Classic Black-Tie Neckwear

The formal bow tie is not just black tie’s namesake but also its pièce de résistance as it embodies the formality and elegance of the entire tuxedo ensemble.  When a tuxedo-clad gentleman enters a room, it is the black bow shape framed against a crisp, white shirt that immediately sets his attire apart from a simple dark suit.  In the dinner suit’s heyday, formal bow ties were available in an almost infinite variety of shapes and sizes.

Generally, the ready-to-wear options used to be much more limited and many of the classic variations that used to necessitate the services of a custom tailor can now be found at our online shop with probably the largest selection of quality sized self tie silk black bow ties anywhere in the world.


Self-Tie versus Pre-Tied Bow Ties

The choice of bow tie model separates the men from the boys – and the gentlemen from the waiters. Wearing a pre-tied bow tie to a formal function is the sartorial equivalent of using training wheels at the Tour de France.

Chris Evans with pre-tied bow tie

Chris Evans with a pre-tied bow tie – it dangles down a bit and is too symmetrical – Avoid this style at all costs

The decision to avoid self-tie models is invariably based on ignorance rather than experience as most men have no idea that the process is virtually identical to tying a simple shoelace bow.  Anxiety over a flawed result may also be a contributing factor.  However, the fact is that a slightly asymmetrical hand-tied bow adds a unique flair to each man’s ensemble.

Black Bow Tie in Silk Satin Sized Butterfly Self Tie from Fort Belvedere

Black Bow Tie in Silk Satin Sized Butterfly Self Tie from Fort Belvedere

Also pre-tied bow ties often angle away from the face and because they are stiff, unlike a self-tie bow tie, it gives itself away very easily.

Back Strap of Black Silk Satin Bow Tie

Back Strap of a sized Black Silk Satin Bow Tie – no clasp is visible

Fixed Size versus Adjustable Bow Ties

Adjustable black bow ties are the norm nowadays because it allows retailers to save on stocking costs. Sized bow ties are always preferable because the  width of the finished bow will be directly proportioned to a specific neck size as opposed to the one-size-fits-all bow which is expected to accommodate necks ranging from fourteen to eighteen inches in circumference.  And because the fitted models are made from a single piece of material, their exposed bands forego the excess fabric and unsightly clasps characteristic of the adjustable versions – a particularly important factor for gentlemen with a preference for wing collar shirts.

Because it was so difficult to find proper, sized evening black bow ties, Sven Raphael Schneider designed a range of high-quality black bow ties made of the finest Italian silk. All are exclusively self-tie and properly sized. You can see all of them in our shop here.

To learn which bow tie complements you the best and which works with your tuxedo, shirt and face, please watch this video here.

You want to avoid adjustable bow ties as they have more material and clasps

You want to avoid adjustable bow ties as they have more material and clasps

Classic Bow Tie Styles

The following are the most common styles of bow ties.   

NameBow ShapeTie ShapeTie Width
classic “butterfly”  3″ to 3½”
modern “butterfly”
or “thistle”
(classic “semi-butterfly”)
black_bow_tie_in_silk_satin 2¼” to 2¾”
(classic “straight-end” or “club”)
 1½” to 2″
 “pointed”black_self-tie_bow_tie_in_silk_satin_sized_with_pointed_ends_-_fort_belvedere_w A butterfly or batwing design can have pointed ends for a unique and classic effect.

The bow tie shape is a matter of personal preference although one should consider a few things.

  1. A beard or beard stubble will catch on the bow tie and pull threads, so a smaller shape is preferable.
  2. A bow tie that is too big looks very 1970s
  3. A bow tie that is slim looks very 1960s.
  4. The most classic shape is the 1930s Butterfly in 2.75″ It will make the wearer look debonair, and never outdated.
  5. With a peaked lapel, pointed-end bow ties coordinate nicely with the angularity of peaked lapel jackets and wing-collar shirts.
  6. The dotted lines in the pictures shown on the patterns indicate where the tie blades (ends) are folded to create the bow shape.  In the case of pointed ties, the two points are achieved when the pointed tip of one blade extends beyond the square fold of the overlapping blade.  (See Tying a Bow Tie for complete details regarding the tying process.)

The Single End Bow Tie

The single-end bow tie was popular with elegant gentlemen during the heyday of classic men’s clothing in the roaring 1930s. It never has pointed ends and is usually a butterfly shape.

Black Bow Tie in Silk Satin and White Carnation Silk Boutonniere Fort Belvedere

Front of Single End Black Bow Tie in Silk Satin it provides a very clean look and silhouette that is very refined and absolutely unique

General Things To Consider When Buying A Bow Tie – Size

While the bow tie shape may be open to interpretation, the tie’s size must follow certain guidelines to ensure a handsome proportion. 

Originally the rule of thumb was that the outer edges of the bow never extended beyond the edges of the collar.  However, since wing collars are now much smaller than they were, it is safer to use Alan Flusser’s rule that the finished bow should fall somewhere between the width of the wearer’s face and the outer edges of his eyes.  

In terms of tie width (i.e. the vertical measurement of the tie blades), these tend to vary by bow style as well as by current fashions.  The sizes used in the chart above are a good starting point but by no means absolute.  In general, wider ties work well with higher collars as they prevent the bow from becoming insignificant in comparison.

If you want the golden middle opt for 2.75″ in height. It will always be timelessly classic and debonair.

Classic Black Bow Tie Fabrics

Color: Black

The term “black tie” says it all.  When it comes to neckwear for classic tuxedos the only color you need is black. Even if your tuxedo or dinner jacket is tailored of a midnight blue fabric, the lapel facings will always be black and you want to match that color with your bow tie.  Any other hue runs the risk of branding you as a 1980s prom date or wedding usher.

Material: Silk

Like the jacket lapels, a quality bow tie will always be constructed of pure silk.  Maybe cotton blends are the permissible in case of velvet, as pure silk velvet is no longer produced.

The texture of the bowtie is governed by the lapel facing of the dinner jacket.  A silk satin lapel calls for a satin bow tie while faille or grosgrain facings require a ribbed or textured finish such as barathea or wide rib grosgrain or something else. For an overview of all of your weave options, please take a look here.

For a double-breasted dinner jacket or one made of velvet a black velvet bow tie looks very handsome.  

Black silk velvet butterfly bow tie self tie single end handmade in england by fort belvedere

Black silk velvet butterfly bow tie self-tie single end handmade in England by Fort Belvedere


When worn with wing collars, bow ties are placed in front of the wings.  This positioning is not only proper etiquette but also a practical choice as the collar’s wings will help to keep the bow in place by pressing it forward.

Black Bow Tie in Silk Barathea Sized Butterfly Self Tie and Cummerband in Black Silk Barathea

Black Bow Tie in Silk Barathea Sized Butterfly Self Tie in front of the shirt collar wings and Cummerband in Black Silk Barathea

Tying a Bow Tie

Back of Cummerbund in Black Silk Satin with Black Bow Tie in Silk Satin and Red Carnation Butonniere and White unlined Leather Gloves

Back of Cummerbund in Black Silk Satin with Black Self Tie Bow Tie in Silk Satin and Red Carnation Boutonniere and White unlined Leather Gloves

Pre-tied bow ties might look cute on little boys but a grown man should know how to tie his own neckwear.  See Tying a Bow Tie for instructions.

The exception to the Rule


maroon bow tie can be worn with a white dinner jacket albeit at great risk of being mistaken for the wait staff.

Article Name
Classic Neckwear - The Black Bow Tie
Gentleman's Gazette LLC
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