Guy Fashion The 4 rules for wearing a bowtie

Only men with larger neck sizes should reach for the big butterfly—a floppy 3-inch-plus shape, reserved for ritzier events.

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The 4 rules for wearing a bowtie play

The 4 rules for wearing a bowtie

(Men's Health/Getty Images)

Here’s how to don the sophisticated accessory with confidence

You were going for 007—instead, you got Pee-Wee Herman.

A well-worn bowtie can supercharge your style, but a misguided attempt can strangle it.

Follow our advice below to take the guesswork out of acing this dapper detail—from the type of bowtie you should buy to the shape, size, color, and fabric combinations that will make you look your best.

MAN UP—IT’S CALLED A TIE, NOT A CLIP 

Before we get to shapes, there are three basic types of bowties: self-tied, clip-on, and pre-tied. 

But you need only pay attention to the first. If you are an adult man, you should learn to tie your own bowtie. 

THERE’S MORE THAN JUST ONE BOWTIE SHAPE

There’s the butterfly, the big butterfly, the batwing, the diamond tip, the club round, and probably even a few more. But when you think of a bowtie, you’re probably thinking of the butterfly. 

Roughly 2.5 inches in height, this is the most versatile shape and will work for any occasion. 

Only men with larger neck sizes should reach for the big butterfly—a floppy 3-inch-plus shape, reserved for ritzier events. 

The batwing—straight, narrow, and angular—is perfect for standing out in a more casual setting, while the diamond tip, a double-layered angular shape, will work well at both, just like the butterfly. 

The club round shape is terrible, and we will leave it at that. 

PAY ATTENTION TO THE FABRIC AND FIT OF YOUR BOWTIE

The man who gave us “Suit and Tie” is a bona fide bowtie icon.

Like Justin Timberlake, reserve shinier fabrics, such as silk and satin, for occasions at the dressier end of the spectrum. Make cotton, linen, and wool your go-to options for days when you aren’t hosting an awards show.

As with regular ties, formal bowties don’t work with casual shirts, and vice-versa. Don’t pair your ultra-thin chambray button-down with a stiff bowtie. Instead, opt for a crisp white or grey dress shirt. 

If you’re unsure about whether your bowtie is the right size, just look in the mirror: The ends of the bow should line up with the outermost crests of your temples, and fit firmly without suffocating you. 

Better bowties will have an adjuster.

PAIR PATTERNS AND COLORS WITH CONFIDENCE

First and foremost, don’t match your bowtie and pocket square. This all-too-common misstep screams “two-for-one deal.” 

Instead, follow the lead of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, pictured above, and juxtapose the formality of a bowtie with an unexpected color or pattern combination.

If mixing patterns, pair a small-patterned bowtie with a large-patterned shirt, or vice-versa.

Just avoid anything too cutesy or kitsch, like a yellow-and-red checker print. You are not a clown.

Lastly, at a black-tie event, wearing a bowtie is negotiable. At a white-tie event, it is not.