Bow Ties 101

Let’s take a look at that most misunderstood aspect of menswear, the bow tie.


Despite the modern association with nerdiness and fastidiousness, believe it or not, the bow tie has particularly roughly-hewn origins.  Croatian mercenaries during the Prussian Wars in the 1600s used a scarf around their necks to close the opening of their shirts.  The French became fond of the look, adapting it for less utilitarian purposes, and calling it a “cravat” from the French for “Croat.”  When and how the cravat of the 1700s and 1800s mutated into the bow tie is lost to history.  However it happened, bow ties and their variants dominated formalwear for the second half of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century before giving way to neckties.  Favored by professors, architects, and other more fussy, old fashioned-types, bow ties began to fade in popularity in the years leading up to World War II, with neckties becoming the garment of choice for fashionable men.  Bow ties became associated with being old, or awkward, or even specifically being politically and socially conservative.

It wasn’t until recently, with the rise of the “hipster” look, which deliberately seeks out odd or contrarian fashion choices, have bow ties returned to the mainstream, and have even become “cool” again.  Young people, fashionable people, sports starts, and even dyed-in-the-wool liberals are wearing bow ties again (we still think conservative columnist George Will wears the look best in the political world right now, though).  And, of course, scientists, professors and the more socially reserved continue to love them as they always have.

Considering adding bow ties to your fashion repertoire?  Here are some things you need to know.  First, here’s how to tie a bow tie, from WikiHow.  Unlike neckties, there aren’t a lot of variant ways to tie these pieces of neckwear.


  • Drape the bow tie around your neck, under your collar, and grasp the ends. The end on your right should extend about 1.5 inches lower than the end on your left side.
  • Cross the longer end over the shorter end. You should cross the tie near your neck so that the loop around your neck is just large enough to work with but not loose; you don’t want your bow dangling in front of your chest.
  • Pass the longer end up through the loop, forming a simple, loose overhand knot. Use this opportunity to tighten the knot if necessary.
  • Pull the dangling end to the left and then fold it back over itself to the right. Hold this fold, which will be the front loop of the completed tie, between your shirt’s collar points.
  • Drop the raised end of the tie over the front of the bow.
  • Grab the left and right sides of the horizontally-folded end and pinch them together in front of the dangling end. The top of the dangling end will now be held between them.
  • Feed the middle of the dangling end back through the knot you made in Step 3. It will now form the back half of the bow.
  • Tighten the bow by pulling on opposite sides and halves simultaneously. Pull the front right and back left ends apart to loosen; pull the front left and back right apart to tighten. Repeat until the bow is the desired shape and tightness.

The second thing you need to know are the types of bow ties.  It may seem like there is only one kind of bow tie, but that is not the case!  The most obvious distinction is between “freestyle,” “pre-tied” and “clip-on” bow ties.  We really, really don’t recommend wearing anything other than a freestyle tie (which you tie yourself), unless you absolutely have to.  It’s quite a fashion faux pas to wear a pre-tied tie!

The next big distinction is between the tie sizes.  There’s the skinny 1.5-inch bow tie, fun and slightly formal, famous from the look of the 1950s and 1960s.  Then there’s the thin 2-inch bow tie, streamlined and sophisticated, and hard to go wrong with (unless you have a truly enormous head!).  Next is the standard 2.5-inch bow tie, balanced and classy, and impossible to do wrong.  After that we have the 2.5-inch diamond bow tie, which takes the classic bow tie and makes it a bit more striking (this is usually James Bond’s favored bow tie).  Then we have the 2.5-inch self tie bow tie, which has a charmingly imperfect, flat-ended shape.  Finally, there’s the 3-inch butterfly bow tie, with flared edges, and not always in fashion, these are perfect for bigger, broader-shouldered guys.  Remember, the ties need to be in proportion to you!  If you’re 6’6″ with huge shoulders, the thin tie might make you look like a tied-off balloon, and if you’re 5’6″ with a small build, the butterfly tie will make you look like a kid wearing his dad’s suit!  Wear what looks and feels good on you!

The last thing to keep in mind is that freestyle ties come in two major groups, “bat wing” and “thistle.”  Which one to wear depends completely on personal preference.  The thistle tends to be more adjustable and versatile.

To close, let’s let Bill Nye the Science Guy explain his own love affair with the bow tie.  Cheers!

Dancing with the Doctor

It’s been a very long time since we’ve taken a trip into a nerdy subject, so it’s a great time to revisit some of the fun of sci-fi fashion!  We’ve previously gone over visions of the future, “Star Trek” uniforms, and more, but this time we’re taking a look at a sci-fi staple that has made coming up with a new outfit every few years a staple: “Doctor Who.”


If you aren’t familiar, “Doctor Who” is a British television series about an alien from the planet Gallifrey who goes by the self-appointed title of “The Doctor,” because he sees himself as someone who helps and fixes things and people.  He travels throughout the breadth of time and space in his spaceship/time machine, the TARDIS, which is broken, and so is stuck disguised as a 1963-period blue British Police Box on the outside.

The show has been running since 1963, and since actors aren’t immortal, The Doctor has been played by a multitude of actors over the years.  The show dealt with this very creatively.  The Doctor, being an alien “Time Lord,” has the ability to “regenerate” whenever he’s fatally injured, but not injured so severely that he dies outright.  He becomes a new man, and, while still a rebirth of the same person, has a new face, new personality quirks, and new tastes, including in fashion.  The Doctor tends to stick to one or two outfits throughout an incarnation’s tenure, and with the recent reveal of the newest Doctor, the 12th, and his new outfit, it seemed like a perfect time to have some fun, and look back at 51 years of a quirky, hyperactive fictional alien’s bizarre fashion choices!

Last Minute Tips for Valentine’s Day

Today is the big day for you and your significant other!  Have you been too busy to figure out how to be as sartorially impressive to your date as you will be romantically?  Don’t despair, we’ve got you covered!  Or, rather, the Cornell Daily Sun in Upstate New York has you covered.  The newspaper’s Eric Ding wrote a compact, common sense set of last-minute tips last year, and even though they’re ostensibly for a busy student, they’re really perfect for just about any man if you’re in a rush in these final hours (and he even got saucy at the end there!).  Check them out below, and be sure to read the original article HERE.


The Color Red

Come on, it’s Valentine’s Day. The color red, or a different hue of it (maroon or pink, for example) should be the centerpiece of the outfit. However, this doesn’t mean that you should wear red everything. Red is a very passionate and vibrant color, capable of making your lady fall in love with you all over again, but also capable of being an eyesore when handled improperly. To do the former, only wear one red item, whether it be a red dress shirt, a red tie, a red scarf or even a red blazer. Avoid looking tacky or too over the top and don’t overdo it—  no matter how sexy you might think you look in a red suit.

Suit & Tie

Or maybe just a tie, if a suit seems like too much. If you’re the type of person who wouldn’t wear a tie except for very, very dire circumstances, then wearing a tie on Valentine’s Day will indeed impress your lady. And it doesn’t even have to be that formal if you wear the tie along with a checkered button-up shirt and a V-neck sweater. Layering always creates a very stylish and warm ensemble, which is quite appropriate for this tender but chilly day. Valentine’s Day is just for you and her, so dress formally enough to show that it’s a special day, but for the love of God, please don’t outdo her outfit.

The Little Things

If your significant other gave you a gift to wear at some point in your relationship, incorporate it into your outfit. Any watch or accessory that she bought you should definitely be worn to put icing on the already handsome cake. If she bought you a more substantial clothing item, then try to structure an outfit around that item, and see if you can pull one off that would look chic. People love to feel appreciated, so make sure to recognize her gifts.


Colors are important, but it’s even more important to balance them and tone them down with neutrality. The color red will most likely be the powerhouse color of choice, but that doesn’t mean it should overpower the rest of the outfit. As said before, try to limit yourself to one red item so that the color shines through, but doesn’t bog the outfit down. Red works well with white, black and gray, so try to keep things within those parameters. Express conveniently has its own guide to this momentous day, and Esquire magazine has a couple of outfits picked out just for the occasion.

NFL Fandom Post-Mortem

Football fans that we are, after an incredibly lopsided Super Bowl, we need a little bit of NFL fun before we let football go into hibernation for another six months.  So let’s take a look at how football fans broke down across the country during the NFL Playoffs this year.  Facebook compiled this data last year, and we shared it then, you might recall.  It was an amazing set of maps, shading each county by what team had the most fans of that team on Facebook in that county, and then doing the same for each round of the Playoffs.  They did it a little differently this time, shading the counties by percentage of fans for a specific team in a specific game in the Playoffs.  Just like last time, there’s some weird stuff in there, like random pockets of Seahawks fans in South Jersey, so let’s dive right in and have some fun!