You’re getting dressed, and you’ve got both a bow tie and a necktie hanging in your closet. Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably already chosen which one will see daylight (or… nightlight?). That’s because the other pieces of your outfit often dictate the right neckwear for your look.
You’re wearing a tuxedo.
Still pretty simple, but you do have options. If you know you’re wearing a tux, that means the event is pretty formal or there’s a specific dress code. If the dress code is black tie, wear a bow tie. If it’s a little more laid-back—black tie optional or creative black tie—or it’s just not a super formal wedding or event, you’re clear to wear a necktie.
If you do choose a necktie, you’ll probably want to stick with black satin or silk, or a simple black and white pattern.
You’re wearing a suit.
This is a pretty subjective situation. Bow ties are less common, so they’ll make more of an impact and set you apart from the crowd. A necktie is definitely the more predictable way to go, but if you’re uncomfortable rocking a bow tie, stick to what you know. The truth is, there isn’t really a wrong neckwear choice when you’re wearing a suit.
You’ll also need to make a decision about tie colors and patterns, because when you’re wearing a suit, you have a little more wiggle room for these options.
You don’t want to wear a tie.
Going sans tie is a bold move, but one we wouldn’t recommend for formal events—too trendy. This probably works best with a suit, or if you somehow score an invite to an über-fashionable event like the Met Gala, you could ditch the tie. Just know that this is not for beginners or the faint of style.
If you do decide to wear a bow tie, you’ll still have a lot of options to sort through. A good way to narrow down your choice is by looking at the fabric.