The bow-tied contrarian

The bow-tied contrarian

Winston Churchill wearing his signature polka-dotted bow tie

Men who wear bow ties may seem a little quirky or even nerdy. Bow ties after all, do look a bit boyish. The redeeming message that the bow tie relays is that men who wear them, frankly, don’t give a damn about what you think.

As contrarians with an angle (as they are usually ‘careful’ contrarians), those who prefer bow ties carry with them a certain intrigue. If such a man attends a gathering, chances are that each person in the room will observe him to some degree to try to understand who he is and what it is about him that makes him different from others.

“Wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.”
Warren St. John

If we dare to generalize the personality of the bow tie wearer, we would say that there exists a strange dichotomy in the mind of such a man, as he typically comes across as slightly shy, but in wearing a bow tie, he expresses a formidable boldness.

Is there a responsibility associated with wearing a bow tie? Possibly. Such a gesture is often thought to place a man within a loose fraternity where gentlemanly behavior is expected. If behavior falls outside the bounds of “being a gentleman”, it can cause a man wearing a bow tie to look more like a buffoon than a distinguished fellow.


As a nod to being daring and being different, we explore some the finer points that makes a bow tie look distinguished.

Humphrey Bogart shows progressive taste in his choice of a bow tie, as well as in the art of fabric layering.


Three things to watch when wearing a bow tie include:

1. Width of the tie
2. Quality of the fabric
3. A Not-Too-Perfect Bow


Avoid a bow tie that exceeds the width of the eyes on the face or you’ll end up looking like a department store gift-wrapped package. To play it safe, keep the width of the tie the same as the width of the eyes.

A likable fellow, but a more narrow bow tie that doesn’t extend past the width of his face would do wonders for his appearance.

There are different methods for tying a bow, but following the simple rule of not letting the bow tie exceed the width of the face will serve you well in terms of balancing body proportions.

Bow ties

Some different shapes of bow ties provided by the excellent


When buying a bow tie, this is not a time to try to save money. The tie sets square in line with the middle of your chin, popping out like a jack-in-the-box, so don’t skimp on fabric quality.  One can make two bow ties from 1/2 yard of fabric. With fabric quantity this small, it’s possible to invest in the best. Choose from the finest silks, cottons and velvets.

The unique fabric texture of a grenadine bow tie, tied in a butterfly-droop fold is quite distinguished. Solid bow ties go particularly well with micro-checked shirts.


The last thing a man braving a bow tie wants, is to look like he snagged his tie from the Wal-Mart carousel display in front of the menswear section. Think hand-tied and steer away from a prefabricated look. Whether your bow comes already tied or you tie it yourself, the tie should relay a handmade and hand-tied vibe.

Not-too-perfect. Will Boehlke from a Suitable Wardrobe wearing a Mikael, a shape that has a scalloped underside, a straight end and a top-side diamond point (by, possibly inspired by Abraham Lincoln…?


Last known photography of Abraham Lincoln, taken Feb 5th, 1865.

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken. ~Oscar Wilde

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