My answer is…it depends! In today’s guide, I want to show you can find the best black bow tie for you, what fabric and style options you have and how they compare to each other.
Regardless of if you do not own a single black bow tie or if you are a black tie veteran who wants to invest in his 20th version, this guide is for you. There are 6 categories of black bow ties, and they are defined primarily by their fabric and then secondarily by their shape.
1. Black Silk Satin Bow Tie – The Classic Choice
The black satin silk bow tie is the most popular black bow tie out there simply because most tuxedo lapels are faced with satin. Traditionally, the material of the bow tie should match the tuxedo lapels it is paired with, and so satin is the number one choice.
Satin is not Satin
So, what exactly is Satin? Satin is a specific weave with more warp than weft threads that is known for its rich lustre. As such, it is popular for evening garments, especially tuxedos, dinner jackets and tailcoats. Just like with most other fabrics, Satin can be woven in many different ways, and the quality can vary hugely from one fabric to another. Some have more weft threads than others, some have a wider spacing between intersections of warp and wefts, and some have unequal distances between them.
The best satin is made of silk with equal spacing. This kind of satin is much more labor intensive to produce and costs much more.
Go with Silk Satin
Satin can be woven from wool, silk, cotton, polyester, etc. but for black bow ties, they are usually made of silk, polyester or a blend. It goes without saying that you should always opt for 100% silk because the look is much more sophisticated than a polyester bow tie. Again, not all silk satins are alike and cheaper ones tend to have a shine that resembles the look of polyester, while high-quality silk satins have this wonderful sheen that is difficult to describe in words.
Fort Belvedere only uses the best silk satin with many warp threads that are widely and equally spaced. It is exclusively woven in Italy and costs many times as much as silk satins that are made in China, but it also looks the part. You can see in the photos how they reflect the light to create a lovely effect of depth, which is particularly important on a very dark ensemble.
Skip Adjustable Bow Ties
Most black bow ties on the market today are adjustable because they are easy to produce, one-size-fits-it-all, easy to stock, and less expensive for the dealer.
However, proper gentlemen prefer sized bow ties for four reasons:
- When worn with a detachable or wing collar, an adjustable bow tie will show the clasp in the back, which is not desirable. A sized bow tie will have one continuous silk band that looks great all the way around.
- When worn with turndown collars the way James Bond does, you cannot see the clasp of an adjustable bow tie when you wear it. However, it is common practice to untie your black bow tie at the end of the event. So not only does it reveal who tied his bow tie and who didn’t, but it also shows who has the sized bow tie with a continuous neckband.
- Metal clasps can rust and rub off on fabric; sized bow ties have no metal that can ruin your expensive evening clothes
- Adjustable bow ties can be too big for smaller neck sizes, such as 14 or 14.5
Therefore, get a bow tie that is sized for you, and no one else. It goes without saying that all of our Fort Belvedere Black Bow Ties come sized with a continuous neckband, so you look your best.
Simply measure your neck size to determine what size you are. Do not rely on the sizing of your shirt manufacturer because they are often incorrect.
Tie Your Own Bow Tie
A man must tie his own bow tie. If you don’t know how, you can learn how to do so here even if you have never done it before:
Butterfly Bow Tie – Perfect For The First Black Bow Tie
The Butterfly shape is an all time classic that you can wear now or 20 years from now. When sized properly it will always look timeless, elegant and never out of place.
I designed a butterfly bow tie for Fort Belvedere with beautiful curves that works for 95% of all face shapes out there. If this is the first black bow tie you buy, I suggest you start with this one.
Batwing Bow Tie – The Other Classic
The batwing is cut in a rectangular shape and because it is easy to produce it is often the shape used by cheap pre-tied manufacturers. In the right size, it can look flattering, but a beautiful butterfly wins 10 out of 10 times in my opinion.
Pointed Ends – The Classic With A Twist
While you can find many batwing and butterfly bow ties in black satin, very few come in a shape with pointed diamond ends. Hence, this shape is favored by gentlemen who already have a few black bow ties and now want something else.
It’s best for the person who already has a butterfly and batwing shape and who wishes to add a special touch to one’s black tie ensemble.
I designed a new diamond shape for Fort Belvedere, and I let the pictures speak for themselves.
This is the crème de la crème of black bow ties. As the name implies, single end bow ties have just one end. As a result, they look sleeker than the regular bow ties and provide you with a very debonair look. This kind of bow tie was favored for the elegant dandy of the 1920’s and 1930’s who wanted to look particularly dapper.
Extremely hard to find, Fort Belvedere has the largest selection of black single end bow ties in the world today. It’s the icing on the cake for bespoke lovers and black tie aficionados who want to top of their black tie outfit. You can find it in satin, small satin, wide rib grosgrain, moire, and faille.
Single End bow ties come in one size since they adjust to every neck size. No worries, you will not see an ugly adjustment clasp anywhere.
You can learn how to tie it in the video below (yes it is different from a regular bow tie)
2. Barathea Bow Tie
Barathea is a fabric that is basically a twill hopsack weave. As such, it is matte when compared to satin, and popular with gentlemen in the UK who often have their dinner jackets faced with barathea silk instead of silk satin. So, if you do not like the lustre of silk satin, Barathea is the bow tie for you.
3. Faille / Grosgrain Bow Tie
Black Faille or Grosgrain bow ties are definitely the exception to the rule. Both fabrics have a ribbed texture that is generally only used for custom tailcoats or high-end tuxedos. The ribbed texture is visibly different from Satin or Barathea, and it shows the world that you are a black tie connoisseur. If you have a tuxedo with faille or grosgrain, you need a bow tie in those material, and you will look like a million bucks. If you have a satin lapel, and you want to try something different, you can try a wide rib bow tie because it is noticeably different.
Difference between Faille & Grosgrain
Faille is a plain weave with more warp threads than weft threads, which is why you get a flat ribbed effect.
Grosgrain is a type of poplin fabric with wider, larger ribs. It is often confused with faille, and, therefore, people use these two terms interchangeably. Both have more warp than weft threads, and grosgrain has thicker ribs that can be achieved with more silk warp threads or thicker cotton warps to bring the cost down.
At Fort Belvedere, we offer all Silk Faille fine rib as Butterfly and a wide Rib Grosgrain as a Butterfly & Single End. It’s the largest selection of faille and grosgrain bow ties you will find anywhere, so if you want to look the part, these are the bow ties for you.
Moire, also known as watered silk, is a bow tie fabric for the man who wants to be in the spotlight. Even though people refer to is as watered silk, this fabric does never see any water. Instead, the wavy effect is achieved by running two layers or faille fabric through a rolling press.
It’s an uncommon cloth that is only produced by very few mills but over the centuries, Moire has always been popular with aristocrats, eccentrics, and men of taste. You can check out our moire bow tie here.
5. Shantung Silk
The characteristic of shantung silk is its knots in the fabric. While the uneducated might consider it to be a defect in the fabric, connoisseurs have an appreciation for the visible irregularities of Shantung. The raw material of silk comes from the cocoon and because it is a natural product, it has an irregular thickness. When combining these strands of raw silk material into yarn, a certain consistency can be achieved. However, it is also possible to create threads with thicker and thinner diameters. When they are woven into fabric, areas with a wider diameter appear as little knobs on the silk.
Because of this relaxed character, Shantung Silk is perfect for unusual dinner jackets or warmer climates and appreciated by men who do not want to conform with the rest. Take a closer look at our Shantung bow tie here.
6. Black Grenadine
Grenadine is a special gauze weave that is very popular for neckties, but it is usually not made into bow ties. We decided to give it a try to accommodate the fashion-forward male who wants to create a different, yet classically inspired look. If you have a beard, this is not the right bow tie for you since beard hair will pull threads from the Grenadine fabric. Otherwise, the black grenadine bow tie will certainly make you stand out from the crowd.
Now that you know what bow tie options you have, and which one will work for you, the choice is not over yet. Stay tuned for our next guide on black tie accessories and in the meantime discover them first hand in our online shop.