Suited Up in Style: The Bow Tie and Suit Look Guide

Can you wear a bow tie with a suit? Yes, you absolutely can! While less common than the standard men’s necktie, a bow tie and suit is a dapper, versatile look that can be used for both business and play. Today, our expert team of tailors will walk you through everything you want to know, and daren’t ask, about wearing a suit with a bow tie with style and panache. 

Can You Wear a Bow Tie With a Suit?

Let’s start by sharing a fashion secret—in the world of neckties, there are very few rules! However, when those rules come into play, it’s important to follow them. The big rule of bow ties is that you have to wear one with a tuxedo to properly fit the black tie dress code. Other than that, whether you prefer a bow tie or necktie is really up to you. 

Strictly speaking, a bow tie is part of formalwear, and the more formal the function, the easier it will be to fit in wearing one. However, with the right thought put into your ensemble, a bow tie can fit seamlessly into casual wear, and can even be worn to the office! If you are comfortable and confident wearing one, the world is your oyster, from casual to the most formal of formal looks. Bow ties are actually a staple of business in the Southern United States. 

Bow ties have never been as popular as neckties because they are perceived as hard to wear (and tie, but we’ve got a handy guide to follow below). Coupled with their prevalence at formal events, there’s been this idea that they only work with tuxedos. However, they’re a versatile and fun option for any suit if you dare to wear them!

What Type of Suit Do You Wear With a Bow Tie?

The first rule of bow ties is that if you’re wearing a tuxedo, you need one. For classic white, and even black, tie eventing, that typically means a solid black bow tie. If the event isn’t strictly black tie, but you’re still opting for a tux (perhaps a more colorful option), then a dark midnight blue or burgundy would be a stylish alternative.

If you’re looking for a way to add quirky, yet stylish, vibrancy to your outfit, you can opt for a full three-piece suit (with vest included) to wear with your bowtie. This look can be anything from staid to quirky and casual if you have the confidence to pull it off!

However, a bow tie works just as well with an impeccably fitted two-piece suit for many occasions, formal to ultra-casual. Emphasis on impeccably fitted. There’s a reason the Oliver Wicks motto is, ‘the fit that suits you’. In order to carry off a fun and slightly offbeat look, like a bowtie where people expect a classic necktie, you need to be well dressed and feel comfortable and confident in the suit you choose. If it is rumpled or ill-fitting, you will look gauche, no matter how you style it. You can also pair a sports coat or blazer with a bow tie for some spectacular results. 

There’s one thing to bear in mind. With a bowtie, you open up a lot more shirt ‘real estate’ than when it is obscured by a full necktie. Ideally, you want to reduce the expanse of ‘bare’ chest shown under the jacket, so suits with two or three buttons are the best choice for more formal occasions. However, a one-button suit will look appropriate with a bow tie in casual environments.

If you want to wear a bow tie for business, you will need to stick with classic suit colors, like black and navy. If the event is less formal, however, you can mix it up with other colors. Just always do a final ‘mirror check’ to make sure you haven’t played too fast-and-loose with the overall ensemble. It is always most elegant to keep to one statement piece… and a bow tie most certainly is a statement piece. You will notice people’s eyes locking on to you, so know what you’re signing up for!

solid black suit by Oliver Wicks

What Type of Bow Tie Do You Wear With a Suit?

For very formal events, especially black tie, the best bow tie color will always be black. There’s a reason it’s the backbone of the Oliver Wicks bow tie range!

Black 100% silk bow tie by Oliver Wicks

If you’re looking at a semi-black tie event or a formal event where suits and tuxedos will both be in the mix, you can be more bold and adventurous, but you’ll still want to stick to sleek, dark colors or a classic white-and-black pattern. Ideally, you should be investing in high-quality fabrics like silk for the best visual appeal.

The same goes with any formal event where you are not the star of the show—like a wedding that isn’t your own. You can have a little fun with a colored bow tie if it fits your overall look, but you don’t want to wear something bright, bold, or flashy that could draw attention away from the guest of the hour. Here is where darker jewel tones that compliment your suit will really shine. A deep copper, forest green, burgundy, or midnight blue will always look elegantly understated. 

These two rules of thumb work perfectly for office environments, too. The more serious the occasion, the darker and more elegant your bow tie choice should be. For casual fun, however, the world really is your oyster. The only thing we’d suggest is keeping your overall look in mind. If you’re wearing classic suit neutrals, like charcoal, navy, and black, and don’t have a bold shirt choice under it, a jazzy bow tie could be a fun pop of color. If you’ve already got something a little avant-garde going on in your look, you may want to err on the simple side.

Black Tie Event Dress Code

Black tie eventing isn’t actually the top tier of formal eventing—that is reserved for white tie, a style you see at things like Presidential Inaugural Balls, where women would wear a full ball gown. But for most of us, black tie events will be the highest formality we will ever attend. 

Unlike many event dress codes, black tie is best thought of as a ‘uniform’, with little room for personal expression. The classiest thing you can do is ensure that you meet the expected benchmarks, rather than trying to impose your own personality on your outfit. Luckily, we have a guide to help! For men, black tie will always call upon you to wear a tuxedo, so feel free to explore some classic Oliver Wicks options.

What Types of Shirts Go Best With a Bow Tie?

As we’ve already seen, the one disadvantage (and it’s a small one) to wearing a bow tie with a suit look is the expanse of shirt front on show. For this reason, you don’t want to place a bow tie on top of an already bold or jazzy shirt. 

You can, of course, never go wrong with a crisp white cotton shirt. Many occasions (and bow ties) will look great paired with a soft pastel, too. You can also opt for a delicate pattern (like pinstriping) with a shade that blends well with the bow tie itself. Think combinations like a soft blue stripe with a navy suit and bolder blue bow tie, for example. If your shirt is patterned, keep the bow tie solid, and vice versa.

Ideally, when planning your bow tie with suit outfit, stick to complementary or carefully matched colors, and you could even explore by using variations on a color theme throughout your outfit. Just don’t make it too matchy, or it will look more like a uniform than a style choice.

Occasions Where Bow Ties With Suits are Not the Right Choice

There are very few occasions where you can’t make a suit and bow tie work for you. However, they do have a joyful, playful, and happy vibe to them that would be inappropriate at very somber functions. So skip them for funerals, wakes, and other such occasions. Although bow ties can be appropriate in the workplace, this ‘rule of somber’ also applies to job interviews, where you will be best served by sticking to a tried-and-trusted necktie. 

Other than that, bow ties with suits are a versatile look you can easily make work for most occasions. We suggest that you steer away from using a bow tie—or at least keep it to a classic black or midnight blue to suit your suit—if you want to experiment with a bold shirt.

While the bow tie was once only a staple of men’s formalwear, today, it can easily be reinvented into a smart-casual or even casual look with the right styling.

How to Tie Your Bow Tie

If you want to experiment with bow ties, using a pre-tied option is a great way to build the look without hassle or fuss. However, all sartorially-inclined gents should know how to tie a ‘real’ bow tie—just for the bragging rights! Luckily, you have our team of expert tailors to help with this simple guide to tying a bow tie.

If you find guides like this useful, you can access the full Oliver Wicks tutorial videos by creating an account on the website—no purchase necessary! The link is available on every page, and you will gain access to a wealth of tips, tricks, and how-tos to elevate your fashion sense to a new level.


Bow ties are no longer just a piece of fashionable menswear—they’re a statement of class, confidence, and style. It remains an unusual choice, but it’s easier than you might think to pull off - If you want a bold image! Funky bowties promote personality, and can be a bit whacky, but it is often reflective of having your own unique style, so onlookers dig it! With this handy guide to help, we hope you now feel empowered to make this look work for you! As always, the expert Oliver Wicks team is always on hand to help if you need, so feel free to drop us a line at