The hip alt necktie makes for a casual chic — yes, even rocker — statement when worn with jeans and a velvet blazer. Or dust off that tux and tie one on (yes, you can learn how) in a tartan plaid or bold print.
With so many bow ties showing up on the runways this year, the accessory belongs to every man, not just preppies and profs.
Of course, it takes a certain confidence to pull off wearing a bow tie.
Once regarded as an old-school Southern look, the trend dates to the 18th century, when a gent never left home without wearing one.
Much more recently, they’ve appeared on hipsters in Gossip Girl and Ugly Betty.
Even Mad Men, which triggered a retro resurgence of skinny ties, has tipped its fedora to bow ties.
Designer Tommy Hilfiger, known for mining nautical preppy looks, has always shown bow ties on his runways for a sporty look that’s still sophisticated.
“Historically, the bow tie was simply a means to keep a shirt closed. Today, it’s more about style preference,” Hilfiger says.
“I think the bow tie is being reinterpreted for more casual looks. It’s no longer restricted to formalwear. It can be a playful accessory.”
Hilfiger says that though a classic tuxedo demands a bow tie, he also likes a plaid bow tie with a corduroy blazer, cashmere sweater and button-down shirt. For holiday-party panache, he suggests going a little bolder by pairing a plaid bow tie with a gray tux or a red bow tie with a black velvet blazer.
Tom Julian, author of the Nordstrom Guide to Men’s Style ($19.95, Chronicle Books), says the bow tie has become a “cool” modern accessory, especially for younger men who see the put-together look on pop stars, television, runways and in magazines.
“It’s cool. It can remain the same as it’s always been or can be thinner and in different fabrics. And yes, it can even be a well-made — emphasis on well-made — clip-on.”
But, says Scott Apgar, neckwear director of Arlington-based Tandy Brands Accessories (sold at Dillard’s, J.C. Penney, Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bealls), “If a man is going to wear a bow tie, he better want to tie it himself. It may look a little lopsided and a little off, but it shows that you did it. And that will earn you extra points.”
Apgar expects to see edgier colors, prints and fabrics grow in popularity.
“The younger guy, especially, is aiming for dressier things and is looking for something slightly different, like a bow tie, which is a real individualist look, whether it’s serious, safe or whimsical,” he says.
Some über-cool young L.A. celebs have taken to wearing a bow tie untied and draped around the neck under their shirt collars. It’s a kind of “after-hours” bad-boy look.
Former lawyer Greg Shugar, who founded TheTieBar.com with his wife, Gina, says bow ties are the fastest-growing segment of his business.
He attributes their popularity to magazine spreads and celebrities as well as retro trends.
“A bow tie is a great way for a guy in the office, in a restaurant, in a bar or at a party to set himself apart,” Shugar says.