: Classic (my favorite), Quirky, and For The Ladies. Prices are all over the map, and choices range from decidedly indie to decidedly not. Hopefully, a little something for everyone (who’s a bow-tie kind of person).

Classic: 1. Leather Band Bow Tie by Title of Work via AHAlife ($200) 2. Satin Dot Bow Tie from The Tie Bar ($15) 3. Cotton-Piqué Bow Tie by Turnbull & Asser via Mr Porter ($95) 4. Silk Bow Tie in Pindot from J.Crew ($55) 5. Velvet Bow Tie by Le Noeud Papillon Sydney via AHAlife ($152) 6. Point Bow Tie in Black Satin from J.Crew ($55)

Quirky: 1. Striped Linen and Silk-Blend Bow Tie by Beams Plus via Mr. Porter ($75) 2. When Pigs Fly Silver Bow Tie from The Tie Bar ($15) (There’s a joke in there somewhere…) 3. Quail Feather Bow Tie, hand stitched with a single feather, by Title of Work via AHAlife ($175) 4. 1970’s Classic Newport Bow Tie, handmade in New England from General Knot & Co. ($68) 5. Chambray White and Gray Stripe Cotton Bow Tie from The Tie Bar ($15) 6. Chambray Bow Tie in Indigo from J.Crew ($55)

For the Ladies: 1. Deadstock Sea Green & Royal Check Diamond Point Bow, handmade in New England from General Knot & Co. ($68) 2. Noah Reversible Gray/Red Bow Tie from CottonTreats ($34) 3. Pale Blue Oxford & Deadstock Harbour Stripe Reversable Bow Tie, handmade in New England from General Knot & Co. ($68) 4. Liberty Bow Tie in Emma and Georgina Floral from J. Crew ($65) 5. The Guinea, made from guinea fowl feathers, from Brackish ($120) 6. Cotton Gray/White Dots Bow Tie via The Tie Bar ($15)

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  • Ahhhhhh this is so much fun and totally what you said above! I’ll never forget opening my Facebook feed one day and coming across pictures from the wedding of a guy with whom I went to high school. A few of my male friends were in the wedding party and they were in black suits…but with HOT PINK bow ties and vests. I am talking *pink* guys, I am talking like Barbie’s Dream House Pink. And they all looked so uncomfortable. I g-chatted one of them later and was all: “So, uh, did y’all pick the vests and ties together?” The photos still make me giggle a little but man, I felt *bad* for those guys because they clearly had zero say on their wardrobe.

    And also, to quote the amazing Eleventh Doctor: “Bow ties. Bow ties are cool.”

    • A pox on the house of any bride who forces her wedding party to wear bubble gum pink. Yes, girls, too. There are some gorgeous shades of pink out there (like fuschia and blush), but girl, ain’t nobody wants to look like their outfit was made from a more fibrous version of Pepto Bismol.

      • Ain’t nobody got no time for that!

      • “Her colors are pink and pink.”
        “My colors are blush and bashful. I have chosen two shades of pink, one is much deeper than the other.”
        “Oh how precious is this wedding going to get, I ask you? That sanctuary looks like it’s been hosed down with Pepto Bismol.”

        I cannot let a discussion on pink in weddings go by without Steel Magnolias. Carry on…

        • “I like pink. Pink is my signature color.”

    • Samantha

      “Bow ties are cool.” Love me some Dr.

      • Every bow tie here I just pictured the Doctor tweaking.

      • Melissa

        The Doctor is precisely why my honey insists upon having a blue bow tie. Well, the Doctor and Jack Black.

    • Zoe

      The gentleman in our wedding are all wearing bow ties precisely because “bow ties are cool.” I think it’s a pretty legitimate reason.

      • Madeline

        We asked all our male guests to wear bow ties for the same reason – it turned out really fun! My husband (the only male in the bridal party) wore almost exactly #3 in the “classic” section.

      • Sarah

        My husband was very insistent on wearing a bow tie at our wedding and in general, was very involved in wedding related fashion. We’re in the South, and I think the attitude towards men and fashion down here is so different. Men are encouraged if not expected to have an opinion about clothes, and are typically much more comfortable with wearing pink, pastels, patterns, etc.

        • Emilie

          this is true!

    • MDBethann

      We went to a park near our reception site (a restaurant) to take pictures between the ceremony and the reception. Another bridal party arrived part way through the shoot – the girls (and I say girls, because I don’t think anyone was over 20) were dressed in SHORT, poofy, hot pink blingy dresses and the guys were in white tuxes with hot pink vests & ties (not sure if they were bow or not). Unfortunately no one in my bridal party snapped pictures, but I think everyone was grateful I had picked a bright but reasonable shade of blue & let them pick their own styles of dresses. It was horrible.

  • Miriam

    I like this post! Would it be too gendered/prescriptivist/judgmental-seeming/etc. for APW to post a general guide to different levels of formality/traditions in menswear? Not that anyone has to play by anyone else’s rules, but sometimes it can be nice to feel informed about (so-called) traditional wardrobe options, even if you’re making a conscious choice to do your own thing. I bet some folks would appreciate a comprehensive-ish APW-approved menswear guide that isn’t The Knot, so partners of menswear-wearing-people-who-don’t-know-their-own-opinions can help them out with a modern, informative, relatively non-prescriptive menswear guide.

    I’m pretty grateful that my fiance is quite well-versed when it comes to menswear, so he had strong opinions about his own wardrobe.

    I think the two of us are pretty old-fashioned in some ways, so disregard this entire comment if you want to wear whatever you want regardless of convention (which is fine!). IMO before either of you decide what you’re going to wear, it’s a good idea to think about the overall tone and level of formality of your wedding. What time of day is the wedding? (Traditionally, tuxedos aren’t to be worn before 6pm.) What kind of venue is it, and does that inspire your wardrobe? How formal do you want it to be? What season will you be in? Once you’ve considered these things, you (addressed to the gentleman or the lady wearing classy menswear) can decide generally whether you’re going to do something as informal as a sport coat and trousers, or something as formal as a tuxedo, white tie and tails, or (for a daytime wedding) a morning suit (I think a seersucker suit would be awesome for a spring or summer daytime wedding).

    If you’re going to wear a tux, you also need to decide whether you’re going to wear a cummerbund or a waistcoat. As for ties, bow ties are definitely cool, but you also have options beyond bow ties – you can also go with a hand tie (necktie) or a cravat/ascot.

    Anyway, I could go on. I do love a sharp-dressed man. How about that APW menswear style guide?

    • Denzi

      Miriam, I know that you are not against bucking tradition, so I’m trying not to direct this comment at you! I just want to put in a counterpoint.

      I’m defensive about this because my husband is. I come from a southern family, and I have a strong sense of etiquette and formality.

      My partner is a Midwesterner descended from Italian cabinet makers and Polish coal miners. He’s also the kind of guy who only believes in etiquette that matters–does respect for people matter? Yes. Does using the right fork? Not really, no.

      So if he wanted to wear a tuxedo for our daytime wedding, because that’s what he wanted to wear, and that’s what he felt good in and wedding-y in and that’s one of the things he needed to show up and be present, well: Fuck tradition. Fuck etiquette. Fuck prescriptivist fashion standards for people of ALL genders. Fuck that noise.

      Because whatever he wore, he was going to look amazing, because we were getting married and I love him. And whatever he wore, at the end of the day we were married. And that? Was fucking amazing.

      • AshleyMeredith

        Yes. My husband originally said he wanted to wear a tux for our 11 am wedding. And I was like, “Well, I was going to wear a cute little Anthropologie dress, but if you want to do that… I’ll go get a wedding dress.” In the end we both got exactly the right thing: he ended up in a Neal Caffrey-inspired suit and hat (because Neal Caffrey DEFINITELY belongs in any discussion of menswear) and I had a wedding dress from a bridal boutique that did not look like a Wedding Dress.

    • meg

      I’ll ponder it. Y’all know my drill. I’m a progressive traditionalist. I love subverting the paradigm, but am all for understanding the paradigm first. Though on a personal level I love the menswear paradigm as it is, in all it’s nattily dressed glory.

      So, we’ll think about it. Understanding mens formal wear is a dying art. Though, clearly, not everyone loves it as much as I do ;)

      • Rebekah

        Of all the people in all the internet, Meg, you are the one I would trust to do this. To explore and calmly state the established “Why” for a tradition and then leave it in our hands (with perhaps a provoking question or two) to decide whether that “Why” extends to our situations/relationships, that seems like an APW thing.

        I would bookmark that post so hard.

      • Pinkrose

        While you ponder.
        The Black Tie Guide:
        And its page on weddings:

        And its less complete companion, The Morning Dress Guide:

      • I feel that Downton Abbey has brought up a resurgence in the interest in traditional menswear. I for one never knew that there was such a distinction between white tie and black tie. ;)

        • meg

          White tie is tails. Totally different, much more formal.

      • I would also love to see “men’s” clothing for butch women/gender queer types, etc. I have some ideas!

      • ” I love subverting the paradigm, but am all for understanding the paradigm first.”

        I love this. Love, love, love.

        It’s much easier to break with tradition when you can say, “Yes, I know. We decided not to do that.” instead of, “Wait, what? That’s a thing??” when people press you about it.

      • MDBethann

        I think it would also be useful because as has been pointed out on this site quite often, weddings are the first time most of us throw a HUGE party, let alone one that might be formal. And since our culture is getting increasingly casual in its dress (I’ve seen people in jeans at an evening theater performance at places like the Kennedy Center), we may not know all the ins and outs of formal wear for men or women. I think it would be an interesting and informative topic.

        And there are some gorgeous suits out there that have an almost tux like look to them – we got one for my husband recently at Jos. A Bank (and he’s not much of a suit guy).

    • Emmy

      I’ll just leave this here:

      For no other reason than that I like learning about the history and tradition and evolution of clothing, men’s and women’s. But yeah, wear what you want.

      • Michelle

        Thank you thank you thank you, Emily for sharing that article! Much needed reminders and good pointers for my partner and I.

      • Put This On is one of the best places on the net to learn/think about traditional masculine fashion. It’s all good (and you can of course ignore some of the prescriptivist bits)

    • Caroline

      By the way, there are a ton of really amazing Men’s Fashion Guides for weddings, and everyday out there in the men’s fashion blogging world. Seriously, I haven’t found anything remotely like it for women’s fashion (sad trombone). May I point menswear wearing folks to the Art of Manliness, and the Sartorialist, among many many others? (And non-menswear wearing folks interested in men’s fashion like myself.)

      • ElisabethJoanne

        I’m on artofmanliness all. the. time. and it was/is not helpful for daytime formal, both the main site and the community/forum portion.

        I think “What should the groom wear?” was one of about 3 questions where we consulted 3+ etiquette books from 1917 to the mid-1990s (and a bit later), and got contradictory answers. Unless you’re the Solicitor General, highest formality for men’s day clothes is just hard to figure out.

  • purpleshoes

    Don’t forget cute bowties for pups too – they’re guaranteed to always make you squee just a little bit!!

  • Lindsay

    Another brand that carries some amazing (bow)ties (and pocket squares and scarves): The Hill-Side. You can find all of it at an amazing little store called Hickoree’s in Brooklyn and online at My husband wore the Kyoto Violet Chambray tie and the Tumeric Chambray pocket square with his dark navy pinstriped suit. Breaking the chains of tradition is so badass and sexy.

  • one more sara

    I said this really late in the last round up… But could we get a ring bearer round up? Our son is or ring bearer, and I have NO IDEA what to put him in (he’s only 4 and hasn’t quite formed opinions on fashion yet. Kids these days)

    • meg

      Kids these days indeed. On the list of things to think about!

    • Liz

      My two year old was just recently a ringbearer and MAN I always swore I wouldn’t torment him with dress clothes, but suspenders + bowtie + giant flower boutonnière was ADORABLE.

      • One More Sara

        I was actually secretly hoping that you could do the roundup. Whenever we see your little guy, he is always wearing the most adorable outfits.

    • Kara E

      Our ring bearers (both 4) wore khaki pants and little gingham button-downs with sweater vests (appropriate for Easter the next week too). Yes, the (adult) guys were in tuxes (black, not white tie), but the kids looked cute and were far more comfortable wearing clothes that fit their normal frame of reference than they would have been in tuxes or mini-suits. I sort of go with the south on this and like to see kids dressed like kids, not mini adults (think rompers and sailor suits and the like). Adorable.

    • MDBethann

      My nephew was our ring bearer and he was nearly 7 at the time. He LOVES to dress up, especially in vests. My husband went with a black tux necktie for our wedding but he and our nephew wore matching blue vests and our nephew had a blue bowtie which he didn’t mind at all. He is a curly top and looked so freakin’ adorable. Completely hammed it up the whole time. Again, I reiterate, he enjoys dressing up – vests, hats, ties, etc. – so it worked for him and I recognize it might not work for all little guys his age or younger.

  • MegsDad

    Bowties are cool, but suspenders are cooler.

    • Heck yes. My husband insists on getting suspenders for any time he wears a suit, and wore then when we eloped. I wasn’t sure about them at first (but hey, I wasn’t wearing them) and now, after seeing it, I think that suspenders are fantastic.

      And also apparently helpful in keeping shirts tucked in at the back, and better at keeping pants up for some body types,.

      • Kate

        The different body types thing is so true, my guy has to wear suspenders at work or his pants would fall right off his skinny self. Seen it happen plenty in his down time, belts just have nothing to hold onto.

  • Carrot & Gibbs has some wonderful bow ties: A dandy friend of mine loves their shape – it’s a bit floppy and whimsical.

  • Jess

    Just wanted to mention that the Pioneer Woman recently talked about some really cool wooden bowties that could definitely fit in the “quirky” category.

    They’re by the Two Guys Bowtie Company and you can see the post here:

  • On an unrelated note, is APW still doing Saturday Links? This post was awesome too, but I so look forward to that!

  • Granola

    Way late here, but should anyone need a bow tie tying tutorial, who better than Bill Nye The Science Guy:

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