If you believe in the adage that the only jewelry a man should wear is a watch, sartorial expression by way of finishing touches is somewhat limited. Aside from everyday choices like bags and footwear and investment pieces like fine watches, or perhaps cufflinks, there’s not a lot of room for play. Which is why choosing the right kind of tie can be make or break. We quizzed our menswear experts, Men’s Category Director Mayola Martinez and Associate Merchandising Manager Lauren Henderson, on when to choose a tie vs. a bow tie and how to get each look right.
Are there any rules when it comes to wearing a bow tie? LH: If you think you can pull it off, you probably can. I’m picturing Thom Browne. If you’re not sure though, don’t try. Don’t wear one ironically. You can’t just casually throw on a bowtie.
Are you either a bow tie man or a tie man? MM: Most guys go bow tie for formal. But Jared Leto, Daniel Craig, Hugh Jackman — in general they’re bow tie guys. Jon Hamm is definitely a tie guy.
Should your neckwear be determined by occasion? LH: If you’re Tom Ford, you can always wear a bow tie. Also, if you’re wearing seersucker or you’re south of the Mason Dixon line, you should always wear a bow tie. During the holidays, if you show up in one, you get extra points, so do wear a bow tie to the work holiday party. They’re more festive and it’s the perfect time to bust them out.
What about the rest of your look? MM: It depends on what you’re wearing. If your outfit involves velvet or has piping, you’re ok to wear a bow tie. Also, if you’re wearing a double breasted or a single-button blazer, go with a bow tie. If it’s a two or three-button blazer, go with a tie unless it’s a formal event. The rule of opposites is safe when choosing a tie. If you’re wearing a solid shirt, wear a patterned tie, and if you’re wearing a patterned shirt, go with something solid. If you wear a solid shirt and tie, go tonal with blue on blue or a black tie with a grey shirt.
Can you ever go wrong wearing a tie? MM: Ties you can pretty much wear for every occasion. Even for black tie, you just need to make sure it works with the outfit. But don’t wear a tie to a first date. If you’re going to wear a blazer, just keep it casual. It’s like, you thought enough to wear a blazer, but you’re cool enough not to wear a tie. And never wear a colorful tie with a black shirt. It’s not a good look!
Is the real power move no tie at all? LH: Tom Ford has said that he prefers an unbuttoned collar without a tie because they constrict him. Wearing your shirt unbuttoned without a tie is like it’s own accessory. Not everyone can execute it, though.