The phrase “suit and tie” is redundant: a suit without a tie is not a suit; it is a jacket and slacks. A suit should always include a tie, but for those of us who wear suits daily, a little variety is nice. That’s where they ascot and / or bow tie may come in – but they’re not right for everyone.
Bow ties are surprisingly easy to tie with a little bit of practice – just like water skiing, cooking bacon, and unhooking a bra with one hand, you’ll have an “a-ha” moment and the process becomes second nature. The knot of a bow tie is exactly the same knot you use for your sneakers – a knot and a bow. There is some finesse involved, but again: once you get it, you’ve got it.
A bow tie can send mixed messages depending on the rest of your outfit. Some guys can pull off the hipster nerd look by pairing the bow tie with skinny jeans, glasses, and a cardigan, but it’s not a good style choice for husky or tough-looking guys. Obviously a bow tie is a must for any tuxedo. If you’re wearing a black tie with a black suit in a semi-formal setting, either wear a colored shirt to break up the empty whiteness under your jacket, or wear ornamental formal buttons.
Bow ties are also the preferred neck knot of conservative news commentators, economists, and older college professors. If you don’t want to be lumped in with that crowd, avoid plaid or checkered shirts, elbow-patched corduroy jackets, and pocket protectors.
Back in 2010, CNN journalist Roland Martin attracted the attention of the Daily Show’s John Stewart for his unconventional neckwear choice: the ascot. Ascots are a forerunner to the modern neck tie: they’re thicker, wider, and puffier, and they’re worn inside the color of your shirt rather than around the neck and under the lapel.
Ascots are hardly popular, but they are unique, and will certainly get you a lot of attention. Wear them at your own risk – if you’re not the kind of guy who can shrug off a bit of ribbing and teasing with finesse, you’ll probably just feel embarrassed going out in an ascot. On the other hand, if you’re a hardcore fashionisto with a flair for the dramatic, by all means, lose the tie and give the ascot a try.