When people think of bow ties, a full tuxedo complete with a tuxedo shirt or a stiff evening wingtip collar shirt is what often comes to mind. But can you wear a bow tie with a normal shirt?
You can wear a bow tie with a normal shirt outside of black-tie or white-tie settings, as long as the shirt has a collar and buttons all the way to the top. Wearing a bow tie together with a normal shirt can be informal or semi-formal depending on the color and style chosen.
Let’s dig into this a little further.
3 Reasons Why You Can Wear A Bow Tie With A Normal Shirt
When you first approach the idea of wearing a bow tie with a regular shirt, it can be difficult to know where to start.
But there are several reasons why this combination is perfectly acceptable, even encouraged.
Let’s go through these here.
1. Most Collar Types Will Accommodate A Bow Tie
The good news is that bow ties can be worn with most of the collar types that shirts are made with.
This means that when it comes to wearing a bow tie, most of your regular shirts, whether they’re dress shirts or more casual oxford cloth button-down shirts, will work well with a bow tie.
Therefore, you don’t need to be wearing a special tuxedo shirt or stiff evening wingtip collar shirt to sport a bow tie.
The most common collar styles for regular shirts include the button-down collar, the spread collar, and the pointed (point) collar.
There are numerous other collar styles that shirts can come with that I won’t list here, but you will generally come across one of these three styles the majority of the time.
These three styles are suitable to be worn with most bow ties, and you are likely to have a shirt in your wardrobe that has one of these collar types.
Spread collars generally work best because the points of the collar are spaced quite far apart and are easily hidden behind the bow tie. But any of the three main styles will usually work.
So, there’s no excuse not to try this style combination.
2. Bow Ties Are Versatile
Another reason why you can wear bow ties with a normal shirt is that bow ties are incredibly versatile.
They can become formal or informal depending on the outfit you wear them with, simply by varying the color or material you choose.
For instance, the bow ties which are typically worn for black tie dress are silk material and black in color. When worn with white-tie dress, you can obtain a white cotton bow tie.
For a semi-formal look, you can choose a colored silk bow tie in a red or navy hue, that can be paired with a white dress shirt and a dark-colored suit.
And for an even more casual look, you can wear a colored bow tie in a pastel-colored or patterned fabric together with a pair of chinos and a blazer.
Some people even wear a bow tie with a shirt and a pair of jeans.
As you can see, a bow tie can look the part in the most formal outfits as well as in casual outfits.
Therefore even though people may associate bow ties with more formal looks such as when worn with a tuxedo or evening tailcoat, they can be perfectly suited to being worn with regular shirts in more casual scenarios.
Hence wearing a bow tie with a normal shirt is entirely appropriate.
3. It’s Actually More Unique
As bow ties are so versatile, they can be a great opportunity to show off your unique style by switching up colors and fabrics.
Most men when wearing a regular dress shirt, whether it be to the workplace or a private event, will opt for a neck-tie when wearing a suit.
Wearing a bow tie with a normal shirt instead is an opportunity to show off your individuality when it comes to your style.
It is certainly likely to draw attention, as even though I and many others think these are a great fashion staple, bow ties are still less commonly worn compared with neck-ties.
So, if you add a bow tie to the top of your shirt, you can express to others that you’re not afraid to stand out and go against the grain when it comes to your style.
For this reason, wearing a bow tie together with a normal shirt can be a great option.
How To Wear A Normal Shirt With A Bow Tie (4 Tips)
So far, I’ve talked about the main reasons why it is acceptable to wear a bow tie with a normal shirt.
The next thing to go through is how exactly you can wear a normal shirt together with a bow tie.
I’ll explain some of the most essential tips here.
1. Choose A Shirt That Buttons All The Way Up
This may seem obvious at first glance, but it is important nonetheless.
When you are wearing a shirt together with a bow tie, you must choose a shirt that buttons all the way up to the collar.
Not doing so would leave an awkward gap beneath the bow tie and the top button of your shirt, which simply doesn’t look right.
This may also lead to excess movement of the shirt collar and neck line beneath the bow tie, which can cause the tie to become dislodged or lopsided.
Any untidiness at the collar will also be particularly visible when wearing a bow tie, adding insult to injury.
The bow tie is a pretty dapper look and having an undone or messy collar simply goes against this.
Therefore it’s best to avoid any shirt that lacks a top button at the level of the collar when choosing to wear a bow tie.
2. Choose A Shirt With A Suitable Collar
Although most collar types on normal shirts can be worn with a bow tie, there are certain collar types that look better with a bow tie.
By choosing a shirt with these collar styles, you can be confident that you’re displaying your bow tie to the best of your ability.
Collar styles such as the spread (or widespread) collar are well suited to bow ties. This is because the points of this collar are far apart enough that they are generally hidden behind the suit jacket or your bow tie.
As a result, they don’t take attention away from the tie.
On the other hand, point collars, although more of a classic look, have a shorter distance between the points. As a result, they will often show through the lapels of a suit jacket, and be visible beneath a bow tie.
The points can distract from the bow tie with this collar type, so it may be less preferable if you are choosing to wear a bow tie.
However, some men prefer the appearance of a point-collar with a bow tie, so a lot of this is down to personal preference. It definitely isn’t a fashion faux pas to pair a bow tie together with a point collar, this is just something to keep in mind.
Button-down collars can also be a good option for more casual settings when paired with a bow tie.
This lends a more ‘preppy’ look to your outfit. When choosing to wear a button-down collar with a bow tie, it is recommended to choose a shirt with a collar where the buttons and points will be hidden behind the bow tie or your jacket.
This is for similar reasons as to why a spread collar is also a good option. If you find a button-down collar with these properties, then the buttons can actually be very useful at securing your bow tie in place.
Lastly, when choosing a regular shirt to wear with your bow tie, it is best not to choose a wingtip collar.
This is simply because wingtip collars should be reserved for more formal shirts such as tuxedo shirts, or shirts meant to be worn with a white-tie ensemble.
Wingtip collars are actually intended to be worn with bow ties, however, they would look odd as part of an outfit that is less formal than white or black-tie.
3. Don’t Match The Color Of Your Tie With Your Shirt
When choosing which normal shirt to wear with your bow tie, it is always best to choose a shirt in a different color to your bow tie.
The only exception to this rule would be in white-tie settings, where of course both the shirt and bow tie are white in color.
The reason for this is that having a matching shirt and bow tie causes the tie to blend into the background instead of standing out as a key feature of your outfit as it should.
For semi-formal settings, where wearing a full suit is appropriate, it’s best to opt for a white dress shirt with a colored silk tie, in a dark hue, such as navy, plum, or dark red.
For more casual settings, you can wear colored shirts with bow ties. As a general rule, if your shirt is light in color, opt for a darker or bolder colored bow tie, and for dark shirts opt for a lighter colored bow tie.
For example, you could pair a light blue shirt together with a navy or burgundy bow tie, and you could even opt for a bow tie that is patterned as long as your shirt is plain.
This introduces a nice contrast into your outfit which is aesthetically pleasing.
As long as you ensure the different color elements of your outfit work well and follow this general rule, you can be sure that you will put together a great outfit.
4. Consider The Size Ratio Between Collar And Bow Tie
When choosing your shirt, it’s important to remember that you need to pay attention to the size of your collar with regard to the bow tie you will wear with it.
Wearing a shirt with a collar that is large in comparison with your bow tie risks making your outfit look out of proportion.
On the other hand, having a bow tie that is too large in relation to your collar will draw too much attention and also makes your outfit appear unbalanced.
Therefore it’s important to keep the relative sizes of your shirt collar and bow tie in mind when assembling your outfit.
You should also remember that the taller you are and the larger your neck circumference, the bigger the bow tie you can effectively pull off.
So there you have it; you can wear a bow tie with a normal shirt.
And given the versatility of the bow tie, you could wear this shirt and tie combination to anything from a casual party to a semi-formal wedding.
It all comes down to styling, which is simply an opportunity for you to have fun and express your individuality.
Ready Sleek founder. Obsessed with casual style and the minimalist approach to building a highly functional wardrobe. Also a fan of classic, vintage hairstyles.